Archive for the ‘New’ Category

What’s a billion Jason Kenney?

Sunday, January 24th, 2021

It was actually a billion and a half. It was the money from Alberta taxpayers that Jason Kenney put into the Keystone XL pipeline. It was not just a stupid move but one that he can spend the rest of his life regretting. I was hardly the only writer who criticized the bravado the Alberta premier exhibited in supporting a losing cause.

Joe Biden said very early in his campaign to defeat Donald Trump that he would cancel the Keystone XL pipeline. Large numbers of Canadians cheered that promise. We knew that a man like Biden would keep his word. We were also confident that, as a savvy politician, he would know the impact of his action. He was showing that what Trump could build, he could tear down.

And surely, Jason Kenney must have realized that Biden would keep his word. He also knew that the majority of Canadians were eager to see the end of Donald Trump’s reign of terror in Washington. He also knew that Joe Biden needed to take some concrete action along with saying he was rejoining the Paris Climate Accord. He needed to show the world that he would stop threats that could increase pollution and global warming. It hardly cost Biden anything to stop Keystone.

Kenney is hardly going to sue the United States government in hopes of getting his billion and a half of Alberta taxpayers’ money back. A fly can hardly bring charges against the wielder of a fly swatter for bodily harm.

Nor is Kenney going to sue Justin Trudeau for not doing anything about Biden’s move. If he could get away with it, Kenney would sue Trudeau for letting it snow in Calgary.

And for him to demand trade sanctions against the Americans from Trudeau is ridiculous. That was Donald Trump’s signature solution. Canadians were hardly likely to go along with that from our side of the border.

Canadians are looking for a return to normal relations with America. Kenney should shut up.


Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

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Payette is Trudeau’s mistake.

Saturday, January 23rd, 2021

It was ten years ago when I made the argument with Justin Trudeau that the governor general was an anachronism that we no longer needed. It was like he brought down a wall between us. I realised too late that he was afraid of questioning the constitution. Justin saw it as a larger part of his father’s problems when the younger Trudeau was a teenager.

Justin’s solution to prime ministerial appointments is an elitist solution. He supposedly hands the problem off to elite committees. He has often been burnt by his elite selections for crown corporations, judgeships, the Senate, and now the role of governor general—the most senior appointment that the prime minister can decide.

While we all admit that the governor general’s job is largely ceremonial, its continuance speaks volumes about the country that Canada has become. It sends all the wrong signals to other countries. It ties us to those bigots in England who besmirch the European Union for its openness. It promotes birth as a mark of privilege. It equates wealth with privilege. It puts Canadians in subservience to the past instead of offering the open challenge of a great future.

Canadians are many peoples, building a nation together. The richness of our country is the amalgam of cultures, the wealth of languages, the love of the land of our aboriginals and those who came later.

There is no question that engineer Payette did nor understand the job of governor general as did her predecessors, an academic such as David Johnston, or politicians such as Jeanne Sauvé, Ray Hnatyshyn and Roméo Leblanc, or people who saw so much joy in the position such as journalists Adrienne Clarkson and Michaëlle Jean. These people at least saw the job as a chance to serve their fellow Canadians. They brought honour to the role.


Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

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Quebec racism is no surprise.

Friday, January 22nd, 2021

When people grow up with incipient racism, it is no surprise that they slip into it occasionally. This happened the other week when a news release from Bloc Québécois leader Yves-François Blanchet was claimed by liberals to be racist. It should come as no surprise that someone born in Quebec and part of the separatist movement can be so easily accused of racism or at least tribalism.

As an Anglo, raised in Toronto, I have seen the racism in Quebec over the years. It despairs me that it exists but it is easy to understand the origin. You can trace the roots in many aspects of Quebec society. It is rooted in the misinterpretations of the Papineau Rebellion. It is rooted in the early attitudes of Anglos whose English army had defeated the French army on the Plains of Abraham. It is the understandable jealousies in Montreal for the Golden Square Mile which once included the palatial homes of upper-class Anglos. And do not francophone politicians take note of these feelings?

It hardly creates an alibi for Blanchet, but it does explain the anti-Semitism that one still finds in Quebec. (And can find by digging deep elsewhere in Canada, to be fair.)

But when you grow up with this kind of racism and tribalism, it is hard to suppress. The very fact that you know it is wrong, makes the need to suppress it more difficult.

At one time in my life, I was giving speeches in Quebec that I had a person fluent in French record for me. I would practice delivering it while listening to the recording. It worked because, at the end of the speech, the questions came in French. I was always embarrassed that I had to answer most of the questions in English. I have spent a great deal of time over the years trying to improve my French but every time I try to practice it on friends in Quebec, they switch to English.

The one time I really embarrassed myself was when the Multiple Sclerosis Society was opening a new head office for New Brunswick in Moncton. I thought my little speech of congratulations would be better in French and I wrote it myself. I thought I got away with it until the city’s chief medical officer came up to me and, in English with a Montreal-French accent, asked me where I had ever learned to speak French like that?


Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

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The lies from the tar sands.

Thursday, January 21st, 2021

It was a brief remark our Canadian ambassador to Washington made on Global Television’s West Block show last Sunday. I was trying to remember where I had heard it before. Kirsten Hillman said that, as ambassador, she could tell the Biden administration that Alberta has already shown it can reduce carbon in its tar sands’ bitumen by 30 per cent.

That is quite a claim!  I expect that it would no longer be bitumen if you reduced the carbon by about 30 per cent. It would probably be better described as synthetic crude oil. In fact, there was a claim made some time ago that in the upgrading process in Alberta, they were finding convenient old wells to get rid of the bitumen slag that upgrading produced. The slag is in the form of a carbon dust.

We had first heard of that slag when the Koch-owned Marathon refineries in Detroit, Michigan were accumulating huge piles of it from converting Alberta bitumen. Bad luck for Windsor, Ontario though when the prevailing winds would send the carbon slag across the river to the Windsor area.

But Ambassador Hillman needs to be corrected. The Keystone XL pipeline is not being built to provide crude oil to the Texas Gulf refineries. Those refineries can get higher quality bitumen from Venezuela. They can also get lots of crude oil from fracking these days. American refineries are no longer interested in Alberta bitumen.

The truth is that the Keystone XL pipeline is needed to take Alberta’s diluted bitumen to the Gulf ports where ocean tankers have unloaded their crude oil from the Middle East and their bitumen from South America. They can then take the cheap Canadian bitumen across the Atlantic to customers in Europe, Africa and the sub-continent who do not worry as much about the pollution.

The combination of markets available to the Keystone XL pipeline across the Atlantic and TransMountain pipeline across the Pacific have been the hopes of those still exploiting Alberta’s tar sands.

The only concern that remains is that it sounds like hypocrisy for Canadians to wash their hands of the pollution they are causing for our fragile world.


Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

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A tip for Chrystia Freeland.

Wednesday, January 20th, 2021

It might not be her usual task but we understand that the wunderkind and finance minister of Canada’s cabinet is busy planning for federal government investment to help our country to recover from the pandemic. This is despite many of us wanting all-hands-on deck, to get us through the pandemic first. There is no doubt though that if someone has to do the economic planning job, Freeland is an excellent choice.

The one thing I know about Ms. Freeland is that in her occupation as a journalist, she has travelled extensively around the world. I would expect that in Europe as well as Asia, she would have had many opportunities to witness and to travel by high-speed electric trains. There are already more than 50,000 kilometres of high-speed rail service interlacing Europe and more is planned or already under construction.

And she likely learned in school that Canada became a nation from sea to sea because of trains. Despite extensive studies in corridors such as Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto, there has never been a political leader in Canada since Sir John A. Macdonald to have the foresight and drive to recognize that our rail technology needs to keep pace with our growing country.

It is as simple as being able to say that people take precedence over freight, technology can defeat ice and snow and that road transport and airplanes pollute. Not only are airplanes serious polluters but their speed in the air would only be a winner if they could always land in the middle of our cities.

Ontario is already in the process of electrifying and creating the grade separations for faster, more efficient commuter train service throughout the Greater Toronto Area. The government-owned system will soon be able to offer fast, 24-hour, seven-day service.

It should be a federal responsibility to facilitate high-speed electric train service on the Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto corridor. It should be the start on a nation-wide high-speed service.


Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

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The solidarity of the right.

Tuesday, January 19th, 2021

Is Erin O’Toole a fool? The conservative leader would not be so stupid as to reject the support of the extreme right of the conservative party? Yet we read that he does not think he needs them. It was that kind of thinking that enabled Preston Manning to create the reform party in 1987. It encouraged the breakaway of the wildrose party in Alberta in 2008. It has encouraged Canadians to always watch Alberta for the best fun and games in politics.

But the astute political observer will tell you that Alberta voters have been paying the price ever since. It is more than the conclusion that in the West, the right would rather fight. And it explains why Maxime Bernier’s people’s party has such a large number of supporters in Alberta.

O’Toole needs to talk to Stephen Harper. It was not until Harper suckered Peter MacKay into bringing the right wing of Canadian politics under the conservative party of Canada umbrella that it was able to defeat the liberals and form a government that lasted almost ten years.

And bear in mind that the conservative party is not just there to give Canadians respite from the liberals. There are a lot of mean and selfish people in Canada who want government out of their pockets. There are also the social conservatives who want to deny others an abortion, their right to medically assisted dying or any religion, if that is their choice.

There are also those who have no understanding of debt and rail against those who willingly commit to paying for some amenities over years rather than paying as they go.

Mr. O’Toole has previously told Canadians that he sees the conservative party as a ‘big tent’ party able to accommodate the extremes of conservatism. And yet many of these conservative voters have no idea of the ideology behind this party of their parents.

As voters, each of us has a responsibility to elect the best person to represent all the people in their constituency. If you prefer to elect the person who just represents a party, you can have the next four years to regret it.


Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

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America, we hardly knew ya!

Monday, January 18th, 2021

While some desperate Canadians still manage to flee south to escape our bitter winters, we have not been seeing Americans breaching our locked-down borders in any large numbers. American tourists used to come in droves for the pageantry in Toronto of our Caribbean festival and our gay days and maybe just a Blue Jays game. And you can be sure they always appreciated the savings on their greenbacks.

But our festivals of summer are but a vague memory these days. We have to watch reruns of Gilligan’s Island while Americans are having insurrections in Washington. Or should we refer to it as Fortress Washington?

The question du jour though is would we recognize an American? How can we tell them from Canadian conservatives wearing ‘Make America Great Again’ (MAGA) chapeaus? And what is this we hear about some 40 per cent of Canadian conservatives being fans of Donald Trump. Do these people really believe Trump was cheated out of the U.S. presidency?

Are these conservatives prepared to go to bat for their guy if U.S. lawmen and prosecutors decide to get even with the former president? Will they want to offer him sanctuary in Canada? Would many Canadians want to support that?

What is even more concerning is the question: Have Americans changed while we have been concentrating on the pandemic? Who is this guy Joe Biden and is he just another Donald Trump wearing long pants? We had a visit from him some years ago when he was Obama’s vice president. He knew which forks to use when at dinner.

And Biden has promised us that he will stop the Keystone XL pipeline. That might piss-off the hypocrites among our politicians. Tough beans! Those of us who care about the environment will raise a small cheer if Biden does it.

I guess we can wait and see if he wants to slap tariffs on Canadian imports to support his ‘Buy America’ ideas.  Maybe Canadians will get to know Americans all over again.


Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

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The pandemic that killed small businesses.

Sunday, January 17th, 2021

It has always been obvious that while our politicians will say positive things about small and entrepreneurial businesses, the big box stores are all they can see. And nothing has culled the field of small business faster than the second wave of the pandemic.

But it was not covid-19 that did the deed. It was government shutting our small business down without compensation that sealed their fate. While we expect a high percentage of start-ups will fail within the year, there seems to be no justification for our politicians to accelerate their demise.

And we are not just thinking restaurants here. Restaurants have been given a chance if they can find profit in pick-up and delivery. People still want good food. Other retailers who can deliver goods and services without traffic through their premises also have an opportunity at survival.

Yet if I ran a clothing store, for example, I would need a strong customer base and a liberal return policy, to survive the erratic lock-downs of this pandemic. Even then, you would have a hard time even making your overhead.

And with the opportunities left for restaurants, they need to make better deals with the various smart-phone apps who can put them in the poor house with their delivery charges. And even then, restauranteurs need to realize that they want to keep the 15 to 25 per cent of their customers who do not have smart phones. Sure, about 80 per cent of the Canadian population are now claimed to be using smart phones. That does not say much for our common sense as many of these users can ill-afford to pay the outrageous rates that Canadian telecoms are charging.

Our politicians are going to lose the advantages they gained by spending so lavishly during the first wave.


Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

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In defense of dissent.

Saturday, January 16th, 2021

Is it better to be known for your friends or your enemies? When does a dissenter become the hero? Or is dissent the sad role of the aged curmudgeon? I always admired Pierre Trudeau, father of our present prime minister, for his handling of dissent. He treated it as an intellectual challenge. He also gave as good as he got when the dissent was broached in boorish terms.

This all comes to mind as the premier of Ontario continues to throw dissenters out of his caucus at Queen’s Park. He needs to be careful about that as there are more than a few in his caucus biding their time until the opportunity comes along to use their knives (figuratively) on their inexperienced leader.

It would be very foolish of Ford to heave ten or more of the conservative caucus aside and leave himself with a minority government. It would not be likely to survive for long.

You could name many among his conservative caucus who have differing ambitions and agendas. The conservative party is known for its amalgam of social, fiscal and just plain mean conservatives and the very few who care about their constituents. A populist such as Ford has little political ideology but tends to follow in his father’s footsteps in serving conservativism.

He would probably be surprised at how many of his caucus are quiet believers in American Donald Trump. They admire the Trump bigotry, misogyny and support for the monied class but are also smart enough to keep this admiration out of the public awareness.

If Ford really threw MPP Randy Hillier out of the conservative caucus for being behind the Ontario Landowners, he could be in for a surprise. His rural supporters include the Landowners and he dare not alienate them.

It is probably best to only express dissent if you are not a member of a provincial assembly or federal parliament. It is in a blog such as this that you can complain about the hypocrisy of political leaders—particularly of your own political party.


Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

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Ford unlocks his lockdown.

Friday, January 15th, 2021

It is not just Ontario residents who are confused. They are in a “lockdown” that nobody understands. The wife and I very much wanted to see an old friend this weekend. We finally figured out that under premier Ford’s lockdown rules, the two of us could not go and visit the other person but the one person could come and see us. Go figure that one?

To be honest with you, I never have been a fan of Mr. Ford. He is a label salesman gone amok. He was the worst councilor ever on Toronto city council for one term. He lost in his attempt at immediately running for mayor and landed in the premier’s job more by accident than design.

As premier of Canada’s most populous province, he immediately proved himself vindictive—disrupting the Toronto elections by reducing the number of councilors. He showed his true colors as an anti-environmentalist—promising developers they would be able to build on Toronto’s natural aquifer.

And while he never really provided us beer drinkers with his promised buck-a-beer, he proved his calling by ordering libelous stickers making false claims about the federal government’s carbon tax—until the courts instructed the province to take them down.

But when the pandemic first swept through Ontario, Ford was unprepared and rarely listened to anybody. It is the second wave that is threatening to decimate our population that has left him confused and angry. He begs and blusters for the news media instead of directing them to scientific sources. He, shamelessly, uses his cabinet colleagues to confuse and cover for him. He uses expert sources as a last resort.

It is his latest lockdown that has left us all in the dark. He tells us what is open and closed and what hours the open can be open. And what makes no sense is who can be dealing out the front door and who can invite you in to shop and why the big box stores are open when the desperate small store can starve.

This must be what happens when a label salesman tries to run a province. Let us hope that Ontario remembers when the opportunity for change comes along.


Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

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