Archive for February, 2021

Kenney opts for debt over taxes.

Sunday, February 28th, 2021

It seems obvious that premier Jason Kenney of Alberta is a strange sort of conservative. His and previous conservative regimes in Alberta have managed to piss away another fortune in resources royalties because of their fear of balanced taxing of the voters of Alberta.

It is hard to compare the handing of health care and the provincial budget but Jason Kenney’s incompetents have screwed up both. Instead of working with the medical profession to fight the pandemic, Kenney fights with the doctors. Instead of introducing a harmonized sales tax with the federal sales tax, Kenney would rather stick the province with unconscionable levels of debt.

It was not that long ago that the former premier Peter Lougheed in Alberta was warning the citizens about abusing their resource funds but his latter-day conservatives have ignored his warnings. When you compare what the Norwegians have done with their sovereign fund from their off-shore oil, it paints a picture for Alberta of what might have been.

But it is now time for Albertans to get in line with the rest of the provinces. The province can no longer consider the rest of us as suckers to go along with sales taxes. Those who can afford the biggest and latest in SUVs can pay their share of the both the sales tax and the carbon tax at the pumps.

And Kenney can hardly continue to waste taxpayers’ money and his hot air on promoting pipelines. They are not going to happen. The resistance to pipelines is growing. A critical example is the dual line (Enbridge Line 5) that has been pumping gas and oil across the Straits of Mackinac since 1953.

After the experience Michigan had with the 2010 Enbridge spill that was impossible to clean up on the Kalamazoo River, the state realized a similar spill in the critical area of the Straits of Mackinac would be catastrophic. It would not only have a disastrous effect on Michigan’s economy but would seriously harm the main source of fresh water for five other states as well as Ontario and Quebec.

While Enbridge might have the best of intentions, the Michigan authorities are increasingly dubious of Enbridge’s tunneling solution under the straits.


Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

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The Lion Baulks on the Yellow Brick Road.

Saturday, February 27th, 2021

On the road to the coming federal election, none of the other parties should count on Jagmeet Singh’s new democrats to support their call. Singh, the lion from Brampton, Ontario, has said he will back the liberal government until the pandemic has been beaten. And that might take a while.

But then Singh has replaced courage with caution. The name he uses might mean ‘lion’ in Punjabi but he thinks that it is better to keep fighting the coronavirus with the liberals in power. He is probably right even though the liberals have rejected his condition that they back the NDP’s motion to enshrine a universal pharmacare program in legislation.

The liberals have been talking around a universal pharmacare program for some time now but there are no promises yet in their agenda. They are probably saving it for the election.

And whether Singh is ready or not, there will be an election. There is little chance that it can wait until the fall of 2022. Given completion of at least 60 per cent of vaccinations across Canada by August, you can probably count on an election in October. That is just eight months away and all parties are scrambling to be ready.

Singh will probably think the image of Tommy Douglas and Medicare will help the NDP but the facts are that it was the liberals who finally made it happen.

On this subject, it was amusing to see a letter arrive at our home today addressed to the wife. It was from Ottawa and signed by Justin Trudeau. There was a cardboard card attached to it that looked very much like a blood donor card. In fact, it said ‘2021 DONOR in big red letters. That was a bit presumptuous as neither of us pay any more than brief attention to all the e-mails, phone calls and mailings from the Ottawa office pleading with us to send money.

All political parties in Canada need to start treating their supporters with a little more respect. They are probably going to need our support in October.


Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

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Biden is ahead of Trudeau on climate.

Friday, February 26th, 2021

Hey Joe, what did you think of the hypocrisy you got from Trudeau during your virtual summit on Tuesday? One of the first items of business when you became U.S. president was ending that Keystone XL pipeline that was designed to take Canadian bitumen from the Alberta tar sands to the Texas gulf coast tanker ports. Did the Canadian prime minister mention to you he is still twinning the TransMountain pipeline to take bitumen to the tanker access in the Burrard Inlet at Vancouver?

If you were really congratulating each other on your being environmentalists, Trudeau is letting the side down. Many of us in Canada are annoyed with him about that. He not only spent C$4 billion buying the 67-year-old pipeline that runs from Edmonton to Vancouver but cost estimates for the twinning of the line are now running at an additional C$12.6 billion. The government is hoping that they can get 20 years at least out of the dual pipeline with revenues of C$1.5 billion per year. (The company has signed contracts for this much.)

While everyone involved is proud of the performance of this old pipeline for so long, they are really stretching the envelope. The difference when you are pushing diluted bitumen through the pipes is that you are heating the bitumen and pushing it at considerably higher pressure.

But Canadians are not just concerned about the possibility of a pipeline leak and fouling of the fresh waters for the people of British Columbia and northern Washington State. The heavy traffic of ocean tankers through the Georgia Straits is an extreme concern for the orcas and other whales that summer in the area.

All we know is that the supreme court in Ottawa does not want any more appeals to stop the twinning of the pipeline. The appeals have failed us. The construction is in process. Short of laying our bodies in front of the construction equipment, there is little we can do.


Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

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Andrea Horwath has an easy job.

Thursday, February 25th, 2021

Other than being insulted occasionally by Ontario’s premier-in-training, the new democrat’s Andrea Horwath seems to enjoy her continuing role as leader of the opposition at Queen’s Park. The biggest complaint we have heard about her recently is that they never answer the phones in her riding office in Hamilton. You would think with a $4 million budget for the opposition offices at Queen’s Park, she could get her phones answered.

But she is going to have to enjoy her role for now. It is due for a change.

What Horwath and the new democrats do not seem to understand is that what ever supposed electoral successes they have enjoyed over the past twelve years of her holding down the leader role, it was never her accomplishment. Horwath remains an unknown and uninspiring leader of a party mired in the past. Every gain she has made in the elections, during her leadership, have been courtesy the liberal party and its hapless leadership.

Horwath’s first premier as NDP leader was Dalton McGuinty. He was not called premier dad for no reason. It was not a compliment. He was on his last legs as head of the liberals at that time. He might have been an uninspiring premier but Ontario had gained by the environmentalism his party exhibited.

Kathleen Wynne got a majority back in the 2014 election and took the party further down hill every day she was in office. She actually threw the 2018 election by surrendering before election day. She betrayed her party. She left Andrea Horwath to face off against populist conservative Doug Ford.

You have to admit that Doug Ford might be a faster learner than Andrea Horwath. He makes classic mistakes but the problem is that Andrea Horwath has been unable to capitalize on them.

Ford pointed out last week that Horwath was more annoying than anything else. She is unable to get around that pompous ass of a premier. She needs to stop whining and learn to make fun of him. He can be made a subject of ridicule. It is just that Horwath does not know how.


Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

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Canada doesn’t need a Governor General.

Wednesday, February 24th, 2021

Not since the ‘King-Byng-Thing’ in the 1920s has Canada needed a governor general. The conflict between the prime minister and the governor general of the time, resulted in the Statute of Westminster of 1931 that emancipated Canada and other former colonies of the United Kingdom. It also made the post of governor general a merely ceremonial position.

And yet we get these die-hard monarchists around Canada who think the role is important. To do what? So that they can tell school children about the monarchy? So that they can advise the prime minister, who will do what he or she wants to do, in any event?

This is not to say we have not had some very intelligent, worthy people in the role. My favourite was Madame Jeanne Sauvé. She served as governor general from 1984 to 1990.She was a very fine and intelligent lady. And I was always amused that her husband, Maurice, was allowed to be seen but not heard from at official functions.

But Julie Payette is not the first G-G to put her foot in it. Canada has had both good and bad experience since confederation. Payette was just the first to be fired. There were just too many complaints. If you cannot keep the peace in Rideau Hall, why would you want to stay in the job?

But no more, please.

We do not need a governor general. It might be a good job for a career diplomat such as Vincent Massey (G-G from 1952 to 1959) in honour of his service to his country. We do not have a very good honours system in Canada.

We have got supreme court justice Richard Wagner in the role today in an acting capacity. I will bet he is quite competent to read a throne speech and sign-up new cabinet ministers. It would only take a bit of time from his more important role as chief justice.

You have to admit that a bit of pomp and ceremony adds something to the Ottawa scene. It would be even better though to start with competence.


Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

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Damaged Democracy.

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2021

It is catching on. This writer is delighted that more and more Canadians are starting to question our commitment to democracy. Many point to the United States and say, ‘Boy, isn’t that democracy a mess. The bad news is that our mess is no better than theirs. It is just not as divisive.

What Donald Trump did to democracy in the United States over the past four years was in plain sight. It was because he had little understanding of political processes and the use of the levers of politics or where they are located. That weakness was key to the Biden-Harris victory last November.

The difference in Canada is that people who do understand the levers of politics are undermining the political parties themselves and destroying them from within. Who are these malefactors? You know them. Their names are Stephen Harper, Justin Trudeau and Tom Mulcair.

Stephen Harper never seemed to like the political party that Peter Mackay brought to him when they combined it with alliance-reform to create their new conservative party of Canada. Even without a majority at first, Harper created a fortress prime minister’s office (PMO) that treated the party membership with a fair amount of scorn.

When Justin Trudeau ended the Harper era, he did Harper one better. He abolished the senate liberals and the membership structure of the liberal party. He did not like either. There are those who refer to the current enrolment of what is left of the party as Trudeau’s ATM. They are just a source of funds. He fails to understand that these people are the core of party workers, listening posts in the electoral districts, sources of ideas and future MPs.

And then there was Tom Mulcair of the NDP who might have done better as a liberal. He left a hollowed-out and dispirited party for Jagmeet Singh to swamp with Sikh memberships and walk away with the leadership. He leads a party that time and Canadians have forgotten.

Susan Delacourt wrote a book recently about Shopping for Votes that tries to explain the new consumer approach and treatment of voters. I think it is more complex than that, but that would make another book on it a tough sell.


Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

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The silence of Doug Ford’s lambs.

Monday, February 22nd, 2021

Sometime in the next couple months, the province of Ontario is expected to offer me the opportunity to get one or two jabs with a needle. This knowledge alone is helping to lift me out of some of my covid-19 doldrums. As I am considered to be among the more vulnerable citizens and supposedly have early access in getting the shot(s), I have been waiting for a call.

But my hopes were somewhat dashed the other day by writer Martin Regg Cohn at the Toronto Star. He says that all we are hearing is static about the arrangements. Nobody at Queen’s Park has any information for us.

And we have already heard enough from the prime minister. Justin Trudeau knows nothing about the problems facing a company making something as complex as a vaccine. It is not his fault that there are no Canadian vaccines yet available. He has placed orders with everyone now delivering and soon to be delivering. He has done his job. There are always a few glitches in delivery.

But there is no excuse for the people in Ontario who are supposed to vaccinate us. A delay in product reaching them is no time for them to sit back and carp about the incompetence of the feds. It is an opportunity for them to get their act together and make sure that everyone is ready to get their shot in the correct order.

Many had a good laugh about them bringing in the army. Personally, I would have called in Purolator. At least those people have a better idea of how to reach anybody and everybody in the province. You bring in the army when you want order and discipline, maybe someone shot—or to shovel their snow.

But why are they not spending this time getting organized? Why are they not arranging the place, who’s wielding the hypodermics, and letting us know? And bear in mind that this first squadron of people to be poked are not those you would ask to stand in line for long. These are people with health problems and maybe age working against them. And for goodness sake, do not order them around. They might fight back.


Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

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The answer to Justin’s prayer.

Sunday, February 21st, 2021

Just started reading Linda McQuaig’s 2019 book; The Sport & Prey of Capitalists. I have always been a fan of Linda’s. We might lean towards different parties but we seem to think alike. Somewhere in my bookshelves there is a copy of Linda’s earlier book about the quick and the dead. It includes Linda’s very gracious endorsement and encouragement to some of my writing.

But I was not into the second page of the first chapter her new book and I realized she was showing the way to a solution for which I have been searching. The one thing I can be sure of is that the prime minister has never read my committee’s report on public-private partnerships that I did for the federal government in the early 1980s.

Yet Justin Trudeau is searching for capital investment to pull us out of the pandemic slump that can work with government support. Linda makes the point that Trudeau would dearly love to get some of Larry Fink’s Blackrock billions involved in Canadian infrastructure building to help get us out of the covid-19 pandemic slump.

The problem is simple. Blackrock needs profitability and the prime minister needs the low-cost borrowing from today’s banks. This is not an incompatible situation. It could be Canada’s solution if it is ever to have the high-speed electric trains it needs from coast to coast. There are two components—there is the infrastructure which includes bridges, overpasses and land acquisition and which government does best. The other part is putting together the stations, roadbeds, track and rolling stock, which a for-profit operation can do best. If the government does its part, the private sector will find it can do its part and reap substantial profits down the road. The government gets the taxes, the right-of-way return, as well as the many years needed to pay for the infrastructure.

And it would be a far more open and acceptable deal than the shenanigans of Sir John A. Macdonald when Canada built its first national railway. It would certainly beat the Americans relying on private sector funding to build the high-speed train networks that country is planning.

The one thing we are sure of is that if we are ever going to save our planet, we have to stop polluting on our roads and in our skies. We better wake up to the needs very soon.


Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

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They’re pissing on Ted’s legacy.

Saturday, February 20th, 2021

Did you know that a company that started business with giving cheap FM radios to all the advertising agencies in Toronto is today worth billions? The company was the brain child of the late Ted Rogers. He started with a FM radio station that nobody else wanted in the 1960s.

Ted was a nice guy. He was the kind of person that you were inclined to help when he asked for something. After he got his radio station into the black, he thought cable television might be a comer. He branched out. He got our mutual friend, a senator, who was president of the liberal party at the time to pressure me into producing some programming for his free cable channels. Ted was always the entrepreneur. The senator and I laughed about idea but we told Ted, sure.

Luckily, I got some good tips from my brother who was a producer/director for the CBC at the time. I was still surprised by the rudimentary switcher in Ted’s makeshift studio on Adelaide Street. At least it had three black and white cameras, even if I only had two camera operators. We produced some good shows on Canadian politics, with me calling the shots, working that switcher and Ted cycled the taped shows through cable operations across Canada.

Ted’s next venture was cell phones. I traded in my Bell radio telephone for one of his first cell phones in my car. It left me with room in the trunk for luggage when needed. And I had no compunctions about calling on Ted’s people for loan of a telephone bank of cell phones when needed for a political event.

Today, Ted’s empire includes sports venues, broadcast channels, national telephone networks, cabled cities and faceless executives. It has lost the charm and personality of the guy that created it. I have no idea who to call at Rogers today. The company is fronted by a hopeless maze of cold, uncaring call centres that are being phased out because of covid-19. What will replace these call centres, we are not sure. It is now an impersonal, unlikeable company that has lost its charm and is only known for its corporate greed. The family should be ashamed of what they have done to Ted’s legacy.


Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

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Beware Benevolent Business.

Friday, February 19th, 2021

Business is not often built on benevolence. And no matter how badly business leaders think the government has screwed things up, Canada is not ready for fascism. Yet, Perrin Beatty, chief executive officer of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, says that big business in Canada is ready to step in and show the government how to get us out of the coronavirus pandemic.

The most memorable aspect of Perrin Beatty’s career is that, as a politician, he was in the cabinets of both Joe Clark in 1979 and Kim Campbell in 1993. Other than those two outstanding leadership events in Canadian history, he worked with businessman-cum-politician Brian Mulroney in between. It seems that this might leave a person with a dim view of Canadian politics.

But ever an optimist, Mr. Beatty says big business is ready to step in and fix everything. They will get us all vaccinated and healthy much faster than the current government.

Volunteering to help in this are senior executives of a new biotechnology company in Calgary, Providence Therapeutics, Pfizer Canada, Shoppers Drug Mart (Loblaw?), WestJet and Blackberry. Beatty says that this group will be able to call on other chief executives as needed. Why other business leaders would want to be involved is not explained.

But like the fascists of 1930s Italy, it sounds like these executives would not only get our trains running on time but they would get us all vaccinated. Mind you, what Beatty does not explain is where all these millions of doses of vaccine are from. And, since Pfizer has already let us down on delivery of vaccines, are we supposed to wait until 2022 for the possible Providence Therapeutics product?

I think enough people have had a good laugh about the Canadian Army stepping up to give us all a shot (or two) in the arm. It was like the time the super mayor of Toronto called in the army to dig us out of a snow storm that was deeper than the mayor was tall. We all made fun of going out to play in the snow with the army guys driving Bison armoured personnel carriers. At least, the army did not think it could do a better job than the city politicians.


Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

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