Archive for October, 2019

A surfeit of opinions.

Saturday, October 26th, 2019

For the first time, it seemed that there really were more than enough opinions on this election. Not only did we have the political blogs and usual social media postings but those handy newsletters from major media are now routine. The first to sign off was Kady O’Malley of iPolitics from her daily opinion piece for the Toronto Star. It was called The Lead, for some unexplained reason.

As opinion newsletters go, O’Malley’s was not too bad. It was not as breezy and nonchalant as Vassy Kapelos’ CBC newsletters nor did she have the depth of her colleague at the Toronto Star, Jordan Himmelfarb, who did the weekly campaign wraps.

But newsletters have come a long way since they can be so easily distributed by e-mail. They are mostly being used as sales tools for the Internet newsletters with paywalls and pseudo newspapers that have cropped up covering most cities. The sales teaser promoting the Hill Times was probably too restrictive in what it was giving for free and might not have done the job intended.

I expect that this type of promotion has hurt the readership of many Canadian bloggers who talk about politics. The difference with blogs such as Babel-on-the-Bay is that we can understand what is happening in the inner sanctums of the politicians as well as or even better than the news media.

But it has been interesting to compare the pattern of readership of Babel in the last Ontario provincial election and this federal election. There is a bell curve that develops when a current campaign is of interest and you can find hundreds of new readers are checking your site. The peak of the bell curve was later this year. What I think happened was that people became frustrated by the admission of the new newsletters that they could not assess the situation. It was when we realized the frustration, that Babel-on-the-Bay decided to run the Morning Line. We might have been a bit late but the readership on the bell curve continued to grow past election day.

But it always pays to leave on a high note. After years of daily postings, this writer is taking a break. I am going to spend the time reassessing this hobby. If you have any suggestions, we welcome them. We will return in November.


Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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Justin Trudeau doesn’t do humble.

Friday, October 25th, 2019

The media seemed to see Justin Trudeau’s speech on Wednesday as contrition. It was not. Not in the minds of many liberals who worked to give him this second chance.

And that is what it was on Monday night. It is a second chance to get it right. It is not a second chance to screw things up. It is like nobody really gives a damn if he has a gender-balanced cabinet. If you start with people competent in the job, who cares if they are all women. They have a job to do for Canadians. What does their sex have to do with it?

Canadian voters delivered a message to all politicians on Monday and Justin Trudeau was hardly listening. Yes, it was an “ugly and divisive campaign” and Justin owes a sincere apology to the liberals who still voted for him and kept the hordes from the gates.

And what about those liberals on the prairies who threw themselves into the pyre in the name of liberalism? In that act of honour, they made the point that there is still some human kindness left in a society that puts its wants ahead of the needs of our children’s children.

And why does the prime minister still carry the torch of the Trans Mountain pipeline that stressed out so many of his supporters during this campaign? You cannot juggle environmentalism and the shipment of bitumen to further foul the very earth on which we need to live.

And what of the prime minister’s native province? Yes, we knew it would dismiss the remnants of the Orange Wave that had lost its way in the wilderness. To replace the hopes and dreams of Jack Layton with the mob of péquiste from the Bloc was a figurative finger to the rest of Canada. We were damn lucky that they did not end up with the balance of power. Instead, they are a body without muscle and their rhetoric and objectives can be ignored.

At this stage, we should worry more about Justin Trudeau and his corporal’s guard of liberals and what they will do to earn redemption?


Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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Nobody hates Albertans.

Thursday, October 24th, 2019

It has never been personal. A close friend of mine in the oil business always used to greet me with the comment. “Damn, you haven’t frozen in the dark yet!” Back when they lived in Denver, Colorado, the wife and I would drop off our kids with him and his wife (the wife’s BFF from high school days). The kids got in some good skiing, while the wife and I enjoyed the shows and action in Las Vegas.

When they moved back to Calgary, he and I had some interesting discussions about the oil business. The exploitation of the tar sands was still something in the distance but he certainly knew that the province’s crude oil reserves were nearing the end of their run.

What I did not understand was the lack of political motivation for the province to diversify its economy. The question should always have been: If that industry shut down tomorrow, how long would it take to absorb the people into the broader economy? You could never get a decent answer.

And why did nobody care? In Calgary, they were building homes out into the prairies and nobody worried about when the balloon would burst. The reality is that tar sands exploitation is a serious polluter before you measure a barrel of anything. Despite the scenes of enormous open pit mining of bitumen, the reality is that most of the tar sands are below ground and double drilling and hot water is used to force the future fuel up from underground seams.

The dirty water from bringing up the bitumen and washing out the sands is in itself a serious environmental hazard. Settling ponds for this dirty water are not a natural phenomenon. In addition, refining of bitumen into ersatz crude oil takes even more energy and creates what is known as bitumen slag, produced from the excess carbon in bitumen.

I have read various estimates that say that producing crude oil from the tar sands creates three to five times the carbon of Texas light crude. I expect it depends on the source of the bitumen. And calling bitumen ‘heavy oil’ is an attempt to describe it as something it is not.


Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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Really, Ms. May?

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2019

There was a last shot fired in the federal election on Sunday that really disappointed me. I thought more highly of Elizabeth May of the green party. After all, where have you heard this line before? “Elect (this party) and this will be the last federal government in Canada chosen by the first-past-the-post system.”

Give yourself a pat on the back if you guessed it was said by liberal Justin Trudeau in 2015. He was also wrong. This time, it was said by the green’s Elizabeth May

But what really annoyed me was that Ms. May was there, on the special committee of parliament, that blew smoke on Justin Trudeau’s promise. I watched one very long summer to every live-streaming meeting of that special committee, that I could, read all the transcripts and noted Ms. May’s usually thoughtful and succinct comments.

What those committee hearings showed us was that there were few academics or elections experts in Canada or around the world who really understood the different strategies on voting—their weaknesses and their strengths.

The teaching moment was lost though when the various parties represented on the committee came to the voting on what to do. It was the hardened intransigence of the conservatives that forced the committee report that the liberals could not accept. Justin Trudeau might have thrown his hands up in surrender but he did not change his mind. He was determined that his government was not going to agree to a referendum that would prove nothing.

Canadians had already demonstrated in three provinces, that included Ontario and British Columbia, that they would be quite unlikely to approve any recommendation on voting other than first-past-the-post.

There is still a faction who believe that some change is necessary. As we come to accept Internet voting as the safe, inexpensive and fast way to vote, we can look at the French system of run-off elections. This might be the compromise that is needed.


Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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Go angry into the night.

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2019

Canada went to bed angry last night; a failed decision behind us. We had bought into distrust and grievance and discord. We set aside our normal fairness and caring. Greed seemed to be the only compromise. It was a failure in leadership and trust. The next election is not in four years but anytime that there might be an advantage.

Some of Quebec’s francophones gave the rest of us Canadians the finger last night. They chose to send a group of separatist Bloc Québécois members to parliament—but not to contribute to the common good. Thankfully, they did not win the balance of power.

The harshness of the Prairie choices was a more critical critique of confederation. And the failure of the greens to grow and to take their commitments to parliament spells continued conflict over pipelines.

But Jason Kenney in Alberta has to realize that by failing to address his anger in parliament, he is but a dog barking in the night.

Conservative leader Andrew Scheer can take off his clown make-up and let his party stew over his poor leadership. When is the safe time to replace him?

Jagmeet Singh and his NDP took their losses but retained party status and can offer the support the liberals need to govern. Maybe the NDP will end up with a direction after all.

And the liberals suffer from the same dilemma. Justin Trudeau has much to learn about politics, political parties and leadership. The difference might be that he is still teachable.

But he let us down here in the catbird seat in Ontario. Once again, we had a winnable candidate, we had the skills and we had the desire to win and the party let us down. There were important lessons learned in Milton. Political campaigns do not start when the writ comes down. They start the day after the last campaign.


Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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“Mommy, It’s over!”

Monday, October 21st, 2019

The sign-off for the Just for Laughs television show seems quite appropriate for this election. Though it was hardly just for laughs. There are still a lot of tears to be shed over this 43rd Canadian General Election. Having a green monster wailing to his mommy seems the right tone to end it.

There were lies told and vulgar language used. It was just not always comedic. As in any show of this type, you have to rate the actors individually.

The prize for most improved went to the boy born at Sussex Drive. Did you note that he was no longer saying ‘Aahh’ while thinking of the next part of his answer? He had obviously been quietly taking elocution lessons as well as training on the use of teleprompters.

‘Chuckles’ Scheer, on the other hand, is still a work in progress. The high cheek bones that earned him the clown title are most often hidden under make-up and his handlers are trying to expand his current repertoire of two facial expressions (surprise and puzzlement). His wife is often with him on the hustings late in the campaign, in a further attempt to soften his image.

But the growing meanness and cruelty of conservatism in this age still nags at Scheer and his candidates. He can hardly deny premiers Ford and Kenney and their unfeeling cuts, refusal to understand global warming and failure to understand the critical relations with other countries that Canadians have gained around the world.

Jagmeet Singh might have stirred the cold hearts of the news media but the growth he has claimed during the campaign has been among the NDP supporters who had given up on him. He is still facing serious losses of previously held seats in Quebec, no potential for growth in Ontario and lost hopes on the Prairies.

Election-day reality in Quebec is most likely to be conservative and NDP losses to the Bloc and the liberals.

What surprises me is that there seems to be no organized effort in B.C. to move to Elizabeth May and the greens and guarantee the end of the Trans Mountain pipeline.

And then, maybe my sources are wrong!


Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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Thoughts on a dystopian election.

Sunday, October 20th, 2019

It was not been pretty. These fixed elections absorb the politicos and the media for almost ten months. Before it can officially be called an election, we are tired of it. They are more about what could have been than what should have been.

I felt like a lone voice in the wilderness in that seemingly never-ending winter of 2019. I had the nerve to suggest that Justin Trudeau resign while we still had time to choose a replacement. That hardly endeared me to what is left of the liberal party that I had loved so much.

Like millions of other Canadians, I voted in the advance polling. I think we all wanted to get this damnable act over with. And I voted liberal. Luckily, I like the liberal candidate in my riding and he deserves to win. It looks like liberal central agreed with me for once. Justin came to our riding twice and I hear the donations to the local liberal campaign exceeded the budget—which is always good news. I wish I could have done more to help the candidate.

But overall, it has been a mean-spirited, dark and dreary campaign across the country. The conservatives have changed over the years and I find their campaigning today to be based on greed and selfishness and ignorance of the needs of our peoples and our environment. It is their denial of global warming that I consider reprehensible. For a few creature comforts today, these people seem willing to burden their children’s children with a planet on which mankind might no longer be able to survive.

Maybe this election brought out the worst in people. Nobody can be proud of those television debates. The Internet has become a cesspool of false news, personal aggrandizement and vanity. The traditional news media are promoting second-tier parties and their candidates, spawning stories of breakthroughs and minority government. Where there is no news, news reporters have become more creative.

The most creative of all are the pollsters who are building pyramids on spurious presumptions. They hope if they just promote their guesses enough, they might come true. When found false, their alibi is the fickleness of the voters.

Or is it the politicians, who have failed us?


Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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Banking on the Bigotry of the Bloc?

Saturday, October 19th, 2019

When does la laïcité (the separation of church and state) become the political war cry in Quebec during a federal election? And why does it front as a cover-up for the institutionalized bigotry that exists in la belle province?

Since the time of the ‘Padlock Law’ of the Maurice Duplessis government of the 1930s and the growing disenchantment with the once-powerful Catholic Church, Quebec politicians have declared an open season on political thought, religious garb and artifacts, and the use of any language other than French.

This attempt at creating a regressive island, speaking a quaint form of French, in a more liberal North America has caused some strange anomalies in the politics of Canada. If not appreciated in Quebec, English-speaking Canadians have, at least, been quiet over the past 20 or so years about Canada’s arcane and out-of-date constitution. If you want to strike fear in a Québécois heart just mention the possibility of updating the Canadian constitution.

I had a series of good laughs the other day reading an opinion about constitutional renewal from the doyen of the Toronto Star’s opinion writers, Susan Delecourt.

The best laugh was when I thought her initial reference to what she calls a constitutional creep was just a nasty way to talk about the premier of Alberta.

What she was really getting at was the possibility of the constitution again coming to the fore in the catastrophic possibility of a Bloc resurgence next week, giving Andrew Scheer the prime minister’s office.

The constitution is certainly not on Justin Trudeau’s agenda. The last time I talked to him, I tried to point out the need for a constitutional review. His elitist solution to the problems of the senate and his failed attempt to change how we vote are his answer to any real change. He seems to have some pathological fear of constitutional change. How his father left him with that attitude, I have no idea.

But Susan Delacourt is quite right when she says that conditions might be ripe for a prime minister Scheer and Canada’s current collection of conservative premiers to really screw up the constitution. If they just promised Quebec’s Legault anything his heart desires, they would have the 50 per cent of the population and the seven provinces needed to really put the conservative screws to our country. And probably start a civil war in the process.


Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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Pot foils police and politicos.

Friday, October 18th, 2019

After a full year of government legalized and regulated marijuana sales, nobody is making money other than the criminal element that has been in the business all along. These people know their market, look after their market and have no problem with undercutting government pricing.

What the police and politicos, who planned this failed legal pot operation, across Canada do not understand is that it is a service business. When you build barriers to providing service, your business goes to those who can provide service. Your friendly pot purveyor down the street is there for you. This person is making substantial profits up and down the supply chain in a commodity that is no longer illegal for you to have in your possession.

The first mistake, the politicos made was to give the challenge of planning a legalized marijuana market to a cop. And, to make matters worse, this is a cop with a dubious reputation when it comes to human rights. Former Toronto police chief Bill Blair’s officers kettled Canadian citizens out for an evening stroll during the G20 in Toronto in 2010, denied them their rights and created what is considered the worst abuse of human rights in Canadian history. He, somehow, got swept into office as an MP with the Trudeau tide in 2015.

And with a political point-man such as this, a stiff, oppressive plan was put in place by the civil servants, who also seemed to know little about the product or its marketing. Their objective, so they said, was to undermine the illegal trade, instead, they guaranteed a lucrative illegal market for years to come.

Their first mistake was to put the actual marketing chore in the hands of the provinces. They built more barriers to success. In Ontario and Quebec, there are some 25 stores in operation in each province plus a mail order system—for a total market of over 23 million people. In Ontario, selection of retail outlets is by a strange form of lottery and there are huge gaps in market coverage. Instead of an open legal market, we have a highly restricted market where there is only profit for the illegal sellers.


Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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Taking the road to totalitarianism.

Thursday, October 17th, 2019

It is in Fortress Alberta that Jason Kenney did declare that his propaganda machine will be removed from all controls. What started as a so-called war room will now be known as the Alberta Energy Communications Centre and based in Calgary.

Nobody has said whether this new entity will replace the propaganda arm of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP). This organization has been relentless over the years in trying to get the news media to refer to the Alberta tar sands as oil sands and tar-sands bitumen as ‘heavy oil.’

These are the people who tried to take advantage of deaths in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec from highly volatile fracked crude oil, to try to sell the idea that pipelines were safer than rail.

But Jason Kenney has more extensive ambitions. As Alberta, leader for life—or at least until he gets bored and returns to Ottawa. His propagandists are there to deny global warming. They will fight to finish the Trans Mountain pipeline and the Energy East pipeline. They will make bitumen the saviour of the Canadian economy.

But the biggest challenge to this communications centre will be to promote Jason Kenney as the hero of Canadian unity. After all his threats of taking Alberta out of the Canadian federation have caused nothing but laughter from his friends down east.

But the most serious concern is that we are not all that sure how much public money has been spent on this form of totalitarianism—and how much more will be channeled into it.

The best indicator of the intent is that the centre has been privatized and removed from any responsibilities under Alberta’s freedom of information act. Premier Kenney does not want any sneaky media people finding out what these people are doing, And Heaven-forbid that the good people of Alberta be told anything about what their premier-for-life is doing.


Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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