Archive for February, 2020

Not all pipelines are created equal.

Wednesday, February 19th, 2020

It would appear there are questions about pipelines that are dividing this country. They are dividing people, they are dividing scientists, they are dividing concerned environmentalists. The only problem is that maybe 10 to 15 per cent of the population understand what the argument is about and the other 85 per cent will take a stand anyway.

As a writer I have always taken some pride in my ability to research complex issues. I think I have spent most of the last two days researching Coastal Gaslink’s pipeline proposal and actions on this file and I honestly cannot fault the company. I see that they have done a responsible job in meeting the concerns of the government and of the native peoples whose lands they are crossing.

These Coastal Gaslink people are laying a 48-inch pipeline to transport natural gas within B.C. that is far safer and far more environmentally friendly than the twinning of the Trans Mountain pipeline to pump tar sands bitumen to Vancouver. I, quite honestly, would rather have neither, as I fear the long-term consequences of shale fracking for natural  gas, but, between the two, Trans Mountain is a disaster waiting to happen. A leak from the Trans Mountain pipes can be irreparably destructive; a leak from the Coastal Gaslink pipe dissipates in the wind.

It is important to remember that natural gas does not become LNG until it is cooled to -160° C. That only happens to load it on a specially-built ship.

Yet all the general public hears is that pipelines are safer than trains and/or that pipelines are bad. Most people neither know nor care about what is being shipped in either. Nor are many drivers in Canada and the United States aware that most of the carbon-based fuel for gas or diesel powered vehicles and equipment arrives in their area via a vast network of pipelines.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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The land the law forgot.

Tuesday, February 18th, 2020

We have heard the prime minister say more than a few times that Canada is a country of law. What does not seem clear is the question of applying these laws to Canada’s native population. Are they not given the protection of our laws? Are they allowed to cherry pick the laws they like and the laws they do not think apply to them?

And one thing we know for sure is that there is no ‘Divine Right’ of hereditary chiefs. These people have a position only if their tribe gives it to them. They have no position in dealing with legal matters with outsiders. And they are not above the law.

And how do you expect the rest of Canada’s population to respect the law if natives are immune to it?

The situation has gone past ridiculous. We even have stupid non-native Canadians supporting them. The other day, we saw some ignorant people bring supplies to the Mohawks blocking rail lines in Ontario. It is a bad time of year for these particular Mohawks to carry out their traditional importing business across Lake Ontario.

When you think of the time and trouble those pipeline people took to negotiate a deal with the elected band councils in B.C. and the natives can, with impunity, trespass and block the normal course of commerce in other parts of Canada, there is something wrong.

Mr. Trudeau should realize that this is very, very wrong. He should be allowed to take some time to do his foreign affairs thing while his cabinet do their jobs in his absence. Instead those wimps in his cabinet are having so-so conversations with people who are breaking the law. Where was his vaunted deputy prime minister when we needed her?

Canadian history is not particularly crowded with Indian wars such as they had in the United States. The only real punch-up we had was with the Métis on the Prairies. All I know is that we try to respect Canada’s aboriginals and we hardly get much love in return.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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Coteau fights on for Ontario leadership.

Monday, February 17th, 2020

In an e-mail the other day, Michael Coteau promised his supporters that he will fight on against the status quo for Ontario liberals. With Steven Del Duca poised with a majority of elected delegates, Coteau stands Canute-like challenging the tides. It will be decided quickly on March 7 at the Mississauga International Centre when the ex officio voters join the delegates from ridings and various liberal clubs. There is little reason to expect a majority of ex officio voters to vote for party reform. They have an invested interest in the status quo.

With the Del Duca campaign orchestrated by Queen’s Park denizen, Tom Allison, I have no expectation of any surprises. Allison was the supposed organizing guru behind both Ontario liberal leaders Dalton McGuinty and Kathleen Wynne.

While my days at Queen’s Park pre-dated Allison’s, I always wanted to keep the party moving forward. I felt that Dalton McGuinty and Kathleen Wynne would have been more comfortable in a conservative government. I did give McGuinty credit for his better protection of the Ontario environment and cleaning up the mess left to Ontario by the Mike Harris conservatives.

But I saw Wynne as reactionary and more interested in the news conferences about what she intended to do rather than the actual action. I was appalled at the manipulation she did in the deal with Glen Murray, the MPP in Toronto Centre, the week before the delegated convention that chose her as leader of the liberal party. By his stepping out of the race at that point, he dropped all his delegates into the independent category, knowing the ones from his riding would vote for her. The move added to the corruption of an already corrupt system of choosing the leader.

I do not trust Stephen Del Duca to be a progressive leader of the liberal party. Real liberals can do better.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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Playing with trains.

Sunday, February 16th, 2020

Is Gillian Steward, formerly with the Toronto Star, now working for Jason Kenney’s pipeline and bitumen propaganda war room in Calgary? In an opinion piece labelled “Shipping oil by train is too dangerous.” Steward seems to be framing the argument for the Trudeau cabinet to move ahead on the Trans Mountain pipeline despite the new $12.6 billion price tag for twinning the line. That approval will then trigger approval of the massive Teck Resources Frontier open pit tar sands mine in North-Eastern Alberta to feed bitumen to the pipeline.

But in the meantime, Canadian National and Canadian Pacific railways have procured thousands of tanker cars to meet the needs of the landlocked industry. The province even stimulated that tanker car acquisition by buying 4000 of them.

Having some of those tanker cars getting derailed is not good advertising for the railways. Two of those derailments near Guernsey, Saskatchewan are being touted as clear evidence that rail transport is not safe. Maybe there would be some believers if we just knew exactly what was in those rail cars and what caused those derailments.

First of all, diluted bitumen is not all that flammable. A lot depends on what material has been used to dilute it. And why would transport minister Marc Garneau tell the railways to slow down rather than getting them to inspect their tracks more frequently?

Raising the spectre of Lac Mégantic in 2013 has nothing to do with the transport today of bitumen. In that disastrous incident, highly flammable crude oil from the Bakken fracking operations in North Dakota was mislabelled and carelessly handled. It was a disaster just waiting to happen.

And, for another matter, not all tanker cars are carrying crude oil. Many materials can be carried in these cars. These materials need to be properly identified and precautions taken when necessary. I always assumed mislabelling is a criminal offence.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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Have they ever lied to you before?

Saturday, February 15th, 2020

Teck Resources, the Vancouver-based company that wants to dig the largest open pit tar sands mine in Canada, tells us that the enterprise wants to be “carbon neutral” by 2050. I am sorry, but if you cannot meet emissions targets by next year, I am not interested. And who said companies do not lie, anyway?

Hands up everybody who expects to be here and keep them honest when they miss being carbon neutral in 30 years? There might be a little less of this planet left to live on by then.

When you consider that Teck Resources has said that the mine will cause four million tonnes of carbon pollution per year, making it carbon neutral would take a complete shutdown of operations.

And yet Teck says that by using cleaner power sources and electric vehicles, it can make a start toward a more carbon-free extraction of this seriously polluting material with which to make ersatz crude oil.

It reminds me of the promises conservative politicians make about balancing their budgets. They always explain that their efficiencies in office will enable them to give voters all kinds of tax cuts. And then, once in office, they create even larger deficits than before because some other party beat them to the efficiencies. You know these people are lying, but people can be gullible.

Teck Resources CEO Don Lindsay is quoted in a news release provided to Canadian Press: “Climate change is a global challenge that our company and our industry need to contribute to solving.” It makes you wonder just when they are going to do that.

But what was really priceless in the news release was the statement that if the federal cabinet gives the company the go-ahead later this month, it does not mean the company will go ahead with the project. It still needs guaranteed access to expanded pipelines, promises of better bitumen pricing and some other company to share the $20 billion price tag for the project.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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Our aboriginals need better PR.

Friday, February 14th, 2020

In a career in public relations work, I have never seen a group screw themselves so badly as Canada’s aboriginals. I have worked with them in fighting forest fires in our north. I have worked with them politically in downtown Toronto. I helped to launch the first, badly needed, native centre in Winnipeg. I spent months among the Cold Lake Nations of Northern Alberta. They deserve our respect and better treatment than they get from our governments.

But they have never shown the simple common sense to take out their pique on the people responsible for specific problems. To piss off white men who cannot help you in the process is just plain stupid. You want their help, not their anger.

Start in British Columbia for the current screw-up. An elected band council made a deal with some pipeline people. Legally, the elected council has that authority. It gets a little confused when the hereditary chiefs of the tribe decide they do not like the elected council’s deal and they barricade the pipeline people. The hereditary group do not care about white men’s courts, they just try to block the project on their hereditary land.

It is unlikely that these hereditary chiefs can even tell you what might be sent through the pipeline or how it might or might not benefit their people. They are just opposed. Dealing with them is difficult.

And then other aboriginal groups in disparate parts of the country have been feeling left out and they jump into action in support of the B.C. tribe that they might never have met or know. They have the fun of screwing up the white man’s trains. They start with the ones that carry many thousands of people every day between Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal. And then there are the freight trains that carry millions of dollars worth of goods every day in support of the Canadian economy. Now they are really getting even with the white man. And this white man is tired of it.

We need to get the courts involved and make some of these tribes pay the piper. Yes, they have rights. And with rights come responsibilities.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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Major moments in life.

Thursday, February 13th, 2020

No doubt each of us has had one or more major moments in life that help to define us. I was wondering about that during the recent State of the Union address by Donald Trump. It seems to be one of his many excesses that define his presidency.

I thought he reached the ultimate in political overdoing it when he introduced one of the few remaining Tuskegee airmen from World War II in a U.S. Airforce uniform whom he had promoted to (honorary) general.

What was wrong was that the general is 100 years old and Trump was so obviously pandering to the black vote.

In an interesting counterpoint, Trump also had his wife on the balcony to put a medal on radio trash-talk host Rush Limbaugh. While we can all sympathise with someone newly diagnosed with cancer, Limbaugh has really had enough years of preaching to the ignorant of America. When he goes to meet his maker, let us hope that the Lord does not pitch him back.

In each case, Trump had overdone it. It was like the rest of the overly long and less than accurate spiel that was not so much the state of the nation as the state of a sick and deluded mind.

You listen to Trump for a while and you expect his next claim to be that he made the sun shine. Yes, people are working in America. Many are employed at jobs at below a living wage. They are working at jobs that make money for Mr. Trump’s fellow climate change deniers. Millions are still working with no guarantee of health benefits.

Many Americans seem unaware that a critical part of the state of their nation is its relations with other countries. While there was reference to trade and the new deal with Canada and Mexico, there was nothing to help Americans understand the North American pact.

Frankly, Mexicans have a right to be more than annoyed at the continued insults to their country by Trump and the building of his fence. He has earned a reputation for the U.S.A. throughout the Americas for being bigoted, cruel and selfish. America does not do well by Donald Trump.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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Ontario liberals need leadership.

Wednesday, February 12th, 2020

Ontario liberals voted this past weekend in stage one of what is hoped to be the last corrupted Ontario leadership contest. This stage was to elect the delegates who will represent the ridings and liberal clubs at the delegated convention that will choose the new leader. This is to replace Kathleen Wynne.

The key question at this time is whether front-runner former MPP Steven Del Duca has the first-ballot strength to decide the convention?

If he does not win on the first ballot, he will have a strong movement for reform of the party with which to contend. Both Toronto MPP Michael Coteau and former candidate Kate Graham from London, Ontario are spearheading the reform movement.

Del Duca’s weakness is that he is mired in the past of the liberal party. He is best known for when he chose to argue with the independence of Metrolinx, Ontario’s planner for the construction of commuter transit in the Toronto area. He wanted a GO station in his riding at Kirby.

But Del Duca’s organization also sold the largest number of new liberal memberships in preparation for this race. And why that would be any measure of his ability to lead the party is beyond me.

Leadership of any enterprise requires the ability to bring people, ideas and collective action together to meet a perceived need. The only need Mr. Del Duca seems to want take collective action on is his wanting to be leader of the liberal party.

The core of the concern of Coteau and Graham is that there is a need within the liberal party to once again make it a progressive instrument of political use to Ontario citizens. Their campaigns, to this point, have reflected that need.

After listening carefully to both candidates, I believe that MPP Michael Coteau can provide the leadership. At the same time, we need people such as Kate Graham to help provide the substance.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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A debutante ball for John Baird?

Tuesday, February 11th, 2020

It is difficult to explain what kind of an event this will be. It has always been evident that John Baird wanted to make some kind of a statement in his lifetime. Nobody really believed it was his final act when he left the Harper cabinet. He always seemed to want to do more. He has seemed to be struggling ever since to make a statement.

It all made sense when he agreed to do the West Block show on Global Television on Sunday. If he is not studying the field for a run at the conservative leadership, why was he there? He knew all the right moves and he made them. Like a debutante, he is responding to the calling.

Look at his friend Jason Kenney. Kenney went west and found a calling. He is now the much-quoted premier of Alberta—the thorn in Justin Trudeau’s backside.

I always wrote of Jason Kenney and John Baird as Stephen Harper’s Bobbsey Twins. Those two just belonged on the same page. At the time, they were two 40-something bachelors who had made politics their careers. They both know how to manipulate that mean streak that runs through Canada’s conservative party to-day.

What impressed me most is that John Baird did not go after Trudeau’s new foreign affairs minister, François-Philippe Champagne. He said that he felt the Trudeau minister was doing a good job in John’s old portfolio and there was no need to criticize him for his handling of a difficult task, at a difficult time.

And that might be the tone that the conservatives across Canada are looking for in their next leader. They appear tired of the constant attack mode of their party at both the federal and provincial levels.

Even Jason Kenney has changed his tone a bit lately. It might be that the prime minister has been keeping his deputy, Chrystia Freeland, between them. Anything that can ward off the constant attacks from the west is helpful.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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News from the ‘Working Families’ of Vaughan.

Monday, February 10th, 2020

Vaughan might want to be known as the city above Toronto but it seems to have also earned attention as a city of some unusual politics. Most recently, it has become the home of “Vaughan Working Families.” This is the fictitious group running attack ads against the teachers’ unions in the current labor dispute. I have always thought of this area of Ontario as where Toronto Mafia have their summer homes.

Of course, you do not expect Ontario’s major newspapers to refuse to follow industry guidelines or to not be prepared to tell other media who is sponsoring those advertisements. You certainly expect some honesty and standards from the Toronto Star and the Globe and Mail. Or maybe, money today buys silence.

But there are better ways than having a lawyer book your ads. I had once been called into a mayoralty campaign in south-western Ontario. It was an awkward situation. The nominators of the opponent for the mayor were the publisher of the local newspaper and the owner of the radio station. They were quite happy to take my friend’s advertising too, provided he met their unusual rules of delivering his material two days before the material was to be run.

There was no point in getting into a lawsuit with these guys, so after studying what was needed, I told my friend’s staff that we could run weekly full-page ads in the newspaper under national advertising rules. That meant the newspaper would get full page mats several hours before press time that would simply be put into the production run. We even paid for page three positioning to keep it simple for them. I ordered the ads through a Toronto advertising agency that was also doing the advertising for a mayoralty candidate in Toronto. They not only won with my mayor but were paid the national advertising commission. To add a little frosting to it, my ads won a national newspaper campaign series award.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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