Archive for the ‘New’ Category

Inviting President Trump.

Wednesday, June 28th, 2017

In politics, you are not always able to dine with people you like. All to often you have to deal with the position rather than the person. And in the case of someone such as the President of the United States of America, the position outranks the person. And what would you ever expect to gain from insulting the position?

The truth is that there is nothing to be gained from insult. And it silly to insult Donald Trump. You can make note of your more scathing thoughts about the man and you can save them for your memoires. Nobody gives a darn in memoires and if it makes you feel better, why not.

And if you really want President Trump to honour commitments his country made in regards to the Paris environmental conference, you are not going to make any progress slagging the guy. And it is obvious that he ignores all indications of global warming. Maybe the man has yet to have some learning opportunities and might still see the light.

But you can feel sorry for the Brits. They have already invited President Trump to London where he will be drawn through the streets in a golden carriage and afforded a state dinner with the Queen. Prime Minister May is still paying the price for that foolish invitation. More than 2 million Brits have already signed a petition demanding that this Trump triumph be withdrawn. It is important to note though that while the state dinner and regal trappings were asked to be revoked, there is no objection to Trump coming to the U.K. as a tourist.

I still remember the time Bob Nixon MPP sent me an invitation to a luncheon for then Quebec Premier René Lévesque that was being hosted in Toronto. Bob knew how much I despised what Lévesque stood for. While there was no way the guy could convince me of anything, I had to admit, when listening to him, that he was serious and seeking answers.

But in the case of Donald Trump, it is hard to believe that he believes in anything other than himself. His misogynistic and narcissistic characteristics make him a lampoon of himself.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

 

Harry says nobody wants the crown!

Tuesday, June 27th, 2017

That was the good news the other day. In an interview with American Newsweek Magazine, Prince Harry of the House of Windsor said that nobody in the royal family really aspires to being King or Queen. What Harry probably meant was that it would be unseemly for any royal to want the crown while it is still firmly on the head of his grandmother Elizabeth II.

There is no question but that the role of monarch is a rather onerous duty but nobody thought to ask Harry (fifth in line for the throne) if he would refuse it. It is not likely. With the crown goes enormous responsibility for the royal estates, properties, race horses and the wealth to support it all. The British monarch is the chair of the board that oversees it all.

And bear in mind that the very fact of that monarchy returns handsomely to the United Kingdom in terms of tourism, prestige and connections with the world-wide Commonwealth. Nurturing those connections is a part of the job.

Countries such as Canada have no need for the connections with the monarchy today but the vestige of the monarchy is still used by the country’s governments and politicians as a link to the past. While a contentious connection in Quebec, it also has its political uses there.

The reason why the remarks by the prince were noteworthy was the use he made of them to sell the need for the continuance of the monarchy. He noted that it was what happened to his mother with her untimely death that changed the monarchy for all time. Buckingham Palace was put into a fast response mode when it was awakened to learn of the her death in Paris.

It mattered so little the anger of the princess’ brother. A twelve-year-old boy and his older brother had to walk behind the casket of their mother for the entire world to see. Even Buckingham Palace turned out. The palace had realized that you either humanized the monarchy or lost place in history. The cold, brittle, cloistered monarchy of Queen Victoria could no longer survive. The stiff upper lip of the proper Brit needed to be aired.

While the Commonwealth only looks on at this new monarchy, little understanding the changes, it is desperately needed at this time to try to keep the United Kingdom united. The Brexit argument continues for the U.K. and with it any hope for the future.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

 

Spring clean out for Ontario booze.

Monday, June 26th, 2017

Have you got it figured out yet? Every few years, the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) thinks it will be a good time to clean its warehouses. To facilitate this house cleaning, it tries to clear all its warehouse shelves. It makes it easier to dust them.

But you never see the LCBO doing any deep discounting. It could never maintain its close to 35 per cent net profit margin if it started offering better prices. It is for this reason that the LCBO periodically gets into an argument with its unionized employees. Management push the union’s buttons threatening their hours and by being hard-nosed over slight increases in pay. In response, the union threatens to strike.

Part of the deal with the union is that it has to give the LCBO lots of warning. When the union issues its warning of a strike, the information is then breathlessly shared with the Ontario public. The concern is that 40 per cent of Canada’s citizens in Ontario are going to be cut off their tot of rum. They had better stock up.

What could be better for overall sales than the warehouse stock being stored in the customers’ pantries instead of the warehouse. Excess profits are safely protected. A small increase to the approximately 15 per cent of unionized full-time staff will hardly dent the board’s earnings. It can be made up by cutting hours for the part-time retail staff who do the bulk of the work for the government-owned booze monopoly. After all, sales will slump for a while because of all those customers who have stocked up.

The real danger to the LCBO will be the changes coming in Ontario employment and labour laws. The equal pay for equal work provisions could put an end to the fiction that the LCBO can have such a high percentage of part-time employees. And having those part-timers eligible to join the union could present serious challenges to a politically appointed board. Ontario tipplers already pay too much for their tipples and they will be paying to try to maintain the outrageous profits the Ontario government extracts from its citizens for their booze.

Okay Ontario, the union and the LCBO settled their differences last night shortly past the strike deadline. How does it feel to be had again?

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

 

Granny Wynne knows best.

Sunday, June 25th, 2017

The current argument between Ontario’s New Democrats and the Ontario Liberals is like a school yard spat over who did what. It is not only childish but it makes both sides of the argument look foolish. They are arguing over who thought of having a mediocre pharmacare plan first. Neither side has much of which to be very proud.

The point is that not having a universal pharmacare program works at cross purposes to the intent of Canada’s Medicare program. It means that those of us who take our meds are paying more for them and those who cannot afford them, fail to take them and drive up the cost of Medicare.

It is good to see that the NDP are thinking about real needs. Just why they would suggest that only the 125 most commonly prescribed drugs be free to the public is something that only they can explain. It is like saying ‘Tough beans’ to those with an uncommon problem. Since the Liberals are offering to fund the full 4000 or so listed drugs up until age 25, that must be saying ‘Tough beans’ to those between 25 and 65—which does not make really good sense either.

But you have to give this round to Granny Wynne and her Liberals. A small step in the right direction is better than no progress at all. Even the Ontario health minister, Eric Hoskins, has been pitching pharmacare to anyone who would listen for years.

Mind you we started calling the Ontario premier Granny because anything she was going to do took a long time to happen. It is similar to when she finally admitted that the Ontario minimum wage should be $15 per hour. Did she launch it in reasonable time? No. She is taking two years and staging the increase over that time.

The one strong benefit of this pharmacare plan is that of the intense pressure on a Liberal or New Democrat government (should one or the other get elected next year) will be to complete the universality of the plan. The likelihood of any Conservative government doing anything other than finding ways of cutting back the plan would be extremely unlikely.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

The political position in public protests.

Saturday, June 24th, 2017

One of the most important classes you attend in the reality school of politics is that of the public protest. You have to learn your lessons fast. You learn how people can organize and lead and maximize the media value. You also learn to find the other guy’s organizer and how to neutralize the person or persons. These are lessons of the streets and the solutions are often harsh.

These concerns are in response to a recent column by Toronto Star columnist Martin Regg Cohn. He was writing about the School Resource Officer (SRO) programs run by the Toronto school boards and the objections voiced by the Black Lives Matter (BLM) group in Toronto.

BLM is a group of trouble makers who seem to represent nobody but themselves. They are a growing embarrassment to the Toronto black community. They have used the name of a group that came about in the U.S. because of the ongoing tragedy of American police shooting black citizens.

It would be foolish to suggest Canadian police are perfect but there are different circumstances in this country. Our police might suffer from some bad training and inept management but they are hardly the out-of-control cowboys such as you can find in some U.S. communities.

Nor is Canada militarizing the police such as has been happening over the past decade in the U.S. Supplying the police with battle-field type weapons and armoured carriers is a formula for finding the bad guys to be arming themselves accordingly. It just spreads conflicts and adds collateral damage.

The reverse of this course is what we are doing in the Toronto area in providing a police presence in schools under the SRO program. This is proving beneficial in humanizing contact with police for students and changing attitudes.

But ignorant, self important groups such as Black Lives Matter are resisting this in schools. BLM has already soured the relationship between the Gay Pride Parade organizers and the police and they now want to destroy a good program for our children. We should go to the trouble of finding out what these fools really want. They are not helping anyone with the direction they are headed now.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

The Trials of Trump’s Translators.

Friday, June 23rd, 2017

The news that there is a serious search underway to replace President Trump’s loyal White House spokesman Sean Spicer is sad. That poor befuddled man has become something of a favourite of the media. And where else would you find someone with the experience required, stupid or vain enough to take the job.

Mind you, I would volunteer to take it if the American President would just promise to never again put anything on Twitter. Something has to be done to save him from his continued feed of nocturnal twits. He could have the best spokesperson ever on the White House podium but there would be no point if he continues to make the news of the day from a platform for the unthinking.

Do people realize the disgraceful waste of time of professional journalists having to follow Trump on Twitter? This is a communications tool for children and the challenged. It is not even a viable platform for entertainment. It is only there for people who can only think in less than 140 character sentences. It is certainly not Sudoku.

While some take pleasure in ridiculing Trump for his short attention span, it really is not that funny. Boiling down the problems of the United States to something that President Trump can comprehend is a serious challenge. His devotion to problems that he can see and partially understand is producing simplistic solutions. A ten-year-old might do a better job.

And while a ten-year-old might have the same narcistic tendencies as septuagenarian Trump, you would expect a ten-year-old to outgrow them.

But this is not solving the spokesperson problem. What I would suggest is that we are looking at the problem as one of understanding the news media. This is wrong. We need someone who understands Donald Trump.

Now that Melania Trump is resident in the White House, she should earn her keep. And what better person to stand before the world news media each day and explain her husband’s nocturnal twits and his take on world affairs. And he has already shown that he is not embarrassed by nepotism. She just might be the only person to actually understand him. It hardly matters if she likes him or not.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

The anger factor.

Thursday, June 22nd, 2017

A reader on the west coast asked the other day if we are seeing anger in Liberal ranks directed at Prime Minister Trudeau’s disrespect for the party? What was strange about the question was that most of that anger is building on the west coast. The flash point will be the funding and tooling up of the of the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion over the Rockies.

Anger is the emotion you look for in politics. We saw it in the United States over the last election. We knew that Americans of all political leanings were angry at the stalemates and infighting of their congress. In Canada, we were angry at the arrogance of the Harper government. In England, it was the feeling of helplessness as a member of the European Union: enter Brexit.

And now that same English anger is re-directed at Prime Minister May. The French took out their angst on their right wing. Anger in itself is not political; reaction becomes political.

No doubt many psychologists have published learned papers on this anger. There is really mothing new about it in politics. Anger is a blunt instrument used by politicians at their peril. The key is to lead, to direct the mob against a person, party, race, religion, tribe or nation. Blowback is when the mob knows they have been used.

But you can never tell a mob that they are being used. Just think of the last time you tried to convert a Donald Trump supporter? That person has all their hopes and fears wrapped up in the promises of a professional con-man. Deprogramming the true believer is no easy task.

And what is really frustrating is the rejection of logic. You can use the simplest of easy to understand logic and your argument will be rejected. The true Trump supporter does not care. They want their pound of flesh at any price. They do not care what the cost is to them.

Given time, people such as Donald Trump destroy themselves. He is already showing his distaste for the job he thought he wanted. It is not offering him the satisfaction he expected. He is still hitting out at supposed enemies. He needs to spend more time playing golf.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Gambling with losers.

Wednesday, June 21st, 2017

You find by being observant that the people in a hurry to get to the cashier at a casino are usually the ones wanting to get more money to gamble. Why a casino would extend credit to people is a question that is hard to answer.

The question was partly answered recently when it was noted in a newspaper article that Ontario casinos had recently written off $10 million in bad debts. That is a very small percentage of their more than a billion in revenues each year but a surprisingly high percentage of the money advanced to gamblers. If you were in a large cash business such as a casino, you would question hard the wisdom of advancing money to people who would default on that much money.

The rationale we are offered is that the casino does not want their whales to be bringing suitcases full of money to the casino. They do not want to encourage criminals to try to harpoon their high-rollers before the casino gets a chance at the money.

The argument seems to be a bit silly when you consider that people who can support a habit such as high-stakes gambling can also draw money directly from automated teller machines on the floor of the casino. Yes, the fees are high on those machines but it will cost the casinos less than writing off millions.

Our experience in casinos over the years is that there is very little difference between gambling at low or high stakes tables, penny slots or $100 slots. There seems to be no change in the law of averages. And nobody ever wins because they need to win.

You should look on gambling as fun. You are in for a lot of pain if you gamble with more than you can afford to lose. Always look around that casino and understand that it is the gamblers who pay to keep the lights on, pay the salaries and keep the facilities looking attractive.

The smart gambler: knows the odds and knows when to quit, increases their bet when winning and keeps to a minimum when losing and never tries to guess the number on the next roll of the dice.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

The attention span of four-year-olds?

Tuesday, June 20th, 2017

You sometimes wonder about the Ontario Liberal government. The kids in the cabinet are too easily distracted. Just the other day, we were reading about transportation minister Stephen Del Duca bragging to a newspaper reporter about the regional express rail expansion—a $13.5 billion electrification program to quadruple commuter train service in the Greater Toronto Area.

And then, to complicate the issue, Del Duca starts talking about hydrogen powered passenger trains. It sounds like a great idea for 50 years from now but the Toronto area needs faster, more efficient service today and electricity is a proven technology.

There is a reason why scientists often say that “Hydrogen is the fuel of the future and always will be.” While it is easy and economical to chemically separate it from a fossil fuel such as methane (natural gas), in the future hydrogen might have to be obtained from water by electrolysis. This is also easy to do, but a far more expensive process as we shift to more wind and solar electricity. Another expense is the fact that hydrogen is very light and difficult to liquefy making it hard to store and transport.

In the Alstom (the European transportation competitor of Bombardier) test train now under trial that is fueled by batteries and hydrogen, it would be very interesting to compare the space for passengers and the space taken up with hydrogen fuel cells and batteries.

A 10-car passenger train would need to add two extra cars to store hydrogen behind the locomotive containing the fuel cells, buffer batteries and electric propulsion motors. By comparison, an electric train, taking its “fuel” from overhead wires, doesn’t even need a locomotive; its propulsion motors can easily be incorporated under the floor of the passenger cars!

(Luckily, the current $528 million contract by Metrolinx with Alstrom is for electric light rail cars for use on Toronto’s new LRT lines.)

Instead of getting some expert advice ahead of time, Del Duca is thinking of committing $5 million of taxpayer’s funds to Metrolinx to study the potential of hydrogen technology. Metrolinx is hoping to co-host a symposium with the University of Toronto this fall with “global leaders” in the technology.

It is interesting that the big sales point of hydrogen is that it is quiet. For that matter, so is electricity.

Recently at a Barrie area garden party event, I was sitting chatting with the host when I noticed that there was a railroad track within a couple meters of his back fence. He told me that it was the Barrie-Toronto GO Train track and they had worried about being disturbed by the diesel engines when it was first announced. “Today, we never notice the trains,” he told me.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

The wonder of Wynne’s waffling.

Monday, June 19th, 2017

They tell us that Premier Wynne is wondering why she has failed to connect with Ontario voters. She thinks she won the last provincial election as a politician. In truth, she was given a conditional go-ahead because her opponents fell on their faces. She won a chance to prove herself. She failed.

Andrea Horwath was leader of a party with nowhere to go. And she went nowhere. Timmy Hudak was a leader who said he would fire 100,000 people and paid the price. When you count the individuals and their extended families that he threatened, it adds up to more than 2 million voters.

And that left us with Ms. Wynne. Her challenge was to show us why she thought she could do more than her predecessor, Dalton McGuinty. He left her the legacy of the Mississauga and Oakville gas-fired electric plants that were needed to feed local electrical needs. The local NIMBY’s were so obstinate that they forced the government to move the plants to out near Sarnia and to near Napanee. The cost of bringing the power back to Mississauga and Oakville is shared by Hydro One electric distribution customers across Ontario.

The people who really looked stupid in this situation were the Mississauga NIMBY’s. That gas-fired turbine plant was what is known as a co-generation plant, it is noiseless, hardly polluting at all and, in addition to electric power, it can be a very useful neighbour in terms of providing low-cost, pollution-free heating and cooling for local office buildings, schools, apartment buildings and other municipal facilities.

But Ms. Wynne could do little to ease that problem and she was looking for other solutions for Ontario. There is always something that needs fixing.

That was when she looked at perennial problems such as pensions and beer. The pension problem was an easy one because all her government had to do was propose and the federal government agreed to take it over. It hardly made sense for two separate governments to provide Canada Pension Plan payments. Beer distribution has been a thorny issue for years and the Wynne Liberals thought it was time for beer in the better grocery stores.

But beer was her downfall. They had lots of media conferences, they had lots of grand kick-offs but the implementation program is taking years. It makes the government look silly. And Kathleen Wynne has hung herself as Ontario’s granny. Do nothing promptly, is her epitaph.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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