Archive for February, 2020

The end of an era.

Saturday, February 29th, 2020

We were unlikely novitiates in the liberal party of the 1960s. I honestly do not remember where or when we met. Yet I do remember the launching pads of our friendship over the years. Hon. David P. Smith was an impulsive, fun-loving and caring guy. He died on February 26.

A key memory was his first municipal campaign in the 1970s. I had been out and when I arrived home, the wife came out, told me I had people waiting for me in the living room and went to have coffee with a neighbour. It was two guys named Smith: David and his campaign manager, Larry Smith. And prominently displayed on a sofa was the worst election sign I had ever seen.

“Peter, I’m gonna run for alderman in Ward 11. Isn’t that a great sign? With that introduction and that sign, I think I was struck dumb. Then, in the classic line from the movie The Candidate, he asked, “What do we do now?” It was 21 years later that prime minister Jean Chrétien would facetiously complain that Smitty had let him down by not winning all of Ontario’s 99 seats. He lost just one. (Barrie, the area I live in today.)

The only municipal election David lost was when he overreached in a crowded field and went for the Toronto mayor’s job. It was one of the rare times he annoyed me. At his opening campaign meeting around a huge boardroom table at a downtown law firm, people were introducing themselves. They were all lawyers. When it was my turn, David broke in and said I was his good luck charm and he always won when I was involved. If you have ever been in a political campaign run by lawyers, you would understand why I did not return. David lost.

He was much more contrite a couple years later when the Joe Clark conservatives fell and he called me to ask if he could run in my riding. I said sure, the liberals in the riding liked him and he had an easy win.

I was laughing along with prime minister Pierre Trudeau a few years later, when Pierre made him minister of tourism. David was the world’s most avid tourist. Not even I could help David when the Mulroney conservatives won the next election.

David was among the last appointees to really earn that Senate seat. He stepped into the national director role for the liberal party as our friend Keith Davey slipped away into the fog of Alzheimer. David was a dedicated liberal. He will be missed.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

Del Duca Doesn’t Do It.

Friday, February 28th, 2020

The Toronto Star actually endorsed a candidate for leader of Ontario’s liberals without telling their readers anything of importance about him. They tell us former MPP Steven Del Duca is a good organizer without giving any examples. They tell us he can raise funds without understanding where they come from. They tell us he likes the centre-right political playground instead of being a lefty like Kathleen Wynn.

And that is an endorsement?

Former premier Kathleen Wynne was the most reactionary of liberals. She was slow to listen, slow to react and unembarrassedly milked any media opportunity that made her look even a little bit progressive. To suggest Del Duca is more right wing than her is to put him in a similar political view as Maxime Bernier.

And Wynne seemed to have the political common sense of a gerbil. When she surrendered before the campaign was even over to that ass Ford and his collection of conservative connivers, it was her high-water mark of blundering politics. She gave no thought to the candidates and party supporters she was betraying.

But of the 20 or so of the liberal candidates who had a chance at the time of winning their seats, I hardly think Del Duca was included. Micheal Coteau and Mitzie Hunter were two we expected to pull through because of their strong riding support and their hard work.

The one thing for sure is that the liberal party has little chance of serious reform with someone such as Del Duca at the helm. The federal party has been changed under Justin Trudeau into a collection of easy marks for constant fund-raising. They have little input on where the party is going, its policies or in choosing its candidates.

It will be a sorry day next week if Steven Del Duca walks away with the party leadership. It will be when liberalism dies in Ontario.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

This gang can’t shoot straight.

Thursday, February 27th, 2020

They must find these companies under a bush somewhere. We are talking about Gateway Casinos & Entertainment, a Canadian casino management company based in B.C., that is currently being taken over by an American company with deeper pockets. Gateway operates casinos in British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario. In Ontario, the company manages casinos in central, northern and southwest Ontario, including Casino Rama, Innisfil Casino and one to be opened in Wasaga Beach. As we live in central Ontario, we can report that Innisfil has no craps and is an ongoing disappointment, Rama has fallen on hard times and Wasaga is coming.

The wife and I picked a bad day last week to stop at the Innisfil casino. I do not know if the weather report that said it was the coldest day of the winter so far, was to blame for the technical problems but it might have been reason for missing staff. It started with no staff for the coatroom. There were also some very grouchy slot players who could not get their payoffs because of a computer glitch. The wife was pleased when I said we could come back when people are happier.

And we know better than to eat in their restaurant. We have heard various excuses for the food there but it just seems to be poor quality, cooked without caring.

The company downgraded our favourite restaurant at Rama. They turned it into a burger joint. One thing I know about successful casinos after years of trips to Las Vegas is that if you stay away from the buffets, gamblers can expect good food. At Rama, the only thing this management company did with the other restaurants seemed to be to raise the prices. And, while I might be wrong, they seem to have simply cut off the comps while taking three months to convert to their own “Club Rewards” program.

I expect leaner times when they get the program started again.

But I think the system of comping gamblers on table games should borrow elements of the system in early Las Vegas where the pit bosses controlled the comps. These are the people who can see the action best. They know the gamblers best. And the people who stimulate the gambling and make it fun are not the whales of years gone by.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

Bridging the American Divide.

Wednesday, February 26th, 2020

The democratic party achieved a breakthrough of sorts last weekend in Las Vegas. It was a win for leftist Bernie Sanders and was the first clear indication of why Sanders is the answer to Trump. It also looks like the first proof that the old-time democrats need to draw up their sphincters and recognize that social democracy is their future.

For the first time last weekend, we saw Latinos, blacks and other thinking Americans coalesce behind the man who believes in the same type of America as they dream about. It is these Americans, as well as youth and women standing up against the billionaires of privilege.

Bloomberg’s billions did not impress them. Trump is but an entertainment for the vacuous of middle America. Trump seeks to divide people while social democracy can bring them together.

No country should ever allow its billionaires to define it for their own greed. A nation is for the benefit of all peoples and their future.

But be warned. The stronger the delegate strength that the Sanders team can put together, the stronger will be the democrats heading home from the convention, committed and together vowing to rid America of the scourge of Trump.

It will be a new beginning. It will be an executive of government by and of the people. It will spell an end to the challenges against women’s rights. It will open opportunities for the forgotten of America. It will mean government-run Medicare for all. Nobody left behind.

Americans could usher in a new beginning without bigotry, without discrimination and prove once again to be a leader among nations. It will be a world where America is listened to and respected, Americans will enjoy a new security, a time to look beyond that daily search for trust in today and the future.

In the four years of the Sanders Presidency, there will not be much time but it will herald a new attitude. It will give the country time to reform its politics and decide what is important.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

Buffalo Declarations and other Bull.

Tuesday, February 25th, 2020

There is an odour emanating from the politics of self justification in Alberta. And it is not that of the wild prairie rose. It is the greed and the false tears and it is the manure that helps it grow.

I remember as a young man, standing at the government dock on the shores of Cold Lake. I was looking across the water as I waited for the Beaver (the kind that fly) to come in on its floats to take me further north. I remember thinking this is awesome country.

But it does not need these avaricious politicians who pander to millionaires and foreign resource robbers who tear into the ground to attack our heritage and despoil our future. It does not need these mindless politicians who pander to their voters by blaming eastern politicians for their shortcomings.

Did all Alberta politicians fail Economics 101? Do they not realize that Teck Resources quit the idea of the largest, most polluting open-pit mine in the tar sands because the company realized that it could not make money? Any smart investment analyst will tell you there is no future in bitumen. There is no booming market in oil futures.

But then we have to contend with the ignorance of the Buffalo Declaration that underlines Alberta MP’s political efforts to undermine our Canada. Please, please tell me in what way is Alberta not an equal partner in this Canada?

And, for God’s sake, in what way is Alberta culturally different from the rest of the country (other than Quebec)? I have always found that I get excellent and friendly service in Calgary despite whatever accent people from Ontario might have.

The four Alberta politicians who wrote that silly Buffalo Declaration are not speaking for all their constituents nor is their whining very helpful. It is an interesting counterpoint to the LEAP Manifesto of the NDP. It is also going nowhere.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

It’s Barnum and Bailey Time.

Monday, February 24th, 2020

It’s pandemic, it’s frightening, it’s Barnum and Bailey Time. The circus has come to rescue politics from crushing boredom. In America, in Canada and around the world, the clowns, the aerialists, the lion tamers and the bareback riders are doing their stuff in the realm of politics. And it is the World-Wide Web that rules.

Whether it is by blogging, or Facebook, or twitting, or using YouTube, we have the power. We have the power to inform or to misinform. To lead and to mislead. And we should be afraid. Be very afraid. The crazies can use that power against us.

This occurred to me on the weekend as the democrats gathered in Las Vegas to play craps with the future of America. And Michael Bloomberg was there to try to convince the party that their best hope is a billionaire, former republican from New York. And the democrats gathered around the craps table to see if Bloomberg could roll his point. He spent millions on the effort and he lost. Why would America want another braggart and billionaire to fear.

But you can hardly point to the Americans as the fools. The rest of the world have their own circus acts. Here in Ontario, we have that dumb-ass Doug Ford wasting millions in taxpayers’ dollars to learn how a province is run. If he bankrupts us in the process, of what value will be his knowledge?

And speaking of learning, Canada has a prime minister who has also been learning on the job. So far, without much success. He plays at Mr. Dress-Up, he looks better in grease paint. And how do you like him in war paint?

How about that world-famous aerialist Boris Johnson in the United Kingdom? If that guy ever looses his grip in the rarified air of the big top, he will make a hell of a mess in the sawdust of the middle ring.

And are you not glad that Emmanuel Macron of France had a whip and a chair to control the ‘yellow jackets’?

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

The Beer Store’s small planning error.

Sunday, February 23rd, 2020

It was reliably reported the other day that Ted Moroz, president of Ontario’s Brewers’ Retail Inc., that operates the Beer Stores, has reported making a mistake to his foreign owners. It seems there was a shortfall of about $13 million of the usual $400 million, or so, in revenue last year. And why he would not have planned for this shortfall is the critical question?

The real question is why did it come as a surprise? At a time when the government was hustling Loblaws and other large grocery outlets to sell beer, why would the Beer Store not realize that a part of their potential retail sales were leaving the nest?

What was really a surprise is that Moroz claimed that the drop was only $13 million. It is obvious that the constantly increasing prices, that are set by Brewers’ Retail, are covering up more than a simple shortfall on cashflow.

And this was at a time when the LCBO and the grocers were only allowed to sell singles or six packs. If you wanted a better priced, larger package, your only choice was the Beer Store.

It also pays to remember that Brewers’ Retail is a giant in the recycling business. With all alcoholic beverage containers being recycled through the one retail operation, I would really like to know more of the detail in the business’ cash flow. You can say it is a private company all you like but it is still a monopoly.

This is one of the real reasons that the threats from the foreign Brewers, who own about 90 per cent of the beer production in Ontario, are such a joke. They say they will sue the government if it wants to sell more of their beer in convenience stores. Does a dog bite the hand that feeds it?

And how many companies do you know that have their prices protected by the government to prevent retailers from having weekly specials on the beer aisle?

Doug Ford tells us that he does not drink. He just knows that Ontario beer drinkers have waited for a very long time to get even with those bastards who have controlled our beer. Go get ’em, tiger!

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

Planes, Trains and Ski-Doos.

Saturday, February 22nd, 2020

There is no more of an icon of business to Canadians than Bombardier. The company had its beginnings in 1935, with the snow coach designed by mechanic Joseph-Armand Bombardier. Since then, the company has experienced all the thrills and frights of a seemingly endless roller coaster ride of acquisitions, spin-offs and fire sales of entire divisions. And do not forget the generous government funds, to periodically rescue the company. Still, in the past five years, the company is reported to have lost 50 per cent of its value.

Bombardier today is a maker of private jets. One model is currently the largest of all corporate jet aircraft. The company has enough orders in hand to stay in business for the next two years. Then it might have to look for the next corporate saviour.

Corporate jets are a very volatile market. It has its feasts and famines. Most corporate jet manufacturers are also in the much more stable military aircraft business. The military is always in the market.

But Canada lost out on the military market in 1959 when the irascible prime minister John Diefenbaker said the Avro Arrow cost too much. He put 50,000 Canadians out of work. He made a bonanza of talent available to high technology firms in the U.S. Canada lost more than the fastest, long-range fighter aircraft in the world at the time but we chased away many of the technologists who were building it.

I was thinking of this when bemoaning the lack of high-speed trains in Canada. Despite the complaints about the high-speed Amtrak trains for the U.S. and the delays with the Toronto streetcars, Bombardier was the company that could give Canada the leap ahead into high-speed/green-energy train service across Canada.

This is the project that Canada needs to bring it into the 21st Century. It is the project that can pull this country back together. All we need are some politicians with guts and vision.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

The difference between men and boys.

Friday, February 21st, 2020

It seems that the difference between men and boys is generally believed to be the size of their toys. We might see a real-life difference soon if former MPP Steven Del Duca wins the leadership of the Ontario liberals. And, then again, we might find that Del Duca is not all that different from Ontario premier Doug Ford.

They both like playing with trains. They do not seem to like just being observers. They want to pull on those engineers’ caps and toot the whistle themselves. Organizationally, Ford should leave the job to his transport minister, but since that is currently Caroline Mulroney, she knows far less than he does on the subject—not that he knows much!

Del Duca, at least, did a stint as transport minister under Kathleen Wynne. He got demoted before he could get Metrolinx to add a GO station in his riding. Not only is it considered a no-no at Queen’s Park to interfere with an arms-length planning agency such as Metrolinx, the station in Del Duca’s riding had already been considered and found unnecessary.

But we should all be more curious about Doug Ford’s ‘Ontario Line.’ This is a Toronto subway line that starts from nowhere—somewhere around the Exhibition Grounds—and ends up at the extremely busy junction of Don Mills and Eglinton Avenue. It makes you wonder just what he has in mind for the Lake Ontario end of the line? And why is the plan feeding that supposed relief line into an already congested junction at the Eglinton end?

But his problems are hardly as obvious as when Ford wanted the provincial police to provide him with a large van with a bed in it for him to tour Ontario. We will have to write that one off as inexperience. Our only concern might be if Ford ever gets to understand his job. He would be even more dangerous than he is now.

Mind you, two years from now, Ontario voters could be faced with continuing to write off the NDP and having to choose between a more experienced Doug Ford and a Steven Del Duca, who understudied Kathleen Wynne.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

Reading compliments into comments.

Thursday, February 20th, 2020

It was not until about the third rereading of a complaint the other day that I recognized the compliments in it. And I am pleased to report that most of the comments on Babel-on-the-Bay are complimentary. Though not always.

When you write a daily commentary on the topic of politics, I must admit that there are some days that the hot cup of coffee does not warm you to the subject. And a daily effort can be demanding. The other day, on the subject of The land the law forgot, the complaints were heated.

The most interesting was one from a gentleman in Toronto who described himself as a Canadian Senior Citizen. Since it did not contain any scatological words, I will pass some of the comments on to you. I will let you judge.

The first sentence was that this was “Very likely the most disappointing post (from me)” he has ever read.

I will take that as a compliment. My regular readers are precious to me.  I am not writing to piss them off but to, hopefully, inform and entertain.

He further tells me that my post was “Shallow, uninformed, biased…even lazy.” Which he found “quite surprising.” So do I.

I think I had best plead guilty to the ‘lazy.’ These are not supposed to be learned tomes. They are intended to be brief and breezy, easily digested, comments on the state of our politics.

I was also appalled that this senior citizen should accuse the RCMP of having snipers on Wet’suwet’en territory. This story appears to have originated in the United Kingdom and has no credibility. And, as far as I know, the only rifles in the Mounties’ arsenals are carbines with which they might hit the broad side of a barn from less than 10 metres.

But I stand behind my comments in The land the law forgot. There is considerable depth behind those few comments and a deep concern for our native peoples. I fault the politicians, who say much and do little.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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