Archive for May, 2019

It’s Bullshit over Beer in Ontario.

Friday, May 31st, 2019

The international owners of Labatt, Molson and Sleeman breweries have to be sleeping on the job. The Ontario government is seriously planning to expand their business for them and they are talking about suing the government. If I was the judge for that case, I would laugh the idiots out of my court.

What the government is proposing is that beer and wine sales in Ontario be expanded through convenience stores, grocery stores and big box stores. You can think of it as the peasants in Ontario being freed to buy their beer where it is convenient for them instead of where the Brewers’ Warehousing Beer Stores find it convenient to sell beer.

And besides, serving a market of 13 million people takes more that 450 beer stores, 660 liquor control board stores, 150 large grocery stores and some agencies in out of the way parts of the province. Even with another 300 grocery stores to be added, that is not enough distribution to meet the market need.

For comparison, Quebec has most of its 8000 convenience stores selling beer to a population of 8 million and Alberta has close to 2000 privately owned alcohol outlets and many hotels with off-premises sales, selling suds to 4.3 million. There is no question but there is a need in Ontario for a greatly expanded retailing of beer and wine.

Some skeptics of the government plan point to a specious agreement signed five years ago by a banker on behalf of the province. In the agreement the brewers promised to spend $100 million per year for four years to upgrade stores and build some new ones. What does not make sense of this is that it is a normal cost of doing business in a business worth many billions. New stores need to be built in growing communities and many of the ill-kept Beer Store properties in Ontario desperately need repair and improvements. Why would this be subject to litigation?

Frankly, Ontario has colluded with and coddled the foreign brewers for long enough. After 90 years of unconscionable profits for the breweries own delivery system, they can no longer expect a monopoly. They can make a lot more money with the expanded distribution of their products. If they do not like what the government is doing, they should remember that it is the government that calls the shots.

A rule of international trade is ‘Never piss off the local politicians.’

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

Professionalism in Politics.

Thursday, May 30th, 2019

Interesting argument the other day with a reader who likes keeping up with the political scene and who supports the liberals. He was stating his objection to professional politicians. Since his major experience with a professional politician was when Patrick Brown was the MP in Barrie and then the leader of the Ontario conservatives, I can understand his objection. Brown just might be one of the worst examples of a professional politician.

But that is why politicos refer to Brown as a retail politician. He knows how politics work and he works the system. Last year in the chaos created by the new Ford government in Queen’s Park, Brown was ricocheting around Peel Region trying to find a place on the dance card for the civic election. He knew he could run somewhere in Peel Region. Ford cut him off from the regional chair position—easy job, good pay. He landed in Brampton instead, where the incumbent mayor was vulnerable.

He had moved to Mississauga because he knew he could not defeat the incumbent mayor in Barrie. It was not his shallow personal connections in Peel but the ethnic mix that attracted him. Multi-culturalism minister for Stephen Harper, Jason Kenney, had set Brown up with free trips to India in those years when he was an MP in the Harper government. Brown had not only become buddies with Indian President Narendra Modi but had become a key contact with the many people in the very large sub-continent community in Canada.

Brown had already used these ethnic contacts in the Peel region to swamp the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party membership and delivered him the leadership of that party. (Brampton resident Jagmeet Singh noted that there were thousands of Sikh immigrants involved and obviously used many of the same group to swamp the NDP party membership in the same way as Brown swamped the Tories.)

In as much as the sub-continent community represents 30 per cent of the population of Brampton, Brown won the mayoralty by the simple promise to the Sikh and Hindu immigrant population in Brampton that there would be more cricket pitches in the city parks. The sub-continent people do love their cricket.

And that is what professional politicians do. They know how to win elections. They become expert. The professionals are the ones who stick around. The amateurs come and go.

But they can be good people who care about the voters. They can also be users. That is up to the voters to decide.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

Profiling politicians.

Wednesday, May 29th, 2019

It is often amusing in the popular American TV program Criminal Minds when one of the actors, playing the part of an FBI agent, without much script support, out of the blue, says it is time to deliver the profile. They remind me very much of how our political commentators can profile our politicians based on so little evidence.

In all sincerity, I believe that it takes considerable experience and observation to profile politicians. The reason we all fail when it comes to someone such as Donald Trump in the U.S.A. or Doug Ford in Ontario is that neither gentleman can be truly described as a politician. They are political wannabes and fail so miserably at the task before them.

But it is also easier to profile the run-of-the-mill politician than profiling political leaders. Leaders require a further set of profiling steps. Would you, for example, have profiled a young Reform M.P. named Steve Harper in the 1990s as potential leadership material?

Let’s look at an abbreviated profile of the three federal leaders of the major political parties in Ottawa and maybe we can see how it works:

Let’s start with the new democrats. Jagmeet Singh profiles well as a politician. Where he falls down is that he is an observant Sikh. Canadians, in general, have little knowledge or experience with Sikhism. It will work against his party. Some bigotry is involved though, in most cases, it is the just that people do not like to vote for a person they do not feel they know.

Andrew Scheer of the conservatives, on the other hand, is your typical white Prairie politician in a suit. He lacks personality and is easily forgettable. He has hardly done anything that would cause people to dislike him. Nor has he done anything to cause people to like him. He could get elected simply because he is a known brand of politician.

This counters liberal leader Justin Trudeau. In some parts of the country people love or hate him simply for his name. He is faced with being considered effete, elitist and ineffective. His signature promise in the last election of voting reform was a mistake and it is going to cost him this time.

Now, if the election was tomorrow, for whom would you vote?

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

Defining a different destiny.

Tuesday, May 28th, 2019

Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott have chosen their political destiny. They have chosen the path to likely political oblivion. There are few politicians who have come back from the Coventry of parliament to survive as an independent. To run as independent candidates is an ‘All-in’ bet.

The two former liberal cabinet ministers obviously had the door held wide for them to join in almost any other party. For them to refuse all offers is either their inflated idea of their importance or a wish to make their statement and then fade into the night. If nothing else, they will likely deny their ridings to the official liberal candidate.

Frankly, there is little they can really contribute to Canada’s parliament as independent members. Even worse, there is little they can do for the people who vote for them. Seated in the furthest corner of the chamber and with no rights other than those given by one of the recognized parties, you quickly become the forgotten Canadian.

And even if they can afford to pay for their own campaigns, the election act blocks them from spending more than $5000 of their own money. They have to raise the rest of the money for their campaign at $1600 or less from many donors and then you are still blocked under the act from spending more than allowed for the number of voters in the electoral district. And, last time I checked, they are only allowed to raise the money during the election period—parties are allowed to raise funds year-round.

Frankly, I have never seen the value of running as an independent. You are far better off to start your own political party and build an organization that can come to mean something.

And while the two former cabinet ministers were elected as liberals, I would question that designation based on their performance in parliament. Both were involved in the medically-assisted suicide bill and that bill, as it finally came into law, was a serious disappointment to many progressives in the liberal party.

I will just say ‘bye’ to them now.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

Kenney’s Conundrum, Capturing Carbon.

Monday, May 27th, 2019

It was in the business news recently. It was about the success of Shell Oil’s $1.3 billion carbon-capture plant, Quest, near Edmonton. The Quest plant is designed to capture and store carbon from the Scotford upgrader, a refinery that upgrades tar sands bitumen into synthetic crude oil. The Scotford upgrader plant output of about 200,000 barrels per day has provided the carbon-capture facility with 3.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide over the past three-and-a-half years.

It is particularly impressive that the Quest plant appears to bypass the bitumen slag by-product of bitumen processing by converting the excessive amounts of carbon in bitumen directly to CO². It also seems to make it obvious that the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) has been down-playing the amount of carbon in the tar sands bitumen from day one.

But what do you do with that much carbon dioxide? The Shell people refer to it as being sequestered, hence the name Quest for the plant.

Now if only there was a market for so much CO²? Eventually, we hear, scientists will figure out how to use CO² for fuel. As it is, this CO² is being pumped underground, where it is sequestered.

Canadian and Alberta taxpayers contributed more than $800 million to this project. While I do not know the cost of operating the $1.3 billion Quest plant, I will assume that Shell would save the federal carbon tax that will soon be levied on the ersatz crude oil produced at upgrading plants in Alberta. This will start at the current federal rate of $20 per tonne and raise to $50 per tonne by 2022.

Since the new premier, Jason Kenney of the United Conservative Party of Alberta, is committed to throwing out the provincial carbon tax, the province will be foregoing the money needed to help build more carbon-capture plants, such as Quest and other innovations for Albertans. Whatever premier Jason Kenney might be, he is obviously not much of a mathematician.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

Ignoring Bernier is bad advice.

Sunday, May 26th, 2019

It amuses me that people are telling Andrew ‘Chuckles’ Scheer that former conservative MP Maxime Bernier is not a problem. That is bad advice. First of all, you have to ignore the pollsters who are having trouble measuring Bernier’s support. And then you have to understand the people who would support Bernier. Finally, you also need to understand that the People’s party does not have to elect a single MP to cause problems for Scheer’s conservatives.

Before getting into the whys though we should explain that Maxime Bernier came second to Andrew Scheer in the conservative sweepstakes a couple years ago because of the very stupid process they used to choose a leader. The conservatives used a preferential ballot to choose between 13 (final) candidates. People were actually asked to number their preference from one to thirteen. Then the computers just kept counting the ballots (dropping the candidate with the least votes) until somebody had a majority. It took every possible ballot to finally come up with Scheer, at a fraction over 50 per cent. The winner was Scheer because he was the least disliked candidate. Being the second least disliked hardly made Maxime Bernier a powerhouse in the conservative party.

Bernier is more of a libertarian than a conservative. Libertarians are extremists to the political right of Canadian conservatism. They are a strong segment of the party but would likely constitute less than 15 per cent of the general party membership. The former provincial wild rose party in Alberta was dominated by libertarian influence.

But where Maxime Bernier is a powerhouse is in The Beauce and the Quebec City region. Depending on how many people’s party candidates he can get in previously conservative ridings, he could cause the defeat of five or six conservatives in Quebec. There are not many opportunities for that in other parts of the country but in Alberta and B.C. where liberal votes will be hard to find, there will be throw away votes from both the right and the left and strange things can happen.

If the Trudeau liberals smarten up and start wooing voters instead of pissing them off, this election would not be such a string of question marks. As it is today, it would be very difficult to rationalize any form of majority government after Oct 21. The NDP are toast and the greens cannot believe their good luck. What will happen is anyone’s guess.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

Fighting the facts of the future.

Saturday, May 25th, 2019

In a discussion of what is currently happening in politics, the realization emerged that provincial politicians such as Alberta’s Kenney, Saskatchewan’s Moe and Ontario’s Ford are denying our progeny a future.  It was not a question of a planned or malevolent denial of a future but simple ignorance. These men are choosing the direction that conservatism dictates, as they as they slash and cut at anything that they do not understand.

At the four-day Collision Conference, with attendees from around the world, in Toronto last week, premier Doug Ford was booed when he came to promote Ontario as the place to do business. It was the same time as his government announced that it was cutting funds to assist in the development of artificial intelligence. The $24 million might not have produced any breakthroughs in AI but was critical to positioning Ontario as a place to create the future. That one foolish error probably cost Ontario billions in investment down the road.

And look at Alberta. Jason Kenney has already announced that he will end all of Alberta’s green energy programs—as well as ending the carbon tax. He might be too late to stop the opening of Alberta’s pioneering geothermal electricity generation plant. This is something the Italians have had for the past 100 years but the Alberta facility that takes the steam to power it from below the earth’s surface will be a first in Canada.

Why conservatives do not like anything they cannot touch, taste or smell is beyond this writer’s understanding. Does the world have to end with a bang one night to convince them that global warming is a threat to human life? The world is already into the throws of turmoil as the ice caps melt and the oceans rise. Drier weather in our west is feeding wild fires while the heavier snows of winter in the east are flooding the water systems in spring. The world is responding to the carelessness of mankind.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

Scheer would do better if he shut up.

Friday, May 24th, 2019

Sure, it is almost five months until the federal election but everyone is out stumping anyway. You would swear that the election was in June and everyone is getting desperate.

But there is no excuse possible for the blather we are getting from the conservatives. Who told conservative leader Andrew ‘Chuckles’ Scheer that he had to have an economic plan? He is a conservative. What else do you need to know?

The good news for Chuckles is that A) Not too many Canadians know anything about him and B), he is not prime minister Justin Trudeau. Add those two facts together and that, according to the public opinion pollsters, spells “winner.”

But every word Chuckles utters about the economy seems to be reflected back by premier Ford in Ontario. Ford never had an economic plan for his province. Why should Chuckles have one for the country?

The current problem is that premier Ford has fallen from grace. It seems that some of the cuts he has been making in everything for which the province has responsibility, are causing some second thoughts. It means that quite a few Ontario voters might look elsewhere rather than trust another conservative in Ottawa.

This situation might also be exacerbated by that new premier in Alberta. Here again we have a conservative who forgot to tell people that besides being a known misogynist, is also strongly opposed to abortion. His conservative caucus is probably dominated by social conservatives who are likely to try to end abortions in Alberta.

That is unlikely to become a problem in the other provinces except for the fact that Chuckles is also anti abortion and electing him might just get the arguments going again in this country in concert with those anti-abortion Neanderthals south of the border.

Bear in mind that there are certainly more conservative provincial governments now than there were in the last federal election. Chuckles will expect to have cooperation and endorsements from most of them. He also knows that their support of him comes at a cost.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

Choosing Chuckles for Canadians?

Thursday, May 23rd, 2019

Of all the ridiculous strategies for the coming federal election! Why should the liberals attack the conservatives when their real opposition in the October election is themselves? To waste time attacking conservative leader and Saskatchewan MP Andrew Scheer is assuming that he concerns Canadians. He never has been the problem.

The liberal problem is that they have not kept their promises very well. They have made some boo-boos. They were heavy-handed with a couple of their women cabinet ministers. Yet they can hardly resort to the 1935 campaign when the liberals posed the slogan “King or Chaos.”

You can well imagine that last year in Ontario, if the slogan had been “Wynne or Chaos.” Even more voters would have voted for the Doug Ford brand of chaos. And they are getting that chaos—in spades!

It seems to this political apparatchik that there might be two types of liberal parties. There is the liberal party that owns up to its mistakes and tells the voters how it is going to do better. And then there is the party that says, “So what, we are still better than those other guys.”

I hardly think the voters give a damn for that second approach. It just makes them angrier.

And even if Chuckles and his party remain climate change deniers, how are the liberals better if they go about doubling the Trans Mountain pipeline? The Trans Mountain pipeline equipped to ship tar sands bitumen to the ocean port in the Burrard Inlet would be a disaster. It would make Justin Trudeau Canada’s number one climate-warming hypocrite.

There is no economic, environmental or political rationale for the liberals twinning that pipeline. And they would lose more votes than they could win for the effort. The world environment does not need the added carbon pollution. The old pipeline can recoup some of the taxpayers’ money as it is used to send the west coast refined gasolines and other products. It will be needed long enough to support the changeover to less-polluting forms of energy. And then it can be dismantled.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

Poison Ivy is also Green.

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2019

It has been very difficult to decipher exactly what Green party leader Elizabeth May has in mind. Our Ottawa parliamentarians were in an emergency debate on the climate emergency our scientists had reported. Being head of the Green party, Ms. May came out with a program to save the world—or, at least Vancouver Island.

Ms. May wants to abandon political divisions in the House of Commons and in cabinet. She wants a war cabinet with participants from all parties to face the climate change catastrophe in Canada.

But I am not sure I can do this program justice in explaining it. Please, do not get me wrong. I have always been impressed with Ms. May. She has been doing an impossible job, by herself in recent years. She is an excellent MP. Her real problem is her party. There are some very sincere tree-huggers, a bunch of knowledgeable environmentalists, and more than enough dingbats in that party. For Ms. May to get that party in shape for the coming election, she needs to be expert at herding cats.

She needs to get all 337 of her fellow Green candidates singing from the same songbook. They will all make promises but once they start winging it out in their electoral districts, you have no idea what they are promising.

And the chances of them explaining what Ms. May proposed in parliament the other day are tenuous, at best. In fact, I would wonder if even 25 per cent of the Green candidates could entertain any serious questions about the idea.

She is suggesting that everybody pitch in. We would all work on retrofitting Canadians’ homes. It sounds more like the cultural revolution in China during 1966 and 1967 under the Red Guards of Mao Zedong.

I agree with Ms. May that we all need to do more to cope with climate change. I just hope she has a Plan B that looks after the serious business of being a country while we are saving the world.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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