Archive for the ‘New’ Category

The Actor Within.

Monday, April 19th, 2021

We were puzzling the other day as to what training our current leaders had that prepared them for their political roles. If all you have to base your conclusion on is their set-piece biography, the answers are not all that easy to deduce. It is therefore best to do some deep-dive research and take them one at a time. We started with prime minister Justin Trudeau.

First of all, the assumption that his famous father helped prepare him for the role of prime minister is wrong. Pierre Trudeau made every effort to keep his three sons away from politics. Any communications expert who tried to get him to appear with his sons was usually shot down in flames. We thought appearing with them would help soften his image but he would have none of it. If anything, Justin would have heard his father disparage politics.

And any influence his mother had on him would not help. His mother neither understood nor wanted anything to do with politics.

What the National Post labelled as kitsch in 2019, I had seen when I first met Justin as an adult back in 2010. I saw the actor with the ability to move in and out of character. It was hardly Strasberg’s method acting, where you stay in character. The young Trudeau appeared to have a switch that he can turn on and off. The telltale signs were all there: the family dress-up in India, the black face in Vancouver, the hot reaction of the crowds at the Kielburger’s Me to We shows starring the future prime minister. Justin could sure work a crowd.

Like many Canadians, I watched Justin give the eulogy for his father at Pierre’s funeral. It was poignant. I wish I had seen him also when he played the role of World War One hero Talbot Papineau in the 2007 CBC movie.

I once corrected a fellow blogger who accused Justin of stammering. You often hear it when he is answering a question—off the cuff—in parliament. It is actually thinking noises. It is the noises that people will use while they are thinking about their answer. It is a noise that poor public speakers will use to fill what they consider a void. It is not there when Justin is speaking to a prepared text or a teleprompter. Justin just needs to be scripted.


Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

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A Mea Culpa on Small Nukes.

Sunday, April 18th, 2021

The other day I really wanted to write something positive. I feel guilty about writing so many negative comments about politicians today. It was an old friend who suggested to me that I could make up for my past criticisms of nuclear power. This guy is a retired university professor and a noted environmentalist. He was singing the praises of small nuclear generating systems. I should have known he was putting me on.

But, needing something to comment on, I bought his malarkey. It ran the other day and I have been hearing from readers—not all polite, I should admit. One e-mail from a reader in Nova Scotia was particularly articulate and knowledgeable. He politely told me I was an idiot. The writer was an engineer and seemed to know his nuclear. The e-mail was so detailed, I forwarded it to my professor friend.

When we talked later, the professor was having a good laugh. I was annoyed. I asked him how I was supposed to respond—other than ritual suicide? He said that he was thinking of congratulating the writer for his overall observations on my column.

“But, but,” was about all I could say. After all, it was his suggestion.

“Yah, but I was thinking about Iqaluit in Nunavut,” he said. “Do you realize that a warm summer there is a couple months when the temperature gets up to ten degrees Celsius? They can use the normally waste heat generated by nuclear power.”

And that was his excuse. I get left with egg on my face and Jason Kenney in Alberta thinks he can include me among his few friends in Ontario. The thing is, we have to recognize that Kenney and the Three Stooges; Larry – Blaine Higgs in New Brunswick, Curly – Doug Ford in Ontario and Moe in Saskatchewan are putting forward a carbon solution that Canadians will never buy. So, who really are the idiots here?


Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

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The Ford Agenda.

Saturday, April 17th, 2021

It is hard to tell if the pandemic is helping hide premier Doug Ford’s agenda for Ontario or just slowing it down. His plans seem to be everything except the stuff you would hear in a speech from the lieutenant governor. It is enough that he keeps confusing Ontario residents on how to handle covid-19. His real agenda seems to keep coming out with surprise packages for us.

When he first took office, it was all about him. He got even with his old enemies on Toronto city council by cutting the number to be elected in half. He stopped former conservative leader Patrick Brown from running for the top dog role in Peel County. He asked the provincial police to provide him with a ‘comfort wagon’ for his trips around his province. He even picked an old friend to run the provincial cops for him.

It seemed he was also picking the least qualified people to do cabinet level jobs. The classic was the initial choice of Caroline Mulroney as attorney general. All her legal training and experience was in New York State. That did not last long. She is currently transportation minister and minister of francophone affaires. I assume, she can, at least, speak French.

Another example of his curious choices is political publicist Stephen Lecce, a graduate of a private school—St. Michaels in Toronto—as the replacement minister of education. His parliamentary assistant in this is a very young Sam Oosterhoff MPP who is a product of home schooling.  It is difficult to guess what Mr. Ford had in mind here but he would do almost anything to get rid of all those expensive teachers. Watch for more remote learning by computers when the pandemic is over.

Mr. Ford must also be less than impressed with a university education. He certainly is not rushing to save Laurentian University in Sudbury from bankruptcy during the problems created by the pandemic.

His plans to cut costs in medical care in Ontario also seem to have been upset by the pandemic. The people in the local health units around Ontario are scrambling to try to save their jobs while the actual costs of the pandemic are escalating every day.

But it is plans for his friends who have invested heavily in land around the proposed new Highway 413 that is even more concerning for him. It is a highway that makes no sense unless you own lots of land in the area and want to develop it.

Maybe, sometime, before the next provincial election, Mr. Ford will tell us what he has in mind.


Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

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Small Nuclear? Think Ships.

Friday, April 16th, 2021

Anyone who is worried about small nuclear reactors being promoted by four Canadian provinces should check out the nuclear ships using nuclear reactors. The world has had nuclear ships now for over 65 years. The four countries who use nuclear powered ships tell us that they have about 160 ships currently using this form of power. Nuclear is mainly used in submarines because it allows the submersible to stay under longer and move much faster than previously. The importance is that nuclear in ships has proved to be safe, clean and efficient.

And it is the efficiency of small reactors that is a strong argument for this type of power generation. The small reactors are safer, give a better power output ratio than previous nuclear systems, producing less nuclear waste per megawatt, eliminate greenhouse gases and can be modular to fit a variety of needs in remote parts of the country as well as industrial areas.

I mention this as because I have done studies on Canadian attitudes towards nuclear power for electricity and the answers are always negative. In one study I asked what would be the reaction to having nuclear power generation in the high arctic. Even the Toronto respondents turned thumbs down.

But folks, if the sun don’t shine, the wind don’t blow and the cricks dry up, we are still going to have to have clean electricity.

What worries me the most about the current proposal for small nuclear generators is being sure that there is adequate and plentiful deep storage for the nuclear waste.

And I try not to be turned off by the four conservative premiers promoting this form of electricity generation. The fact that the Alberta premier has joined with his buddies in Saskatchewan, Ontario and New Brunswick has not turned me off the reasonableness of their proposal.

We all have to realize that we have to have cleaner fuels to generate electricity than coal or natural gas.


Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

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Chaos: The Canadian Model.

Thursday, April 15th, 2021

“Throw the scoundrels out” might be the rallying call for elections in Canada but there are too many times when we are not at all sure who the scoundrels might be. Obviously, the scoundrels in the coming federal election are supposed to be Justin Trudeau and the liberals. The only problem is that it is hard to find a replacement.

Who are the good guys? Since confederation, Canadians have been going back and forth from conservatives to liberals and then back to conservatives. Sure, there have been some variations over the years with minority governments, some alliances and compromises.

Compared to our neighbors to the south, Canadians are in a rut. The Trump interregnum of the past four years had the entire world shaking their heads. Canada remained a beacon of sanity.

But we will not continue in this vein. We deserve our chance to shake, rattle and roll. Canadians want out from under the thumb of the attitude that government knows best. Rebellion is brewing. And the weapons of choice are the pollsters and the ballot boxes.

And we are not talking about Quebec here. If anything, Quebec is complacent. Ontario voters are mad at both the federal liberals and the provincial tories. Would you believe that Alberta is seething at their unified conservatives? Moe in Saskatchewan is lost without Larry and Curly.

Blame it on the pandemic if you wish. Canadians are fed up with the missteps of our politicians. They have been selling off our successful companies and technologies for years. We used to make trains in London, Ontario, planes outside of Montreal, gas-guzzling automobiles in Oshawa, Ontario and vaccines in Toronto. Even when one Canadian company wants to buy another, we have to get an American bank to fund the deal. (That last is the Rogers deal for $20 billion from Bank of America to buy Shaw.)

Do you blame Canadians for being pissed with all their politicians?


Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

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How does Jeff Lehman MP sound?

Wednesday, April 14th, 2021

It is finally likely that Barrie mayor Jeff Lehman will make the move. After being elected to three four-year terms as mayor, he is checking out the federal waters. The first hint of this was a while ago when Jeff’s old campaign manager, Quito Maggi of Mainstreet Research did a survey in Barrie-Springfield-Oro-Medonte electoral district.

Personally, I would not waste the money on that type of survey, at this stage, but I am sure it showed that it would be a tight race between the mayor and the former city councillor who is currently the sitting conservative member. The Tory has been a yawn as a member of parliament but the riding was gerrymandered to accommodate the strongly conservative rural vote.

Based on the mayor’s strengths in voter recognition and his service to Barrie, he is shoo-in with the urban part of the electoral district. Plus, he is a very good door-to-door campaigner.

But he has to get enough votes from the rural area to carry him to the finish line. Much will depend on the liberal positioning on gun control (a hot button with rural voters) and the handling of the environmental issues.

By the way, I always lie to those “press one for Joe” surveys. If Quito saw my name on his survey, he would know not to count my choice.

It is obvious that Lehman is waiting until after the budget speech next week before making his announcement. The one thing that he does not need to worry about is competition for the nomination. I really doubt that there would be any problem getting approval for his candidacy from either Ottawa or the riding.

I wish him the best of luck.


Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

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A potpourri of liberal promises.

Tuesday, April 13th, 2021

Reading the list of 26 resolutions passed at the liberal non-gathering last weekend is frustrating. There are duplications of themes, confusion in intent and cost considerations. And there are a few where you had to be there to know what they were discussing.

It is hard to imagine anything more top of mind for liberals than the need for a national pharmacare program and a universal income program. National standards for long-term care came next but we could be complaining on that subject for the next couple decades.

What impressed me was that high-speed rail came in number four in priority. This is not only a critical need for Canada but can pay its own way, can make a huge dent in greenhouse gas emissions and can improve relations, tourism and trade between provinces. I do not think that people are aware of the carbon cost of all the aircraft flying just the Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City corridor. We are unlikely to replace all the aircraft flying between those cities but high-speed rail can cost less and be just as efficient for those distances.

Being old enough to remember when we had ‘bumper-sticker’ policies, I still believe that a short, catchy title can make a promise work. “No worker left behind” might be a catchy title for the NDP but seems too narrow for liberals. And a ‘New Deal’ is something American Franklin Roosevelt campaigned on back in 1932.

It was good to see that there was a discussion on the post-pandemic economy but without a serious look at the tax base and the adjustments needed, our great-great grandchildren will inherit some of the debt we are accumulating.

And yes, our seniors need a better support structure. If anything, the current pandemic has shown Canadians many of the serious gaps in in the safety nets for Canadian citizens.

When a political party is willing to discuss the serious financial imbalance between the top one per cent of our population and the rest of us, I would be willing to pay the price of being there.


Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

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A liberal performance.

Monday, April 12th, 2021

According to Susan Delacourt of the Toronto Star, Justin Trudeau was invoking the ghosts of liberal past at the weekend policy conference. While I rarely disagree with Ms. Delacourt, those were not spirits to whom Justin was appealing. He needs the living, breathing liberals of past years to come back to the liberal party. Justin’s roughshod treatment of the party has lost it too many experienced and knowledgeable campaigners.

The fact that Justin is attracting a new, younger generation to his liberal lists is one thing. His dumping of the years of experience of the liberals in the senate was not as smart a move. His cancelling membership fees in the party left the party without effective structure or hierarchy. His frequent requests for money are turning off many.

What we have learned about Pierre Trudeau’s son is that he is not his father. Justin is an elitist. He likes to hobnob with the rich and famous. He surrounds himself with like-minded cronies. He is a bit of a control freak. The only reason a few of the resolutions at the convention will be in the coming budget is because these resolutions were included for that reason.

And do not compare the liberal orchestration this past weekend to the problems the opposition conservatives had recently or the NDP had the same weekend. No liberal would dare to challenge the guy with his finger on the switch at Justin Trudeau’s event. And nobody was allowed to ask why Trudeau was continuing to twin the TransMountain pipeline.

It would be like asking when women in the cabinet will be allowed to do their job without running afoul of directions from the prime minister’s office?

The opposition conservatives thought they had contained the problem of social conservatives at their convention but never dreamed that party people would deny that there is a need to protect the environment. The NDP also had their problems this past weekend but that party’s members always like to have something to complain about.


Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

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Requiem for the Beer Store?

Sunday, April 11th, 2021

It was mentioned yesterday that the Beer Store in Ontario is supposed to be losing money. Well tough cookie! If you follow the bouncing ball of this story, you might be as curious as I, as to how this company can lose money by selling its product: Beer?

All we are told is that the Beer Store, the retail outlet for the brewers in Ontario—you can think of them as the three foreign-owned giants and the 30 or so Ontario craft breweries—are losing money. They claim their Beer Store sales have dropped by 20 per cent.

I think this is one of those situations where we need to follow the money. For example, when I buy a bottle of scotch at the liquor control board, I pay 20 cents deposit on the bottle. If I return that bottle to the Beer Story, they will give me back the 20 cents. The questions remain: Who keeps the money for bottles that do not get returned? Who gets the cash for bottles that can be recycled? You see where this is going do you? We are not getting the full story.

The one conclusion we can make is that the Beer Store is not losing money on the recycling business. It is getting money. It is how it accounts for that money that makes us wonder.

Our next question is about selling beer. Do the breweries sell directly to the liquor control board, grocery stores and restaurants or is it all or partly channeled through Brewers Warehousing Company Ltd. (the legal name of the Beer Store)?

And if there really was a dip in sales through the Beer Store, why have not the excessive price increases in the past year not mitigated that lower sales figure?

It also seems to me that the triumvirate of foreign-owned breweries who really own and run the Beer Store can set both their prices and the prices for the smaller packages at the LCBO and grocery stores. In any other jurisdiction than Ontario, these people would be in court for screwing beer drinkers.


Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

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Recriminations: We have a few.

Saturday, April 10th, 2021

At finger-pointing time, politics in Canada slips away into a morass of regrets. Wending your way through the reports on the pandemic, you have little to console yourself. We think of our politicians as the bickering class. There has got to be a light somewhere down damn dark tunnel.

What about the promise of science? Is covid-19 that much worse than the Spanish Flu of a century ago? Is it not just facile to lay the blame for this pandemic at the doors of the unprepared politicians?

Is it really a race between new strains of covid and vaccinating the population? When does herd immunity kick in?

I would rather be at a casino, showing off my expertise at the game of Blackjack. Yah, that is what I miss the most. I could kid you that I would rather be down in Toronto in that concrete convertible where the Blue Jays play. Quite honestly, I would not waste my time with that between-seasons bilge by sports writers who think they are talking about something important. Baseball is a game for a sunny summer afternoon and gentle breeze, with the roar of the crowd drowning out the vendors with their wares.

And by the way, save some crocodile tears for Ontario’s no longer omnipotent Beer Stores. Did you know that the Ford conservatives have slipped them a mickey while everybody thought they were fighting the pandemic? We now have beer and other booze on off-sale from our bars and restaurants. That is in addition to the beer and wines in the grocery stores. Mind you, you still have to go to the liquor control board stores to get any decent French wines at half-way reasonable prices. If I am going to pickle my liver in alcohol, it will be with something fit to drink.

They tell us now that the Beer Store lost $50 million last year. At what? The Beer Store are the poorest merchandisers in the province. They are dedicated to beer and have no clue of how to find an attractive way to sell it. I like to think of my local beer shoppes as recycle places that will conveniently sell you some beer when you take the time to drop off your empties.


Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

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