Archive for the ‘Provincial Politics’ Category

When Premiers come out to play.

Sunday, July 14th, 2019

It was an interesting pack of premiers around the conference table at this year’s Canadian premiers’ meeting. They hardly had Justin Trudeau under their thumb. And they hardly bothered to try.

This was a meeting to plan for October’s federal election. The odd men out were the bookends—John Horgan of British Columbia, NDP, and Dwight Ball of Newfoundland and Labrador, liberal. It was hardly a surprise for the premiers to recognize François Legault’s Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) as an honorary conservative regime.

The conservative cohort were all invited to a preplanning meeting and a flapjack flipping event at the Calgary Stampede the week before. At that meeting, the real chair of the premiers, Jason Kenney held sway. The only notable aspect of that event was when they found out that Doug Ford could not flip a flapjack without burning it.

But then Ford was out of his element at both meetings. The other premiers found him boring, competitive, wrong and rude. He made the opening gaff of the conference in Saskatoon by not attending the opening meeting with some of Canada’s aboriginal leaders on a reserve just outside of town. (God forbid that he ever learn anything or to even respect others.)

What was different at the actual conference was the unanimity of the premiers demanding that more be done to combat Buy America policies in the U.S. that run counter to the new North American trade agreement, that might or might not be approved by Congress in the next year.

There were also the usual promises to do something about trade barriers between provinces that business people have been struggling with for many years. It was just another chance for Ford to do some sloganeering about Ontario being open for business. They knew that.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

Be kind to your local NDP.

Saturday, July 13th, 2019

No doubt we all know a few new democratic party stalwarts. They are neither as numerous nor as annoying as they once were but they all need a hug these days. They are angry, bewildered, concerned, depressed, you name it. They are not their formerly misguided but cheerful selves. They have fallen on hard times.

One of my frequent flyers (readers), an Ontario NDP, through and through, recently sent me a rather pointed comment on one of my postings. He headlined his e-mail: “You Fucking Idiot.”

He obviously felt strongly on the subject.

What the Dipper was complaining about was my calling the agreement between unpaid consultant Ed Clark and Brewers’ Warehousing a specious matter. “Specious” in this instance was used to indicate the document was plausible but would be a useless piece of paper if signed just by Mr. Clark. It is like a ‘ghost’ document. “Ghost” in this context being something people talk about but nobody has ever seen.

The problem I have with this supposed agreement is that it also committed Brewers’ Warehousing to a budget of $100 million per year to expand, improve and maintain their sales premises. Looking at the Beer Store’s latest audited statement (2014), you are a bit confused about their saying they kept their end of the deal.

The first problem is that in an industry that grosses about $4 billion per year in Ontario, the Beer Store only shows us cost recovery. With 450 stores in Ontario, you would expect the beer retailer to be adding new stores and shipping locations and maintaining the older locations. It is hard to believe that the Beer Store could do that for less than $100 million per year.

Our friendly NDPer is giving us the union B.S. that by weakening the Beer Stores’ monopoly further, we would be jeopardizing 7000 well paying jobs. It would make sense to pull all the part-time jobs from that figure before saying they are well paid.

But if the Beer Store does the distribution to the convenience stores, they could create even more jobs. Who is lying to whom here?

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

Do-Gooders be Damned.

Wednesday, July 10th, 2019

Why do these do-gooders settle for half measures? If the medical officer of health for Toronto has decided that booze is bad for you, why is she allowing any sales to the unsuspecting public? If booze is bad for us, why doesn’t she have it banned?

It just seems silly that, if we are pickling our livers with demon rum, her job is to save us from ourselves. ‘Ban the booze’ should be her answer. They made the point with cigarettes. It is only a small percentage of the population that are still bent on killing themselves with smoking. We all seem to know that smokers are a dying breed.

Are we citizens who like a cold, frosty beer on a hot summer day next? Or are we to be done in by stealth by an excellent cabernet sauvignon? Or is that after-dinner brandy, to be our nemesis?

It seems unfair that the delightful margherita is no more than an adult slushie in disguise. In my misspent youth in Alberta, I took my beer with tomato juice and I credited it for my excellent health. I guess I was deluding myself.

But this discussion started when Toronto’s medical officer of health objected to the sale of beer and wine at convenience stores. God forbid that we should make the purchase of a six-pack more difficult than a healthy walk to the corner store. What the hell is her problem? Does she think it is alright to send your chauffeur to one of those smelly recycling places to get you a two-four?

Let’s face facts. In Ontario, it is tough enough to find anything that the Ford government does, to be responsible, or smart, or responsive. If just occasionally, they do something that should have been done many years ago, such as putting beer in convenience stores, give the idiots a break. Pat your conservative MPP on the head and tell him or her that they done good. It happens rarely, they will appreciate the gesture.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

Making millions on our eyes.

Sunday, July 7th, 2019

The Toronto Star is doing a tease on the billings of Ontario doctors. Like a dancer, they keep revealing more. After years of secrecy, they have finally broken the seal on the billings of the Ontario Medical Association members. The exposé the other day was on those elite ophthalmologists who bill more than $3 million per year.

We realize, of course, that billings are not earnings. Ophthalmologists have very expensive equipment, staff salaries and office overhead before they make anything. And it is the province’s bill-for-service arrangement that is causing the huge jumps in earnings. The province is not keeping up with the advances in technology.

And for every opportunity that comes along there are the unscrupulous who will take advantage of it. Allow me to tell you of my experience with cataracts early this year.

Rather than have the wife drive me to and from Toronto and getting the procedures done more promptly, I opted to have the job done in Barrie. I still regret the experience.

In a city and market area of several hundred thousand souls we have just two ophthalmologists who seem to have a lock on eye surgery at Barrie’s Royal Victoria Hospital. When you are sent by one of the town’s optometrists to one of these specialists, you join a parade. It took a year to join what I thought of as my chain gang. I was part of a group of 14 Ontario Hospital Insurance Program payees who lined up one cold January day to have a new lens in our left eye.

And that was all that we seemed to be told. I guess they did not want to do a wrong eye. We constantly reaffirmed that we were all having the left eye fixed.

The eye surgeon, whom you only saw briefly, never endeared himself. He tended to shout at you to open your eye(s) and stop moving. You felt that you needed to ask permission before asking a question. He never did tell us what to expect or what he was doing.

Rather than more lessons on the technology, this guy needs lessons on humanitarianism and patient relations. His main interest seemed to be selling more add-ons and prescribing non-Ontario Drug Plan eye drops. (Some patients, who buy into these ‘better’ lens and other add-ons, spend as much as $4000 over and above what the doctor bills OHIP.)

When venting about this to a medical professional who knows Barrie, I called the ophthalmologist our million-dollar man. He corrected me and told me it was over two million.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

In the confessional of Québec.

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2019

When Alfred Hitchcock directed his 1953 film I Confess in Québec City, he had problems getting cooperation from the Archdiocese of Québec, until he had the ending of the movie rewritten. The church officials did not want it to end with the hanging of a priest. Hitchcock’s rewrite spoiled the movie. And the performance he got from method actor Montgomery Clift did not win him many kudos.

What was fascinating about the movie was Hitchcock’s trademark use of the historic narrow streets of Lower Town to build suspense. It was almost a dance as you saw people walking on those cobblestones. Also, what you saw was the end of an era. Many of the extras filmed by Hitchcock were wearing ecclesiastical garments.

It took until 1960 for the start of Québec’s Quiet Revolution. Maurice Duplessis and his Union National had played out a rearguard action in support of the Catholic hierarchy and the Jean Lesage liberals brought in the revolution. It spelled the end of the power of the Roman church in the province but not the bigotry it had built up over many years. The Anglos were still the bad guys, even though the church was the past. And the nastiness to Jews and ‘Others’ continued. If it were not for the youth of the province and their forcing more openness, the province would be a moribund backwater on the North American scene.

Over the years, I have come to think of Québec politically as four distinct regions. The fastest growing and most progressive is Montreal/ Laval. That is the future of Québec. The past is represented by the Québec City region, but let me tell you, it has wonderful restaurants and a great night-life. I do not know Chicoutimi, Jonquiére and Trois Riviére as well but I think of that region as the real Québec. The fourth area is the Outaouais (and I always load my car trunk with inexpensive French wines when visiting Gatineau). The Outaouais enjoys the reality of being part of Canada and the federal government jobs. The region has done very well by it.

But the most serious myopia in Québec is in the National Assembly in Québec City. The assembly, under François Legault’s right-wing CAQ, forced through their bigoted Bill 21, forbidding religious symbolism in dress for many people in positions of authority, just before they shut down for the summer. They are thumbing their noses at Quebecer Justin Trudeau and his liberals in Ottawa, defying them to overrule the crude gesture so close on an election.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

The Star soldiers on with Regg Cohn.

Friday, June 28th, 2019

The Toronto Star must have made its provincial affairs writer Martin Regg Cohn point man for the newspaper’s war against demon rum. Ontario used to have the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union to fight the good fight but the WCTU of today lacks the funds and caring. And, frankly, the Star might have taken its current position because Ontario premier Doug Ford is on the other side.

There seems to be a consensus today that premier Ford is the guy to boo. Regg Cohn must have searched long and hard to find the purported Ford Nation supporter, he told us about the other day. This guy, who thinks Doug’s late crack-cocaine smoking brother Rob was “Friggin’ great,” is supposedly from Barrie. His ride is supposed to be a Yamaha motor bike. This guy, who sounds as though he could not count to a dozen with his shoes on, says he sent an e-mail to Doug Ford asking him not to spend money on breaking a contract with the big Ontario brewers.

Regg Cohn seems to think this guy is so dumb, he would worry about the Ontario government having to pay money to foreign-owned brewers to let convenience stores sell beer. It makes you wonder who is the dumber? Does nobody understand what the three large brewers would be risking in suing the Ontario government? This is about a four billion-dollar beer market and I have no idea what the recycling nets the Beer Store but that might not be peanuts either.

All that needs to happen is for someone (hopefully not the premier) to sit down with the beer barons and have a pleasant chat about what is needed to add convenience stores to their distribution system. This is a business proposition. Brewers’ Warehousing is going to need some new facilities and more trucks and drivers. There is no need for price fixing nor a lot of needless regulations. Beer is a commodity as are the potato chips those convenience stores sell. In fact, when selling beer, they will probably sell more potato chips.

The point is that no jobs are in jeopardy. The big breweries and the craft beer people are all going to make a little more money. Convenience stores will be a little more respectable. Everybody will be happy—well, maybe not the Toronto Star!

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

Keep your enemies close.

Sunday, June 23rd, 2019

Ontario premier Doug Ford has found out that shuffling cabinet members is more difficult than the original creation of the cabinet. He not only has to deal with broken promises and damaged egos but he has to evaluate the anger generated by demotion and the ability of those wounded to get even. It is even more of a problem when the major change really needs to be made at the head of the cabinet table.

This is a game that the Fordster cannot win. For every problem solved, two or three are created. Dumping North Bay’s Vic Fedelli as minister of finance was something akin to pissing off a python. The best-dressed guy in Northern Ontario might have a vicious streak. (Just ask former conservative leader Patrick Brown.)

It is really a question as to who makes the first move to get even. One of the two Lisa’s might be the more dangerous. Lisa MacLeod could be angry as Ford punted her from social services to tourism and sport.

But then, Lisa Thompson was all set to go to war with the teachers’ unions when she was yanked from education and dumped into government and consumer services. It is likely it will take her a while to understand the differences between the two ministries.

But speaking of being sidelined, what do you think of what Doug did to Brian Mulroney’s kid? He took an axe to her dreams of fame and fortune in Canadian politics, in daddy’s footsteps. Mind you, Ford replaced her with a ward healer from Orillia who had been airlifted into Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte by the Ford brain-trust in the election last year. Neither of those failures to launch is ready for the heavy duty of being chief law officer for the Ontario government. Now who is going to keep our Dougie out of the courts of justice?

With seven new faces in the cabinet, Mr. Ford hardly wanted any of the ministers he dumped, turned loose to do him harm. It is getting a bit crowded around the cabinet table.

And we should mention Rod Phillips, Ontario’s new finance minister. Maybe minister Phillips will bring some of his magic from when he was head of Ontario Lottery and Gaming to the job. I have always thought of him as Paul Godfrey’s errand boy. My, they grow up so fast!

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

The bothersome business of booze.

Wednesday, June 19th, 2019

Assumptions, B.S., chicanery, deceit, the evils of demon rum and beer’s contribution to flatulence are all mixed in to the current dialogue on who can sell booze in Ontario. And politics is somewhere down the list. It is definitely not an issue that drills down party lines.

The attempted modernizing of booze sales, by gradually adding large grocery stores by the Wynne government, was an embarrassment. It made the liberals look like fools and the opposition look like blue stockings. They took two steps forward and three steps back. It was a dance that took them out the back door of the legislature.

Now, with conservative Doug Ford in the driver’s seat, we have no idea where this bus is headed. We are all being made to look stupid. Are the people who manage how we sell booze supposed to be incompetents?

Ontario started out almost 100 years ago with solutions on selling booze that were designed to appease the then powerful Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. To nobody’s surprise, the arrangement streamed unconscionable profits to the bottlers and the government. Drinkers of alcoholic beverages can soon mark 100 years of being screwed by all Ontario governments of all postures and philosophies.

The only thing we have proved is that taxes are far more addictive for politicians than any booze they might consume. And what right has any government to guarantee a continued monopoly on beer distribution to foreign-owned breweries?

For many years, this writer has been complaining about the disgraceful condition of many of the Beer Stores in this province. This company has a lock on whatever it seems to think recycling means. When, someday, the public gets a proper accounting of the process to which we have to contribute, I am sure we will find some outrageous profits involved.

What I am sure of is that there will be no silly lawsuit by the brewers against the province for any billion dollars. As soon as the judge asks for proof of harm, the jig would be up. Neither the province nor the brewers want the real figures exposed.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

Ontario NDP: “We the Green”?

Monday, June 17th, 2019

Ontario’s lacklustre new democratic party partied in Hamilton last weekend. While most of the province was celebrating the Raptors winning the championship title of America’s National Basketball Association, Ontario’s NDP was celebrating being the official opposition in Ontario. They were also reviewing their leadership and asking where their party was headed.

Since nobody else seemed to want the job, they voted to keep Andrea Horwath on as leader. Only about 15 per cent of those voting thought she should be tossed. She has now held the job of leader of the Ontario NDP since 2009. Her only accomplishment was to be there when Kathleen Wynne tried to take the entire liberal caucus out of politics with her last June. They kept Horwath on despite her weak performance in the legislature as leader of the opposition. There certainly has been ample cause to attack the Ford government’s many errors in judgement, its careless approach to tightening Ontario’s purse strings and its destructive approach to the environment.

Where the Ontario opposition has been missing from action has been in raising awareness in the province about the lack of environmental concern by this government and its fighting with the federal government over environmental issues. The Ford government is even spending taxpayers’ money on false advertising about the federal government carbon tax, when it has no real plan of its own.

And speaking of false advertising, the Ford government has actually printed stickers for gas station pumps complaining about the federal 4.4 cent per litre carbon tax when the basic Ontario tax (before GST) is 29.1 cents per litre.

Ontario’s Green party leader was cheerful about the NDP using the Green party name for their environmental plans. The 28-page booklet released has neither costing nor much in the way of specifics but Mike Schreiner the sole Green party MPP in Ontario gave the ‘green light’ to the NDP wanting to discuss the environment He sees it as a positive that more parties want to address the environmental issues.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

“Once more unto the breach, dear friends…”

Sunday, June 16th, 2019

And once more Ontario liberals found that they were not masters of their own destiny. Ontario liberalism is a fiefdom and the serfs were told once more last weekend what will be. Whatever you might wish to call it, it is not democratic. It is not run by or for the people.

The call for a one-member-one-vote leadership convention by these provincial liberals drew 57 per cent support and so was denied as it did not have a super-majority of 66 per cent. The hands of past manipulators denied freedom to the present.

The federal liberal party had broken down the old feudal system of ministers being in charge of their fiefs in the 1960s under Lester Pearson. It was why the Ontario provincial party broke away—to return to the old ways with a party run from the board rooms of the larger law firms.

It worked well enough, producing the subsequent governments of Dalton McGuinty and then Kathleen Wynne. Whether they were particularly liberal was always a question.

But now the challenge is to find a progressive liberal who can capture the imagination of the liberal party and then the voters. Whomever the new party leader will be, he or she will need to overcome the conservatism of the rulers of the provincial liberal fiefs.

I think the smartest candidate for leader of the party, so far, has been Michael Coteau, MPP for Don Valley East. He worked hard to get the change to one-member-one-vote while I understand another possible candidate, Steven Del Duca, kept out of the discussion and did not even vote. That tells us volumes about Del Duca.

What I admire most about Michael Coteau’s campaign is that it is built on what he has been hearing from liberal party members across Ontario. I find it is a bit of a novelty to find someone who really wants to listen. The campaign will not get intense until January next year when the delegated convention is slated for March 7.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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