Archive for January, 2019

An Olive Branch to Alberta?

Monday, January 21st, 2019

It was last April when Babel-on-the-Bay commented on the Toronto Star’s Quisling-like coverage of the Alberta tar sands quandary by Star business writer David Olive. We were pleased to note the other day that Olive has seen the light. In a recent opinion piece, he suggests that Albertans should get serious about the province’s future.

Olive picks up on the Alberta tendency to ride the rollercoaster of oil-industry feasts and famines. He even points out that most of the oil money profits (when they happen) go to out-of-province investors rather than to the citizens of the province. What he considers as inexplicable is the province’s lack of forward planning.

Olive is old enough to remember the heyday of Burns Foods and Gainers when Alberta was processing world-class beef products for Eastern Canada and world markets. The province also seems to have turned its collective backs on the high-tech potential out of the University of Alberta and a strong dairy sector.

While Olive still panders to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) desire to call bitumen ‘heavy crude,’ he admits that he is astonished that Calgarians, particularly, seem to have no concept of how long it takes to get a pipeline approved and built in Canada. (And if Jason Kenney thinks it is because we believe in democracy; tough beans.)

Olive says he is surprised by Albertans who seem to think everyone other than themselves is to blame when the price of crude oil drops. He is surprised that Albertans still do not understand why Peter Lougheed urged economic diversification. They would much rather damn a Trudeau for their pipedreams.

What surprises me about Olive’s article was his thinking that all bitumen mining in Alberta is open pit. That is the impression that CAPP seems to encourage by using the old news clips and pictures from Suncor. People in the east seem unaware that most bitumen is now flushed up from deep underground by forcing hot water down to the bitumen seams. Those wildlife-killing settling ponds that are taking over the northern Alberta landscape are the residue from bitumen extraction.

And Olive does not think premier Rachel Notley helped inter-provincial relations by saying in a Toronto speech recently that Canadians who are not lucky enough to live in her province were holding Alberta up for ransom. No doubt she could also improve relations by stopping those false-news commercials that say doubling the Trans Mountain pipeline is good for all Canadians.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

Parsing the political petulance.

Sunday, January 20th, 2019

Had an opportunity the other day to measure the mood of local liberals after the humiliation of last June’s provincial election. It was the annual meeting of the provincial party for Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte in central Ontario. All you had to do was mention premier Doug Ford and eyes rolled and teeth gnashed.

This electoral district was a rollercoaster of possibilities from the confused conservative events of January 2018 through to a very disappointing election day. We started with Ontario conservative leader Patrick Brown as the known candidate to tackle and ended up losing the electoral district to a parachute candidate, a carpetbagger appointed by Doug Ford.

It was not the largest turnout I had seen at an annual meeting for the liberal party in the area. It was a predominantly male group and the average age had to be close to 50. There was a definite lack of younger liberals. This group has its work cut out for it.

But the numbers were better than expected. The demographics were of concern but it was an unfamiliar location for the meeting and the wind chill outside was down to about -16 C.

And, we lost all three of our invited speakers. They were three of our seven MPPs from Queen’s Park who are testing their possibilities for a run at the party leadership—and all from Toronto. Two begged off with colds and the third was a no-show. (More about them another time.)

Once the business of electoral district elections was out of the way, the chair (a former MPP himself) asked for an open discussion of why the liberals lost so badly last June. He introduced the theme himself: anger.

There was general agreement on the anger. Where the disagreement emerged was the nature of that anger. Some thought it was just that the liberal government had run out of gas. Some thought it was Premier Wynne herself—she certainly came across as arrogant.

What worried me was those who thought the liberals had veered too far to the left and needed to come back to a more middle ground.

Personally, I think it is the reverse. Wynne is really one of those liberal socially and financially conservative liberals who tend to confuse the voters. And she made her own mistakes. The Sudbury candidate fixing fiasco was never forgiven. And the selling off of part of Hydro One was seen as bad advice, badly executed. The rest was just chatter.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

Trump can: You can’t.

Saturday, January 19th, 2019

Social media are a trap just waiting for the unwary politician. While I have tested some of the major social media apps, I try to stay away from them like the plague. They are not mainstream. They are not only overrated but they are for people who need to get a life. And what makes you think you can convince a non-voter to go to the polls and vote for you?

But social media do present a problem for the serious politician. It has become part of the communications mix. You should always be careful to understand the demographics of the programs. You need to have people from within that demographic to look after what you feed it. I never advise candidates to do their own entries. Check it occasionally but you have far more important things to do.

Your job is called pressing the flesh! And you best keep the pressing to a firm handshake. Meeting the voters and making a favourable impression is your job. And if you do not like doing that, stay out of politics. And do not say or write something in Mandarin or Punjabi or Urdu that you think is exclusive to your supporters. The listeners and readers are not all your supporters.

And it is very important that you remember that Donald Trump in the United States can get away with saying something stupid. It is expected of him. He can say something stupid and he is still president and a billionaire. You say something stupid and you might be toast like the gal who was supposed to be running for the liberals in the Burnaby South by-election.

It would also be wise, if you are supporting a particular political party and want to be a candidate, to stick to supporting the party’s positions on the current issues. And it is also wise to be very careful of adding anything to the party position. What seems logical to you might not be logical to other party members and candidates.

A candidate is always criss-crossing the electoral district, meeting groups, attending all-candidate meetings, coffee parties, and talking to individual voters. You have to be everywhere and be noticed as being everywhere. It is what candidates do.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

What to do when money wins?

Friday, January 18th, 2019

The cynic tells us that everyone has a price. And when you are dealing in billions, what is a million here or there? I have often wondered when the companies exploiting the tar sands and the pipeline people were going to give the aboriginal peoples who have stood in their way a serious piece of the action. Now we find that they are not only offering participation, they want to sell the tribes everything.

A recent deal between Teck Resources and the aboriginal groups around Fort Chipewyan shows that the aboriginal nations are more inclined to be joining instead of fighting. It is as though, they have given up on the government protecting them.

Of special interest is a potential deal reported by the CBC that a group of aboriginal nations who have been involved in resource exploitation are interested in buying the Trans Mountain pipeline from the government. It was also clear from the quick denial by finance minister Bill Morneau that this is not a joke. It is for good reason that the government is not comfortable with Justin Trudeau’s rash decision to buy the Kinder Morgan package. The aboriginals can probably get it for a fire-sale price when the timing is right. And while these first nations do not always play well together, they understand each other and the negotiations would be fair and expeditious.

And can you imagine the relief for government and taxpayers when more of our first nations start to become financially self sufficient and paying taxes.

The only people who would be left with egg on our faces will the environmentalists who have been backing them. It would sure feel funny fighting the aboriginal-owned pipeline and those huge ocean tankers on behalf of the marine life in the Strait of Georgia.

I can already hear premier Rachel Notley and that damn Jason Kenney snickering over their brandies at the Petroleum Club.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

 

On the road to Oz, the Lion starts strong.

Thursday, January 17th, 2019

Dorothy has already clicked her heels and the Cowardly Lion has been the first to put a paw on the Yellow Brick Road. It is very early in the trip and he can act brave. There is no competitor yet on the road to Canada’s federal election.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is also in an element that he enjoys—and where he comes across strong. It must be the school teacher in his training. He enjoys the cut and thrust of town hall meetings. It is a chance for him to teach and preach and he is good at it. I was particularly impressed with his handling of an immigration question at the meeting in Regina last week.

Trudeau actually drew the questioner out on what he was asking and helped him phrase his question so that what he was saying was clear to most people listening.

What he accomplished in drawing out the question was to establish it as the current tone and misinformation as spread by the conservatives around conservative leader Andrew Scheer (the Tin Woodman, who will be joining the others on the Yellow Brick Road to the Canadian election).

What it boiled down to was that the questioner in Regina did not consider the Christian and Muslim religions to be able to co-exist.

Mr. Trudeau countered with the contention that it is the ability of different cultures and religions to co-exist in Canada that has built a strong and vibrant nation. There was no question in the reaction of the audience, that they agreed with the prime minister’s point. It was a spirited and clear explanation for the reputation Canada has gained around the world for being an open and caring society.

But it is also something all Canadians, who really care about this country, should be repeating. If we hear vapid, unthinking expressions of bigotry, we need to counter them. Please do not leave this type of ignorance unanswered.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

Brits’ Brexit Bonkers.

Wednesday, January 16th, 2019

Oh, the Brits did it up right proper yesterday. That parliament of woolly thinking, stepped out the palace window looking for the executioner with his axe. “Come, chop off our heads,” they said, “We’re not using them anyway.”

Since the United Kingdom narrowly voted for Brexit in June of 2016, the UK parliament has been in a directionless turmoil. Prime Minister Theresa May has taken it nowhere. She reminds us of King Canute defying the tides. Her legacy is the same as that of once prime minister Neville Chamberlain who returned to London from Munich in 1938 with a piece of paper, saying “Peace for our time.”

The truth is that Theresa May got the best deal you could expect from the Europeans. Remember that Brexit was based on bigotry. Like that despicable Donald Trump and his wall, the UK vote was to keep the hordes of migrants from swimming the Channel or erupting through the Chunnel. What the Germans could do with their discipline and the French are still trying to handle, the UK rejected. They should not be proud of it.

The hardest part of this was trying to understand what Theresa May was trying to do. Did her vanity include the belief that only she was able to untie the Gordian Knot of the United Kingdom’s role in the European Union? The truth is that the United Kingdom needs the European Union just as much as the EU needs the UK. They are pieces of the same puzzle.

But the question now is how the UK can reconnect without losing too much face? A UK general election—with new leadership—might help.

And it looks like the EU will hold out the olive branch. There is no need for any recriminations.

We can only hope that Brexit is not like one of William Shakespeare’s longer tragedies.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

The amazing breadth of progressivism!

Tuesday, January 15th, 2019

It has always pleased me that the people running the Progressive Bloggers web site have included Babel-on-the-Bay in the collection. It also becomes important when I note that as many as a third of my constantly growing number of daily readers are able to find my website through the portal.

But in checking the collective site periodically, I am sometimes amazed at what is included in the definition of progressive. It is obvious, I am sure, that the best read of the blogs is the one (or more) each day from the chap in Montreal who is so adept with his photoshop software at creating cartoons of political characters. And I always enjoy reading treatises and comments from the King of Curmudgeons on Vancouver Island. He inspires me.

But the point of this commentary, was my surprise recently to receive an e-mail comment from the editor of the Maple Monarch. If I would ever make a choice between the most regressive tracts in Canada, it would be anything about the monarchy or from the Fraser Institute.

But the editor of the Maple Monarch surprised me. He was commenting on my diatribe about the uselessness of walls as a deterrent against people. His comment was a scholarly epigram about walls through history that served a purpose. He certainly knew a few things about the Great Wall of China. All I could do was counter with Hadrian’s Wall that did a job, for a while in Roman times, in keeping my Scot’s ancestors away from the English farmers’ wives, daughters and sheep.

While it surprised me to find that the Maple Monarch is now considered a progressive blog, who am I to say who is progressive and who is not. I have always found that if it is something, I can do nothing about, why let it worry me?

And it supplied a fast and easy commentary for today.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

Mr. Trump as a savant?

Monday, January 14th, 2019

The other day, reading something from a forgettable writer, I started out laughing at the presentation of U.S. president Donald Trump as a savant. Please understand that a savant is someone with debilitating mental problems or deficiencies but also has one or more remarkable skills. In Mr. Trump’s case, I would suggest his skills are like those of a stopped clock. He can get it right, once or twice a day.

But when the writer suggests that Trump got it right to withdraw all American troops from Syria, he seems as lost as Trump. I do not care what Trump’s advisors said as to why the Americans should stage the withdrawal; Trump was signing a death warrant for the Kurds.

And no matter how Bashar al-Assad and Vladimir Putin handle it, genocide is a crime against humanity. They must think they can back the Kurds into the hands of the remaining Daesh fighters in Northern Syria and claim it is the Daesh that did the dirty deed. Trump is helping by pulling out the witnesses for them.

The writer goes on to claim that Daesh only exists as a result of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. This is wrong as Daesh (under the ISIS name) was already pledging support for al-Qaeda, three years before President George W. Bush made the mistake of invading Iraq again.

What the writer really proves is that he does not understand Mr. Trump. In fact, Mr. Trump frustrates him. He claims Trump does not read and insults him unnecessarily by saying he does not think.

Maybe Mr. Trump thinks too much. As an insomniac, he seems to do his most irresponsible thinking early in the morning, when he feeds his more ridiculous thoughts to his followers on Twitter.

But he is certainly no savant. What he is good at are those things that made him very successful in his father’s business. It is a business that attracts the showman type, the bluffer and the consummate liar. Trump is just your garden variety womanizer and con man. His very serious weakness is his narcissism.

Mr. Trump represents a real and present danger to the United States of America in its foreign relations. He is a child playing with grenades. The country can eventually recover most of its reputation and regain some of its leadership among nations. It can hopefully fix the weaknesses in its political structure that allowed him into office.

But the next two years in Washington will not be fun.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

Navigating a sea of indigenous irony.

Sunday, January 13th, 2019

It would be funny if it were not so sad. Canadian politicians constantly try to solve problems for our aboriginal peoples but they often use our concern to abuse us for just not being aboriginal.

What I have never understood is that instead of making sure they have clean water to drink in their communities, someone in government thought they might like to be called “indigenous” instead of aboriginal. I could care less but I know that “indigenous” means “from here.” They are not. Their ancestors came from Asia like many other Canadians—just thousands of years earlier. They should be proud of that.

But that is minor compared to the way the government tried to foist the national inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls on them. They tried to set time limits on an oral culture. “Sorry Mr. and Ms. Politician, an oral culture does not rush to meet the deadlines for the next election.”

It was more than 35 years ago that I was involved in a long series of casual conversations about aboriginal needs with a friend in Winnipeg. What I helped to do was create a native-friendly fellowship centre in the city to try to have a positive place for aboriginals coming to the city. We also added a computerized training centre at a separate location for the disadvantaged, whether aboriginal or not. (We were hoping it would open windows for education in remote communities.)

But what annoys me about our aboriginals is when they try to hold us up for ransom. A current example is the problem with the liquified natural gas pipeline into Kitimat, B.C. We have the right to ask the tribes to resolve their own problems as to who speaks for them. When the elected leaders of the tribe sign a deal with the pipeline company, the company has the right to expect them to represent the tribe. It hardly makes sense for the company to have to call the police because members of the tribe are now listening to hereditary leaders rather than those they elected for the purpose.

There is a far more serious protest to be made when Trans Mountain tries to twin its pipeline to Burnaby. Trans Mountain has a long way to go to be approved by all the tribes along that route and those tribes really need our help to stand up for their rights.

And many of us, whose ancestors came to this land much later, will stand with them.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

The Tentacles of Torstar.

Saturday, January 12th, 2019

It is a small hope of mine that Babel-on-the-Bay has some of the same objectives as the Toronto Star. It becomes harder over the years as the Torstar management keep swallowing the smaller fish to keep their big fish afloat. They have done more to deprive Canada of good journalism in recent years than they have encouraged.

Since the Canada Competition Bureau is still reported to be casting a jaundiced eye on the most recent collusion between Torstar and PostMedia to end professional journalism in Canada, I will deal with other bad smells coming from Torstar headquarters at One Yonge Street in Toronto.

Frankly, I have been concerned about the lack of competence Torstar has shown in becoming functional in the electronic world of news reporting. I have been waiting, with increasing impatience, for the wife and I to be able to discuss the day’s news that we can each access at breakfast on our personal table-top tablets. Instead, each version of the Toronto Star electronic newspaper comes out worse and more difficult to navigate than the earlier version and with fewer features.

It is so confused that the other day I received an e-mail from the Star’s programming geniuses. It expressed regret that I had cancelled my subscription to the electronic version and the cancellation would take effect at the end of the month. My opening question to the first person I found in the right department was why would I cancel something that costs me nothing? As a home delivery customer, I have access to the electronic version at no additional charge.

My other recent experience where my curiosity was tweaked was in late December by a news source that I have not been using. It is iPolitics, the Ottawa based electronic news source, concentrating on politics in Canada. One of the iPolitics staff appeared on a Global News panel. She was presentable, spoke well but appeared to have no basis for the opinions she was expressing. It occurred to me that this publication needs some help.

At the time, I was reviewing my ten years of producing a daily posting for Babel-on-the-Bay. My choice is to cut costs somewhere or to find some revenue. Since iPolitics needs help, I sent the publication a quick e-mail politely suggesting we have a chat. I was puzzled when I did not receive any acknowledgement.

All became clear though when I dug deeper and found I had missed the announcement that Torstar had bought iPolitics.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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