Archive for the ‘New’ Category

Let’s hear it for Sobeys.

Saturday, December 5th, 2020

The other day we were whining about the rapidly rising prices at our grocery stores. We hear today that Sobeys and the rest of the Empire stores (including Safeway) are breaking with the solidarity of the Loblaw and Metro chains. They have restored their employee’s s bonus for working in lock-down areas because of the pandemic and have refused to go along with the industry-wide increase in display fees that they charge to their suppliers.

Much of the credit for this stance by the grocery chain is given to Empire CEO Michael Medline. He puts commitments to employees and the community ahead of profit and, oddly enough, the profit tends to look after itself.

Medline has also been credited with the rebuilding of the Safeway chain in western Canada after a rocky start after the takeover by Empire a few years ago. Food stores work on tight margins and my impression over the years is that happy employees are the key to a successful store.

And that is all I have for today. I think I will check out the fiasco in the White House for tomorrow—Mr. Trump is always guaranteed to be doing something wrong.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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Decidedly Different Discipline.

Friday, December 4th, 2020

Many Canadians are intrigued by the discipline of political parties. Not that it seems to matter within the parties themselves but it does seem to matter in the caucus of elected party members in the federal and provincial parties.

There even seem to be differences when you are the government or not. Party leaders can be much more forgiving when in opposition. The standard explanation of this is that when in opposition rather than government you are building up a big-tent party that has many different opinions. When you are the government, you had better not have any opinion contrary to that of the leader.

You can tell this by the number of the ex-caucus members occupying a small number of seats at the farthest corner of the house or legislature—away from the government leader—and seemingly out of sight of the speaker’s dais.

While I am sure that Mr. Trudeau would quite rapidly send an anti-vaxxer from his caucus to that purgatory, this is not the case with opposition leader Erin O’Toole. O’Toole has ignored conservative MP Derek Sloan’s claim that the first vaccines to be approved will be effectively human experimentation as they are rushed through the approvals process. Sloan wants the legislation establishing the approvals to state that they can only be used on a voluntary basis.

This reluctance to discipline is not the same in the Ontario conservative government’s caucus. Premier Doug Ford bounced the controversial MPP Randy Hillier from caucus for making “disrespectful” comments to parents of autistic children.

The removal of former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould and former health minister Jane Philpott from the liberal party caucus was probably the most controversial of all such decisions of prime minister Justin Trudeau. Liberals can only wonder if that ejection from caucus would have been supported by a majority of caucus—in a secret ballot?


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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Please, Spend, Spend, Spend.

Thursday, December 3rd, 2020

This is a skill testing question. How are we going to spend our way back to a healthy economy? I have been doing my best at Ontario’s liquor control board stores. That enterprise has been pleased with our upgrading to single malts and better wines despite the pandemic rules that force the wife and I to drink them without our friends and relations to help us.

And it is not as though we are not in shock with the price increases when we go to the grocery store. What is annoying, is to realize that none of those excess profits are going to the hard-working people who are keeping those shelves stocked and ready for us. Paying higher dividends to the Weston family and others is not building a stronger economy.

And I really would like to spend more with my local restaurants but did you know that you have to have a smart phone to use those delivery apps? I am not about to pay the usurious fees to use one of those phones charged by those thieves at Canada’s telephone companies. Luckily, they still take credit cards at my favourite restaurants—if I go out and make my own delivery.

Mind you, I think Ms. Freeland is missing an opportunity to satisfy a lot of the critics who do not understand debt levels. No doubt many Canadians would feel better if they could do something to allay our growing national debt. Not, I should add, that it is of serious proportions. It is not. We are well within bounds. And you can be very sure the people who assess national debts would definitely tell us if they thought we were going overboard.

But I would recommend that, at the next opportunity, our finance minister should restore the two per cent that Mr. Harper cut from the goods and services tax some years ago. The funds could be earmarked for debt servicing and would be helpful in covering the cost of borrowing a few billion more if needed to keep our heads above water until the pandemic is beaten.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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Looking mean and meaning it.

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2020

That was dumb. Watching finance minister Chrystia Freeland deliver her financial update was more of a tribute to my interest in politics than any immediate need to hear her deliver it. What left me annoyed though was the rank stupidity of our opposition parties’ responses.

While the speech itself was boring, poorly structured and self-congratulatory, the conservative response was worse. Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre came out of his seat like a guard dog smelling dinner. If he thinks the liberals are putting Canadians too deeply in debt, he should tell them where to cut. And which voters to leave out in the cold.

He complains a lot about the government not knowing exactly when it will start receiving the vaccines that have not yet even been approved for use. The problem is that the government is in the dark also. They seem confident that some of the more promising vaccines will be arriving in the next couple of months. We have been teased a bit by the good progress reports but Canada has its own logistics problems in making the vaccine available to Canadians from coast to coast. As it is, the government has committed to buy up to 400 million doses of various potentially successful vaccines.

But even before the vaccines are available, O’Toole and his attack dog are harping at the government for not having distribution plans in place. What they do not seem to realize is that if we start vaccinating Canadians in the first quarter of 2021, we will still be vaccinating over the coming summer. The roll-out of vaccines will not be overnight.

And some of the more likely vaccines will require special conditions for shipment and storage. Some require conditions of extreme cold for storage. They are not just boxes of vials.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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Political leaders get lots of advice.

Tuesday, December 1st, 2020

It is part of the job. Leaders of all political parties get lots of advice—most of it ignored. Maybe the Toronto Star is not aware of this phenomenon. That must be why they run advice columns for different leaders every Sunday opposite the editorials. One of these, that ran last Sunday, was intended for conservative leader Erin O’Toole.

As befits the conservative party, the advice was far from progressive and you could picture the writer yawning as he wrote it.

The first idea was to show off the excessive amounts of money the Tories are reaping from their pleas to their base. The suggestion was that they give all the money they dredge from their supporters in December to charity. I wish they would—and then good luck in January trying to get more. If conservatives wanted that money given to charity, they could have got the refund from Revenue Canada directly.

And talk about double-dipping. Would they get a political donation credit and then further credit on their taxes for the charitable donation?

But the conservative supporter goes on to suggest that the second wave of covid-19 might be an opportunity of benefit to Mr. O’Toole. First of all, there also might be many Canadians appalled at a politician thinking they can benefit from sickness and death.

The fact that Justin Trudeau had an uptick in the polls for his cuckoo-clock type appearances was more the fact of the exposure, the warmth of the home setting and his manner in handling the non-political information he was providing for the public. For the opposition leader to try to mimic the presentations to criticize the prime minister would hardly get the cooperation of the news media for long.

Doug Ford has fared badly with his attempt to do group presentations at Queen’s Park. Some of the media’s questions lately have been answered with tirades from the intemperate, inexperienced premier.

And we were under the impression that this conservative writer was experienced. For him to suggest that O’Toole attack the liberals for the generosity of the support for Canadians caught in a pandemic is a bad idea. Sure, there will be some ill-considered payments when you are ‘rushing funds out the door’ but so far, they appear to be catching most of the errors and getting them fixed.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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We are going to miss Mr. Trump

Monday, November 30th, 2020

Don’t get me wrong here. I know full well what a horror it has been with Donald Trump at loose in the White House. I am really not sure if the building will have to be tented and fumigated or just needs deep cleaning? The Trump smell will hang over the place for some time.

But can you imagine when it comes to the hanging of the Trump picture?  The Biden’s will have to have an outdoor privy built on the back lawn to provide a suitable place to hang it.

To be fair though, you can appreciate some of the effort Trump has made on behalf of Americans. I strongly believe he has done more to point out the failures of the American political system than any other president.

Donald Trump never corrupted the system. He used the existing corrupt system to show everyone how really bad it is. His political appointments were some of the worst and, luckily, in a few cases, some of the briefest in American history. He set back the country’s foreign relations at least three generations. He frustrated and outraged America’s close friends and embraced some of the country’s enemies.

He showed Americans that their Electoral College system of electing their president is undemocratic and susceptible to corruption.

Trump proved that the three-part federal government system can stifle getting anything done. He showed that states’ rights left the country, as a whole, ungovernable. He has showed all of us what happens when an incompetent is allowed to control the Administration.

Trump has left the incoming administration tied in knots with his judicial appointments. The American voters have left Biden with a potentially implacable Senate. And the coronavirus has left the country sick and in need of healing in so many ways.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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Breaking Faith with Canadians.

Sunday, November 29th, 2020

Before people started accepting news in free form as whatever was trending on social media, we were encouraging business and government to work together. We called it by various names such as business-government partnerships but the essential component was the need to understand that the ultimate beneficiary was supposed to be the Canadian public.

In the late 1980s, one of the more remarkable examples of this partnership was SkyDome in Toronto, where the Blue Jays came to play baseball. At a shared public-private cost of around $600 million, few people really understood the benefits to the people of Toronto, of Ontario or Canada.

For one, it put more lustre for Toronto on the world map. It generated billions in tourism. It drove a steady stream of rebuilding to that part of Canada’s largest city. It helped bring Toronto to life. At least it did until ignorant provincial politicians paid off the debt of about $400 million and sold the building to private interests, including Labatt Breweries, for $151 million. Which seemed like quite a bargain despite the continued financial problems of the time. Labatt’s solution was to sell SkyDome in 2004 to Rogers Communications for $25 million.

But the death knell of any landmark is when you try to give it a new and commercial name. It is still our SkyDome, to us old time baseball fans.

But would you believe that these people who got SkyDome for a song, are now talking about tearing it down. They think they can build another smaller baseball park, with natural grass, nearby.

This new park would be further ‘enhanced,’ according to the proponents with new condominiums and office towers to improve the revenues from the property.

Luckily, the land that SkyDome sits on is not part of the deal for which these schemers paid so little. The lands are leased from a federal government-owned company that specify the only use for these old railway lands is for a ball park and entertainment facility. We might be lucky if this agency says ‘No’ to this new plan.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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Blame stupidity and short-sightedness.

Saturday, November 28th, 2020

We used to have some control in Canada about who bought and sold our industry. If you are smart enough to realize that you might be desperate for a vaccine to cure a new coronavirus some day. You would have kept Connaught Laboratories in Toronto working on vaccines and other products such as insulin, for Canadians and world markets. As it is, we are waiting for initial shipments of covid-19 vaccines from companies in the U.S. and Britain.

A week ago, conservative health critic MP Michelle Rempel Garner criticized the Trudeau government saying “This is gross incompetence that’s going to cost Canadians their lives and their jobs.”

The only problem with this complaint was that Connaught Laboratory and it’s vaccine production capabilities were sold to a French company under a privatization program initiated by the conservative government of Brian Mulroney in the 1980s. Production of insulin and other products of Connaught were then shifted to Europe. That leaves two European companies and one American company producing insulin that was invented in Canada.

Connaught Laboratories was created by a famous Canadian, Dr. John G. Fitzgerald. It was originally opened to produce antitoxin for diphtheria and then gained more notoriety producing Banting and Best’s insulin. Fitzgerald eventually sold a successful Connaught to the University of Toronto for one dollar. The university took the gift ,that was given to them in good faith, and later sold it to the Canadian government for $29 million.

In addition to not having vaccine production ready for the covid-19 pandemic, Canada is hardly first in line for the vaccines now being produced in the United States and Great Britain.

On a personal note, I remember buying insulin for my diabetic son before the Mulroney sale of the former Connaught Labs. Two vials lasted him almost a month and cost about $10 each. Today, American-made insulin is costing him $30 per vial. He figures he cannot complain. If he was in the United States, he could be charged closer to $300 per vial.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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The auditor versus the label salesman.

Friday, November 27th, 2020

It might not be a fair fight but Ontario voters are enjoying it. The ups and downs and the tantrums of former label salesman and now premier Doug Ford are generally entertaining but when he and the province’s auditor general cross swords, the province can see the problems with better clarity.

The problem might be that both of the protagonists are out of their depth. The problem is that Doug Ford’s limited education and political experience, ill prepared him to do battle with both a coronavirus and an experienced auditor general.

You can also make the claim that, once again, auditor general Bonnie Lysyk has overstepped the bounds of her job. That does not make her wrong in telling us that Ford and his Tories are doing a lousy job on the pandemic. When the conservative premiers have made it very clear to Ottawa that the federal role is to do nothing but send money, we have to hope they know what they are doing.

And we agree that Bonnie Lysyk continues to exceed her financial accountability role to point out the lousy job the politicians are doing. She has also pointed out that the province’s medical officer of health is also not doing his job.

But why should that matter when the Ford government is not listening to him either.

What this all boils down to is that once again, the auditor general of Ontario has pointed out the deep pile of do-do that the Ontario government is driving us into. That is her job. How she does it is another matter. She did the same things to the liberals when they were in power.

But we know for a fact now that Ford and his Tories are doing a lousy job. And we have also learned that Ford’s minister of health is no better at her job than the premier is at his.

We hear a retired army general will be reporting in at Queen’s Park to take over distribution logistics for coming vaccines. Let’s hope that he does a better job at that than the politicians have done so far.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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Parsing Pierre Poilievre.

Thursday, November 26th, 2020

Pierre Poilievre, conservative member of parliament for Carleton electoral district in the Ottawa area of Ontario, has described himself as a political junkie. He was born and educated in Alberta, worked for politicians such as Jason Kenney and Canadian Alliance leader Stockwell Day. He came east to find a riding that could be won despite his French name.

But he is still an Albertan and appears to think of the current prime minister’s father as the Great Satan. Poilievre impresses us as sitting on the extreme right-wing of Canadian politics—in seeming contrast to conservative leader Erin O’Toole’s talk of finding a middle ground for the party. Maybe Poilievre would be happier with a leader more like U.S. president Donald Trump.

But Erin O’Toole seems not to notice his finance critic’s flirting with extreme right-wing conspiracy theories and consorting with fake news.

Poilievre is currently running a petition to “STOP THE GREAT RESET.” He must think ‘the great reset’ means something other than the need for fresh thinking after the pandemic is over. Many politicians are concerned about those in our societies who have been most harmed by the pandemic. The great reset is nothing more than ideas for bringing these people more into the mainstream of our societies.

But an extremist such as Poilievre has no interest in these concerns and can ignore their plight. This is a guy with a political objective that could even include the prime minister’s office in Ottawa.

It has been fascinating watching him on Zoom in the pandemic parliament. He is one of the few MPs to appear on Zoom with full television make-up, professional back-ground set and lighting. He is not missing any opportunity to look sharp and seek greater fortune.

The only problem is that he still comes across as a mean little bastard. We do not wish him well.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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