Archive for the ‘New’ Category

Paying for Jobs?

Monday, April 6th, 2020

After careful study over the past few days, listening to the ideas of others and comparing the programs, I have decided that it is all a terrible waste. The federal government’s big billion bailout for Canadian business is money down the drain. We can do much better.

First of all, this emergency wage subsidy idea is not only wasteful but turns its back on a sensible approach to the need. Why not let the banks do what they do best—lend money to business? In this case, the loans can be forgivable—if it is confirmed that the money is directed to salaries and keeping Canadians employed, as promised. That way experts are doing the lending. And the government has their back, as usual. The government can foot the bill and allow the banks a bit of interest—a lot cheaper for the taxpayers.

And the whole system can be in process as soon as the government gives the banks the go-ahead. And, let’s be honest. Government employees make poor loan officers.

You might also want to ponder just how many former employees want the job back with the company that fired them or, euphemistically, laid them off? They should be allowed to go where they want. This is still a democracy, I hope.

But at the same time as this program eventually gets off the ground, will these people really be going back to work? Will airlines need flight staff so soon, will restaurants need wait staff, will fitness clubs need instructors, will schools need teachers? Or will we still be dancing two metres apart?

The only part of the deal to be presented to parliament that makes any sense is the Canada emergency response benefit that will pay individuals $2000 per month. It is really too bad that this program is only slated to be operating for four months. In Ontario where there are more than 360,000 people getting support from the provincial disability support program (ODSP). The maximum ODSP payment is just over $1100 per month. These people stay alive because charities, food banks, churches and families give them some help. There is no help from the uncaring Ford conservatives. They even tried to cut the payments in the program when they came into office.

Maybe the Trudeau liberals also forgot these people!


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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What was left under the rug?

Sunday, April 5th, 2020

There always comes that time when we have to look under the rug. Maybe we were just sending the rug out for cleaning but we can hardly ignore the detritus of time that we have collected. It is like this covid-19 emergency. This dust from under the rug was what finance minister Bill Morneau meant when he admitted recently that he did not know how to help.

This is when all the problems politicians have tried to ignore come back to bite them.  It is also a time when they must face the reality of the past myopia and do something about it.

It was like my reporting early in the Ontario shut-down about the problems of washrooms for long-distance drivers. Professional truck drivers, desperate auto drivers and even city bus drivers have been faced with the closing of all public washrooms. How careless! How thoughtless! How typical of our politicians.

I hear that the Tim Hortons people are stepping into the breech—so to speak. They should be compensated for the extra staff and supplies they will need to try to keep those coffee-shop washrooms reasonably sterile and usable.

But what about those members of our society whom we always seem to ignore? We walk by them on the sidewalks of our cities. They are the homeless, the invisible rejects of society, the mentally challenged, the sick, the despairing, the old, the lonely—a smile, a friendly word, a bit of help, can make their day. And what do you need?

These are problems we ignore as we shrug and say, “What can I do?”

And if you are not tired of this direction yet, what of the overcrowding in our prisons. That guy responsible for prisons, a minister of the crown, named Bill Blair, even asked the parole board recently to do something about it. What else is he doing about the overcrowding?

I guess, we should all check under the rug.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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Just breath that air!

Saturday, April 4th, 2020

Have you stepped outside lately? Even from a city condo balcony, you can feel the difference. Take a deep breath and enjoy. It is the breath of fresher air when there are so few carbon-spewing vehicles on the roads. It is air that we used to spend weekends and holidays seeking by our lakes and mountains. It is healthy air. It is invigorating.

Of course, there is a price on this wonderful air. The world will spend a long time paying back the costs of this pandemic. What we have to think of is the price of continuing to despoil this air that we have had a taste of at this time. We are faced with chance. We know that it is time to make a turn. Why would we rebuild walls of smog when there is no need?

What we need is greener cities. Go electric or just go. We need fewer plastics, less non-biodegradable packaging, green energy, better insulated homes and we have to have respect for the environment.

And along with better buildings, we have to do better planning for the vagaries of nature. The hundred-year events are happening too often. We have to be better prepared.

I am sure you can add many things to this brief request. We all need to pitch in. We can tackle this now or we can regret our inaction during the years our world has left.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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Kenney dives into pipeline financing.

Friday, April 3rd, 2020

In a time when the rest of the world is expending all energy and funds into the war against the novel coronavirus, Alberta premier Jason Kenney is following his own drummer. In a time when you cannot get $5 a barrel for the bitumen from the tar sands, Kenney is investing over a billion dollars of taxpayers’ money into a bitumen pipeline that is never likely to be completed.

We are talking here about the long-running drama known as the Keystone XL pipeline. It has been stalled, stopped, rerouted and fought through the courts in the U.S., since the beginning of the Obama administration. It was one of his final acts as president that Barack Obama turned thumbs down on the completion of the pipeline to get Alberta bitumen to America’s Gulf Coast refineries in Texas.

But it took the environmentally ignorant Donald Trump little time as president to tell the coal people to dig more coal, the pipeline people to carry on regardless and the auto manufacturers to forget emission standards. With this latest stimulus, the outraged environmentalists in the United States will soon have Keystone’s more contentious pipeline segments, that are still to be built, back in court.

But what is going to happen in November of 2020? Would you be so stupid as to bet more than a billion dollars on the outcome of that election? Even if you were as environmentally challenged as Jason Kenney, would you really risk that much?

Just who he is trying to impress with the gamble? It can hardly be Albertans. They have suffered enough. Not only is he betting with Albertans’ money, but this is at the same time as Kenney’s conservatives have laid off 25,000 teachers. These were the people who were going to help Alberta children, on the phone, with their computerized programs, while schools were closed during the pandemic.

Jason Kenney has strange priorities.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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It’s the Tory party that is self-destructing.

Thursday, April 2nd, 2020

Last weekend, Chantal Hébert wrote her regular opinion piece for the Toronto Star. She was ruminating on the idea that presumed front-runner Peter MacKay’s campaign for the conservative leadership might be self-destructing. Not that MacKay was heading anywhere in particular anyway. He is hardly the saviour of Canada’s conservatives.

If you are checking with conservatives on the telephone, you can hear an audible gagging sound when you ask them about MacKay’s campaign. And it is hardly a direct reference to the Deity when you hear the person say, “Oh God.”

But Peter MacKay has been in trouble since the turn of the century when he drove the progressive conservative bus into the arms of Stephen Harper and the Alberta cowboys of the reform conservative alliance. It was hardly good intentions that finally united the right across Canada. It was more like desperation.

What is really desperate today is not MacKay. He might be Elmer MacKay’s son but even our friends in Nova Scotia wonder about Peter’s campaign this time around. They have been there before.

If you did not know that Peter is a lightweight, you have not been paying attention over the past 20 years. At least he is a married man today and we can stop making fun of the ways his lady friends embarrassed him.

And he no longer is among the privileged who have military helicopters at their beck and call.

But it is really the party committee that was making the rules for the leadership that did Peter in. They set forth the most ridiculous and short-sighted rules for the leadership campaign that were more suited to the requirements of Vladimir Putin in Russia than a democratic party. The cut-off was just the other day for their proposed $300,000 fee and 3,000 party signatures.

The right leader for the conservatives has not even surfaced yet. It is a good thing the campaign was delayed because of the coronavirus.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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Escaping the prison of a coronavirus.

Wednesday, April 1st, 2020

With all the rules these days, my wife and I still like to get out for some fresh air and do our own shopping errands. Last Friday, in balmy weather and bright sunshine, my wife said ‘let’s go.’ It is becoming something of an adventure in this world of the coronavirus.

One of our stops was at a branch of our bank. I needed to make a deposit and get some rolls of coins for our apartment building’s washing machines. My wife decided to come in also, as she wanted some personal cash from her account. The only spot where it was difficult to maintain social distancing was at the front door where three employees were grouped, making sure that only a few customers, at a time, came into the bank.

I went immediately to a teller behind a new plastic screen and my wife waited for another teller. I then heard my wife called over to the next teller by her first name. It was obvious from the look on her face that my wife was not sure who the woman was but she had obviously met her somewhere.

What surprised me was that this woman, who might have been 25 years younger than my wife, started to berate her for being outside of her home. From what she said, it was obvious that the woman knew my wife has a non-virus-related health condition. My wife stood, mouth open, in surprise. I jumped to her defence with a flip remark. All that got was the woman’s ire directed at me. She thought I was irresponsible for being outside at my age, as well.

As we doubted someone like that would be working long at the bank, we completed our business and departed. When we came out of the bank, we found a line had formed across the front of the bank and around the corner—all respectably separated by two metres.

But we did enjoy our drive in the warming sun.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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Dougie dumbs it down.

Tuesday, March 31st, 2020

You get the impression that our Ontario premier goes to the office each day hoping to find new things to screw up for Ontario residents. Despite the tantrum he threw the other day over a high-priced grocery store overcharging for sanitary wipes, I never get the impression that he is on our side. He is not.

I do not believe of making lists of peoples’ failings and in Doug Ford’s case I have probably forgotten half of them anyway. I think the reason is the lack of logic in what he and his troop of clowns decide to tackle. For some reason, he had taken aim at price gouging this past week.

It was Dougie’s ‘whim of the week.’ He is proposing fines of as much as a $100,000 for price-gouging convictions and up to a year in jail. If he could go after a federally incorporated company such as Bell Canada, I would settle for just the board of Bell going to jail for a year. Bell just raised the price of already over-priced Internet services by another $7 a month. Add that up for close to three million customers and you are talking about a billion dollars in annual cash flow. Bell could pay a $100,000 fine from petty cash.

But the most serious problem is that Dougie and the rest of his troop do not think things through. The gang heard that some people might be stock piling their meds. The government’s solution was to stupidly cut back on certain meds that are for long-term conditions such as with heart and diabetes. These drugs are usually supplied on a three-month schedule. I really doubt anyone would over-dose on any of them. There is certainly no black market for them. Nor are they in danger of being in short supply. All this incompetent government did was increase the costs for private drug plans and seniors. Instead of one co-pay for these prescriptions every three months, we now have to pay the co-pay three times. I really do not think my local Shoppers Drug Mart needs that extra $12 per prescription every three months from seniors!


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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Checking with the Cuckoo Clock.

Monday, March 30th, 2020

We have a pattern emerging. Every day at 11 am Eastern, we are now tuning into a news channel or live streaming CPAC on the Internet. The opening shot, is of the front door of Rideau Cottage, on the grounds of Rideau Hall in Ottawa. There is often a wait but the news channels are filling the time with related news about covid-19. We are waiting for the prime minister to pop out of the cottage door to provide us with an update on Canada’s war with the coronavirus.

It is somewhat similar to the news media practice in England of setting up at 10 Downing Street in London for announcements from the prime minister of the United Kingdom. I like to think of it as sort of ‘the mother of all cuckoo clocks.’

Mind you, my wife has taken umbrage at what she considers my rude reference to our prime minister. She is quite in agreement if I choose to suggest Boris Johnson is a cuckoo. As all we have is each other in this time of isolation, I think I will acquiesce.

Besides, in discussing the prime minister’s performance over lunch, she asked me to rate his performance on a scale of one to ten. I gave him an eight. He stuck to the script during his prepared remarks and there was far less grunting as he thought about his words in answer to reporters’ questions.

We were particularly impressed when his remarks were directed to Canadian children. Only a caring father would think of that. It reminded me of the times when there were arguments with his father, Pierre Trudeau, about including some remarks about his children when addressing the Canadian public. He kept his children private. A different era, I guess.

Pierre did allow his children to be included on his Christmas card. When she first met Justin, my wife was telling him about her collection of Trudeau family cards that showed him and his brothers growing up. He had his staff add her to his Christmas card list. At least Pierre sent them to both of us.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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An idea that’s time has come.

Sunday, March 29th, 2020

It has been hard to be one of the few writers harping on the need for a Canadian universal income program. This past week, we got some support in the person of Mike Schreiner, leader of the Ontario green party, and Jo-Ann Roberts interim leader of the federal greens. They drew up a simple little opinion piece for the Toronto Star lauding the concept.

But where were the leaders of the new democrats? Are they unable to get any ink these days? Have the new democrats decided that universality is for peasants? Are they on Bill Morneau’s ‘save the one per cent’s wealth and the trickle down will follow’ bandwagon?

To be fair, I listened to the federal finance minister carefully when they were streaming the media conference with the cabinet luminaries early in the week. I got the feeling from what he was saying (more than doing) was that he did not believe there was a really an effective way to reach all the Canadians in need of support. Anyone who thinks our retail banks can help is suffering from myopia anyway.

What the banks can do is give every person access to a bank account. They have got to stop sending indigents to cheque-cashing store fronts.

I believe that there are fair-minded conservatives and many more liberal-minded Canadians who understand that a universal income program would save a great deal of money that is now spend on inadequate and wasteful support programs.

And there will also be a small percentage of recipients of these funds who will need what is recognized in some courts as a McKenzie Friend to provide advice and assistance in managing their stipend.

But the essential point, as stated in the green party commentary, is that “Our social safety net has been broken for a long time and the covid-19 crisis has only exposed the gaps in our income support programs.” Employment insurance cannot fix it. Payments starting in April are too late. We have to get money to those who need it immediately. And if we can get the wrinkles out of the program, we should keep it.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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A professional is on the job.

Saturday, March 28th, 2020

Kirsten Hillman of Global Affaires Canada has been appointed Canada’s ambassador to the United States of America. She has been in the job in an acting capacity since the departure of political appointee David MacNaughton to take part in the federal election last year. It is certainly a time when we need a professional diplomat on the job.

While Canada has always tended to have a political person in the hyper-intense political environment of Washington, Donald Trump in the presidency has changed that. He leaves those with just some political expertise lost and in the dark. He is not a political animal. He might be a lot of things, but he is no politician. The last three years have been a learning experience for all of us.

The appointment of Hillman as deputy ambassador in 2017 was in recognition of her expertise in international trade agreements. She was our general in the battles over NAFTA 2. While Canada’s foreign affairs was Chrystia Freeland’s bailiwick at the time, Hillman must have been the source of much of the strategy.

As a professional diplomat Hillman must spend hours in Washington just making sure she is retaining her cool visage. She can probably run rings around Trump’s ambassadors to Canada. Both the first appointee, Kelly Craft, and the more recent appointee, Aldona Wos, are best noted for the large amounts they (or a husband) donated to the Trump and republican party campaigns.

These ‘bought and paid for’ ambassadorships go back a long way in American history and the Americans have been roundly criticized for it over the years. I remember back in the mid 1970s the former Hollywood child star Shirley Temple Black had been appointed ambassador to Ghana by president Gerald Ford. The Ghana leadership felt insulted by the appointment. My wife and I met Shirley at a conference in Spain during that time and it was very obvious that she was not happy in that posting. I think she reached her ideal in political appointments for Foggy Bottom later when she was, briefly, chief of protocol for the United States.

But what can you say for a person who reached the peak of her career when she was eight-years old?


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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