Archive for October, 2018

The Fall of the House of Trump.

Wednesday, October 31st, 2018

It might have been the beginning of the end we saw the other day. Donald Trump’s words on the tragedy in Pittsburgh were the final bullets in a fool’s arsenal that ricocheted around the world. He complained that there would not have been the deaths involved if the synagogue had an armed guard at the door.

If any place of worship, anywhere, feels it needs an armed guard, there is something seriously wrong in that society. And if children cannot go to school safely, that society is failing its most precious assets. There is no excuse.

Too many people are describing the current situation in the United States of America as the demise of America as a world leader. It has traded its democracy for a tin-pot dictator. It is following him in a downhill path to isolation, to xenophobia, tariff barriers and consorting with fellow dictators.

You have to wonder who motivated the current march north by refugees from Honduras and other Central American countries? The timing is suspect because Donald Trump can now tell his claque that the hoards are at the gates. He is sending more soldiers to defend the borders than there are marchers—who are many weeks from the American border.

(Though somebody should compliment the Mexicans on their hospitality and caring about these people.)

But the American mid-term elections are next week and that should tell the tale. There is little information available as to which side might prevail in the elections. Nobody seems to have much hope for the Senate elections but there is a strong possibility of the House of Representatives ending up with a democratic majority.

What occurs to me is that if the democrats just had some leadership, they could win both houses of Congress. It is hard to imagine that the majority of Americans would want to give Donald another two years of free rein in Washington. Has he not done enough damage to America, to other countries that Americans could count on as friends and to democracy around the world?

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Exxonneration?

Tuesday, October 30th, 2018

Help is on the way. It was wonderful to read that ExxonMobil is being sued by the New York Attorney General’s office in the United States for the lies to investors about the pollution caused by producing oil from Alberta tar sands. After three years of investigating, it is claimed that ExxonMobil (through its Canadian subsidiary Imperial Oil) has been understating its carbon emissions taxation exposure to the tune of US$30 billion.

With carbon taxes expected to reach $50 per ton in at least 10 U.S. states as well as across Canada by 2023, this $30 billion oversight is going to cost ExxonMobil much more than $30 billion in catching up and in possible court penalties.

The charge is that Imperial Oil and its parent company ExxonMobil have been lying to investors and the public for many years. Those of us who knew about some of their lies were not surprised. To a company created by American John D. Rockefeller, the lies were just as to be expected and the US$30 billion and fines will be paid out of petty cash.

The lies about the tar sands go back to the beginnings of Alberta as a province of Canada. It was the lie told to every Canadian school child that the Athabasca and Cold Lake tar sands were the largest reserve of ‘oil’ in the world. The bitumen-like heavy oil of Venezuela is probably the larger reserve but political problems there are currently preventing that country from increasing production.

But it was more insidious to rename the tar sands as ‘oil sands’ and to pretend that Canadian bitumen was just another form of heavy oil. The problem is that bitumen has to first be converted to synthetic crude oil before it can be further refined into oil products. That initial refinery step produces three times the carbon pollution of normal crude oil refining. It produces huge quantities of what is called bitumen slag.

While none of the ExxonMobil lies to investors has yet been discussed in court, it will be very interesting to see what ExxonMobil’s lawyers say in the company’s defence.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Ford fights his false phantoms.

Monday, October 29th, 2018

Premier Ford of Ontario must think business people in the province are generally stupid. At an Ontario Chamber of Commerce sponsored luncheon, he told the business people there that the Ontario economy has been stagnant, businesses are closing, freezing people out of better jobs and that powerful forces are trying to thwart his government’s improvements. This is in conflict with the fact that, despite the premier’s paranoia, the Ontario economy has been doing quite well.

All we can conclude from the rest of Dougie’s speech is that Donald Trump in the United States might not be the biggest liar in politics today.

Why Dougie told these business executives that he “fights for the little guy” was a little hard to understand? There might not have been anyone in the room who thinks of himself as a “little guy.”

And why does Dougie think a $15 minimum wage is a disincentive for business? Over the past two years, the liberal government raised the minimum wage from $11.40 to $14.00 and Ontario now has the lowest unemployment in a generation. Dougie told the business people that he was cancelling the increase to $15.00 per hour in 2019 along with other improvements in employment conditions.

Would you believe that he is also cancelling the requirement for business to allow employees two sick days in a year? Who does he think he is helping with that?

What the premier was doing at this function in Niagara-on-the-Lake last Friday was giving one of his campaign-type speeches. Why he would give a campaign speech to a business audience defies understanding. He certainly did not treat them as business people. He belittled them as though they were some of the free-loaders from Ford Nation. He used hyperbole and B.S. He told lies—deliberate untruths, easily checked.

Prominent in his speech was a virulent attack on prime minister Trudeau and his answer to the Ford provincial government cancelling the ‘cap and trade’ system with California and Quebec. It means that industries in Ontario putting out carbon from manufacturing or through use of the product (such as gasoline) will pay an initial $20 per ton of carbon emissions. Dougie thinks it is just a tax but it is being returned to Ontario taxpayers in the form of a lump sum payment with income taxes starting in April 2019. (Dougie gets a bit apoplectic about that.)

When conservative plants around the room stood to applaud the premier after his speech, the business people also stood to make a hasty retreat, in case Dougie was passing the hat.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Let’s have ‘Whack-a-Mole’ voting.

Sunday, October 28th, 2018

Blame Chantal Hébert. The other day she described the voting reform question as a whack-a-mole game. It just keeps popping up and needs to get a whack. The only reason Chantal noted it was because neophyte premier François Legault of the CAQ in Quebec made the same rash promise to reform how Quebec votes before he knew he would win. Now he just needs a way to back out gracefully.

Most Canadians, who have any opinion on this subject, think prime minister Justin Trudeau let them down. He did (foolishly) promise the voters that 2015 would be the last time they would use first-past-the-post voting. While he took the blame, it was really the opposition parties on the special committee of the commons that dumped on Justin’s promise.

Now we learn that Prince Edward Island might ask Islanders what they want. If they are smart they will settle for a reeve and some councillors and give the provincial problems to New Brunswick.

And we hear from the Wet Coast that the question of how to vote is being asked again. Maybe it will be third time lucky! You would think that they would finally understand the problems when the Greens are running their NDP government. Or they might never learn

It seems every time I write about this subject I get inundated by readers across the country claiming I am a Philistine trying to protect first-past-the-post. I even conceded recently that I would be happy to help promote run-off elections so that we could have majority choice voting. That just got me more complaints.

The problem is that people, for some reason, buy into the fiction that if your vote is not for the winner in an election, it is a wasted vote. As silly as that sounds, that is their argument against first-past-the-post.

No vote is ever wasted in a democracy. We can all have our say. And yes, it is very rare that governments are elected by a majority under first-past-the-post. If you really want to have a majority vote, then you have run-off elections. That is carrying your democracy further.

But having local representation—is to me, the very essence of our democracy. You can send the smartest person in town to parliament or the stupidest. It is your choice. Denying you that choice is the road to anarchy.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

A government built on falsehoods.

Saturday, October 27th, 2018

Martin Regg Cohn of the Toronto Star described the Ontario conservatives as ageist the other day. He believes that Doug Ford’s Tories are the party of only the old people. He comes to this conclusion apparently because the inordinate number of dumb moves the Ford government is making that are having a serious impact on young people.

Regg Cohn should be more patient. Dougie and the gang will get around to his age group soon enough.

Because “Government for the people” is just a meaningless slogan. Ford obviously felt that a slogan such as “Make Ontario Great Again” would be too easily recognized as copied from Donald Trump’s campaign in the United States.

But, the same as Donald Trump found out south of the border, lies work today. All you have to do is tell lies that fit the bias of the target group. You have to find people who are fed up with politics anyway. With fewer and fewer people voting these days, those people are not hard to find. They will vote if you just give them a cause—the nastier the cause, the better.

The favourite cause of the ignorant today is anti-environmentalism. They see the greenies and tree-huggers as being against job creation and adding more taxes for gas for your pickup. They hate newcomers for taking jobs nobody really wants anyway. They resent automation because they do not understand it. And they resent people who find computers easy to use.

One of Dougie’s problems is that he thinks the only people working for a minimum wage are high school-aged kids at Tims or McDonalds. They are not. We could show you the problem in a half-block walk on Spadina Avenue in Toronto were immigrant women with families are working for minimum wage in sweat shops above the restaurants and grocery stores. And they only wish the employer did not steal some of that minimum pay back from them.

The only age problem Dougie and his ‘Deplorables’ have is that they are mostly middle-aged men who think all university students live in their parents’ basements.

Just think of all the fun next year when Dougie lines up with Larry (Alberta conservative leader Jason Kenney), Curly (federal conservative leader ‘Chuckles’ Scheer) and Moe (premier of Saskatchewan). That comedy trio are going to take on Justin Trudeau. And Canadians can sit on the sidelines and cheer on our favourite team.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Kudos to Vancouver’s Kennedy Stewart.

Friday, October 26th, 2018

It took guts. That was no walk in the park for a new democrat to give up his seat in parliament and challenge for the Vancouver mayoralty, as an independent. It was a tough fight with no guarantees. And the remaining problem is that there is now a progressive in the mayoralty with an equally split right and left-wing council.

Stewart might be the first independent mayor in Vancouver in more than 30 years but, if he plays his cards carefully, the right-wingers on council will be reluctant to vote against him. The five are all from the highly partisan ‘non-partisan Association, known as the NPA. With only ten councillors in total, the others are three Greens and one each from two left-leaning parties. (And you thought premier John Horgan had a tenuous situation.)

Stewart defeated the NPA mayoralty candidate by close to 1000 votes. He is definitely the mayor the city needs for the problems ahead. Few will be neutral as the Trudeau government tries to force the expansion of the Trans-Mountain pipeline to Burnaby.

Mind you, Trudeau seems happy to let tempers cool on the pipeline while the judicial demand for reconsideration is taking place. The earliest there will be any construction activity is expected in March or April of 2019. One of Trudeau’s major problems is that there are growing elements from within his own liberal party that are resisting the expansion.

When the pipeline is twinned, equipped with heaters and higher-pressure pumps, it will be capable of bringing close to 900,000 barrels per day across the Rockies to Burrard Inlet. This will be barrels per day, mainly of diluted tar sands bitumen, the most polluting of all oil sources.

Mining bitumen requires heating vast quantities of water and forcing it down to the layers of bitumen strata and bringing it up to the surface. This creates vast settling ponds of greasy water that can kill wild life. Bitumen contains about three times the carbon of normal crude oil and this creates huge piles of what is called bitumen slag in the refining process. This is why the oil companies prefer to send it to third world refineries where nobody cares about the pollution.

With more spokespeople such as Kennedy Stewart, we will be heard.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Pushing mediocrity to prove what?

Thursday, October 25th, 2018

If I learned one thing as a political organizer of many years, it is that you never leave the smallest detail to chance. The same rule applied in business when I had computer programmers reporting to me. I never let a program be released until it had been given a thorough workout under extremely difficult conditions. It is irresponsible to leave anything to chance. I really believe that the weakest link in any chain is the one you have not tested.

This comes to mind as we learn about what really happened in some experiments in voting in Ontario municipalities on Monday. This includes the ludicrous attempt at preferential voting in London as well as the well-meaning test by 51 smaller municipalities of computerized voting.

When we found out that London was going to run the program on Tuesday to find out who was mayor, we were totally confused. They could have done the job faster if they had counted by hand. All preferential voting does is drill down in the preferences of those who voted for losers, to find out who they chose as their next bad choice. It is the best way we know to find the most mediocre people to elect.

London councillors will have to delve into the weakness of the system they used that took two days to choose a mayor. Two other municipalities, Cambridge and Kingston, had questions on the ballot asking voters if they would like to try ranked voting in 2022. Cambridge did not have enough voters answer the question but Kingston voted ‘yes.’ Hopefully the Kingston councillors will come to their senses before 2022 and kill the idea.

It turns out that, for some strange reason, the firm handling the voting for the 51 smaller municipalities used a single computer centre for the voting. Obviously, the total votes anticipated was not the problem. The problem is that you never use a single data centre for something so critical. (It reminds me of the time in the 1970s we were testing a computer reporting approach for a provincial election in Prince Edward Island. The nearest data centre with the power to handle the programs was at Dalhousie University in Halifax. The polls closed at 8 pm and, for some reason, so did the Island telephone lines under the Northumberland Strait.)

Fiber optics have greatly improved bandwidth and reliability since those days but it never hurts to have redundancy on top of redundancy.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

 

Follow the money to Brampton Brown.

Wednesday, October 24th, 2018

He used to be Barrie Brown. His best friend, Toronto lawyer Walied Soliman describes him in the Toronto Star as the “hardest working person, I have ever met.” Those of us who have watched Brown manipulate his way through politics over the years are less complimentary. This is not the kind of politician you should trust.

The main concern about Patrick Brown’s career in politics is where the money comes from. It took him two tries to latch onto the Harper bandwagon in 2006, dump his job as a city councillor in Barrie and get elected as the member of parliament for Barrie and area.

He became known as a retail politician. He did what he was told in Ottawa and worked at getting in solid in Barrie. He used local charities as his publicity base and never got involved in political controversy. Studying his financial reports in elections, I found he was creative but there was nothing major to complain about. The main concern was that it was such a waste of time sending him to Ottawa.

But the plan was emerging. His friend Jason Kenney, then minister of ethnic support for prime minister Stephen Harper, suggested that Brown spend some effort getting to know the people from the Indian Sub-Continent. It was the Canadian taxpayers who paid for Patrick Brown’s trips to India. All he had to do was stay out of all the ethnic troubles of that part of the world.

What it enabled Brown to do was build up a large base of support and knowledge of those groups in Canada. That is why his first office to capture the Ontario conservative leadership was in Brampton. With more than 260,000 South Asian immigrants and descendants in Brampton, they represented 44 per cent of the total population.

And that was when we started to seriously question where the money was from? You hardly go over night from raising $100,000 for a federal election campaign to raising over a million for the provincial leadership. His South Asian organizers paid the memberships of close to 40,000 people across Ontario. Where did that money come from?

And where did the money come from at the time for Patrick Brown to acquire a mansion out in Shanty Bay? This is not a guy known for saving his nickels.

And skipping over the problems of January 2018, where did the money come from for a failed attempt to take over as chair of Peel Region? That is not a small area to put up signs.

And finally, where did the money come from for that very expensive campaign in the City of Brampton?

Enquiring minds want to know.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Brown’s boy continues to disappoint.

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2018

It was always amusing to see how aspiring politician Alex Nuttall fawned on Patrick Brown as heir apparent to Patrick’s seat in parliament. It did not seem to be a sure thing with their respective ages being so close. All became clear though when Patrick jumped on the provincial leadership bandwagon. My neighbours and I got the dirty end of the stick when Mr. Nuttall told us he was our new conservative candidate in Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte.

The fact of his slim win by 89 votes out of the rural area of the electoral district was a clear indication of the city folks’ opinion of Mr. Nuttall. We knew Mr. Nuttall best. And he has certainly not done anything important for anybody, city or rural, since.

At a time when Barrie residents are increasingly concerned about the late-night disturbances downtown, the drunkenness, the open prostitution, as well as growing drug problems and deaths, our MP, Alex Nuttall has turned a blind eye to our concerns.

The weekly grocery ad wrap that passes for a newspaper now in Barrie, found out that Nuttall thinks federally approved safe injection sites for drug addicts are illegal. The Simcoe County health unit considers a safe injection site as a ‘harm prevention’ priority for Barrie that can save many lives. The city has to wait for the provincial government’s approval of it but nobody knows what that government will do from one day to the next. (Health minister Christine Elliott said the other day that we will keep some sites but did not say where.)

Mr. Nuttall has absolutely no idea what to do about drug addiction but does not think safe injection sites are the answer. He would probably appear a lot smarter if he just shut up.

All we know is that safe injection sites can save lives. They build rapport with the addicts to the point where the professionals can start to communicate and can help them. It works and is a solution that does not leave people on the street to die.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Dougie did it!

Monday, October 22nd, 2018

There is an explanation for this. I have a younger brother whose name happens to be Douglas. When we were young, the standard answer to a bloody nose or a broken lamp was always “Dougie did it.” I can admit now that if the fresh blood was mine, I could easily blame him. Mother was very wary though of these claims when it looked like Dougie lost the fight.

But Dougie always was mother’s favourite. I felt hard done by when the fact was that my older sister and three older brothers could treat me as their Sherpa but I was not allowed to pick on Dougie. And he had the last laugh because he was the first in the family with a PhD.

The point of this is that I am not trying to belittle Ontario premier Douglas Ford by casually referring to him as Dougie. I am delighted today that I can say “Dougie did it” and mean it. It is certainly not my brother’s fault. He is now a retired academic living in Ohio where he lectured business students for many years.

One of the subjects I have discussed seriously with him over the years has been ethics in business and politics. When he was teaching in Ontario, I was welcome to go to Waterloo and lecture his business class.

I like to think I have contributed something to better ethics in business over the years but I tend to despair with politics. Frankly the leadership of the Ontario conservatives has been beyond redemption for the last several years.

While I believed that Patrick Brown might have just been diddling his expenses occasionally, there is really no excuse for someone such as Doug Ford. Doug Ford is a liar, a charlatan, an ignorant boor and a disgrace as premier of Ontario.

In his case, ‘Dougie’ is not an endearment.

Do you know that he promised observant Sikhs the other day that they can kill themselves on motorcycles.

I never knew a religion that wanted to fast-track the ‘Right to Die’ with anything other than KoolAid. Dougie actually told the Sikh community in the Brampton area that Sikh males could now use their turbans as helmets when they ride their motorcycles. That was not only flagrantly discriminatory and sexist but it was colossally stupid.

It was no wonder that he tried not to let non-Punjabi language media know about the plan. Ontario’s Dougie knows how to pander for votes!

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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