Archive for the ‘Provincial Politics’ Category

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.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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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.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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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.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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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.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Chasing ghosts with Chantal Hébert.

Wednesday, June 14th, 2017

In the pile of books set aside for summer reading was Chantal Hébert and Jean Lapierre’s analysis of The Morning After.  It is supposedly their take on the 1995 Quebec Referendum.  By starting with their book, this might become a long hot summer.

The book had come to the pile as a gift. It had been there for a while. The author(s) had waited almost 20 years to produce the book, so a few years on my must-read-sometime pile would hardly matter.

After reading half and skimming the rest, finishing it is questionable. It is only mildly interesting. It is like reading a review of a Shakespearean play in which you were a spear carrier. You have your own view of the actors and their gaffs.

And, not to speak ill of the dead, I cannot figure out what Jean Lapierre contributed to this book other than his name and access to some other story tellers. If he was the one who got the titular ‘No’ leader, Daniel Johnson, to agree to an interview, he was wasting his time. The only question I ever wanted to hear answered by Johnson was what the hell he was doing in politics? His chapter was a waste of everybody’s time.

And we already knew that then Premier Jacques Parizeau was a mean-spirited, pig-headed, ‘Colonel Blimp’ caricature. He said it all on that final night, slamming ‘money and the ethnic vote.’ We should all be thankful it was his political swan song.

Lucien Bouchard was by far the most convoluted character on the referendum stage. And to think he had been our ambassador to France before joining the Mulroney cabinet. His falling out with Mulroney over the Meech Lake Accord never did make sense. Nobody’s loyalties should teeter on that sharp an edge. And his staged sophistry on separation came across as hollow.

But as much as I have always admired Chantal Hébert’s ease in explaining the Quebec scene, this is not her best effort. Maybe what we really need is writers who can explain Canada to Quebecers. They need to understand the intense love for this entire country that people have whether their family came last year or in the last century. It is not wise to test such love.

And as for Chantal’s book The Morning After. There is a pill for that.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Did he say ‘Premier’ Brown?

Monday, June 12th, 2017

It was the kind of chill that our granny used to say was caused by someone walking on her grave. It is the combination of cold and a sad premonition. It was the feeling left the other day when noting Bob Hepburn’s column in the Toronto Star about getting cosy saying ‘Premier Brown.’

There was a problem reading the article after spewing morning coffee all over that page. Bob Hepburn really knows how to upset a guy. We were both there when Mike Harris tramped to victory in Ontario with his ‘Common Sense Revolution.’ Patrick Brown could be a far more serious problem for Ontario than Mike Harris.

First of all, Patrick Brown is smarter than Harris. He studied Harris closely as president of the Conservative youth wing from 1998 to 2002 and as a vice-president of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party. This is a guy who eats, sleeps and is totally absorbed in politics.

But his weakness is that he has no public persona nor does he have any particular concern for people. That TV commercial that makes an issue of his speech impediment as a child is a thinly disguised attempt to alibi him. After all, if Ontario could elect a lesbian as premier, how far do you have to go to elect a nerd?

But Brown’s problems run deeper than that. His early religious training would have helped prepare him to be a Catholic priest, not a politician. His flip-flops on abortion, same sex marriage and gay rights might have annoyed social conservatives in Ontario but that is the politician speaking. He has never really taken a stand on anything else.

In his time as an MP in Ottawa, Brown never made a contribution. He said what he was told to say. In his riding, he spent inordinate amounts of taxpayers’ money promoting different charities. The gullible among the voters were heard to say, “Isn’t it marvelous what he does for charity?” It was all in aid of keeping his name in front of the voters. The charities could have done better without him.

But the question unanswered in Bob Hepburn’s op-ed piece is about Brown’s relations with women. We know where the Premier stands. Why is it, over years of seeing this guy in action, do we get the impression that he does not like women? They certainly do not seem to take to him.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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The omens are in the ridings Ms. Wynne.

Friday, June 9th, 2017

The true politico pays attention to what is happening in the electoral districts. Those readings mean far more than the public opinion polls that are such a waste of time in the year before the election. If you do not grasp what is happening in the field, you are not even in the race.

The late Keith Davey was the Yoda of all Liberal politicos. His daily routine included calls across Canada. When he called, you quickly briefed him on the ridings you had heard from. You knew the detail he wanted. He kept his daily notes in tiny cramped handwriting on a single sheet of foolscap. Any time the prime minister wanted a party briefing, those were Keith’s notes.

Ontario is now in a one year countdown to an election on June 7, 2018. The heavy action is in the Conservative electoral district associations. Being conservative, they rarely get into fist-fights at their nomination meetings. It is the number of complaints coming into Tory headquarters that indicate the heated contests at nomination meetings. It seems that if the party leader can steal his leadership, why should not aspiring MPPs steal their nomination.

The best example of how the Tory nominations are being conducted have been the claims of ballot-box stuffing in both Ottawa and Hamilton. You should not have to count more ballots than there were distributed to voters. Chicanery, deceit, intimidation and signing up the local cemetery are all practiced ways of ensuring your candidate the nomination.

What the current action tells us is that electoral districts that used to always vote Liberal are now in play. No Liberal seat is safe. And Patrick Brown has got his tame party executive to ignore the shenanigans in the ridings.

But the problem in all of this is that there is no corresponding activity in the Liberal electoral district associations. The quiet there is deafening. The Liberal Party in Ontario has become a top-down organization. The provincial Liberals are never asked about policy directions. They do not expect to choose their own candidates. The party will tell them eventually who will be their sacrificial lamb.

Premier Wynne is running out the clock.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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The poop power in waste water.

Thursday, June 8th, 2017

The one thing for sure is that some reader somewhere is going to give me heck for talking about fecal matter instead of politics. It seems that everyone is expert when it comes to human waste. It was delightful to read though the other day the Ontario’s environmental commissioner wants the politicians to get off their rears and take advantage of the energy producing capabilities of our excrement.

You probably did not know that your daily dump has latent energy. Neither do our politicians. Back a half dozen years, an environmentalist friend and I took the case to our city council here in Barrie. The city was in the process at the time of greatly expanding its waste water plant and we thought it would be smart for the city to use some of the energy it was wasting. We scoped out the potential and we figured that the wasted energy from the expanded plant, along with back-up natural gas, could provide heating and air conditioning to more than a dozen high-rise condominiums in the area.

We were talking of an inexpensive way to turn waste into a multi-million dollar return to the city. If you wonder if it works, you only have to study the Markham District Energy Inc. They are using networked natural gas facilities there to heat and cool a rapidly growing city.

But not Barrie’s politicians. They looked at us as if we had four heads instead of just two. And when I suggested that they should offer apartment building developers along their sewage trunk lines incentives to include kitchen garburators, they thought I was the crazy one. It would be the cheapest way to capture kitchen waste from apartment building and keep it out of landfills. It would also provide a great deal more methane gas.

That is why it is good to see that Dianne Saxe, Ontario’s environmental commissioner is trying to get more politicians in this province aware of the power of poop. The era of waste and dumping everything in landfills is past. We need innovation and we need progressive politicians.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Planes and Trains and…

Wednesday, June 7th, 2017

Flying used to be glamorous. Not any more. It has become a demeaning and uncomfortable experience. Those people in line for security in their smelly stocking feet should bleat like sheep as they are fleeced by money-grubbing airlines. They are shoved into uncomfortable seats only to be abused by airline employees. There is no fun allowed in the air.

But trains are different. There is hope for trains. Trains are for the kinder classes. Trains rarely crash. They have excellent safety records. Nobody seriously tries to hijack a train. Trains have roomy, comfortable seating. You can have a refreshing drink, dine at your leisure, actually see the country-side. Trains can travel very fast and arrive on time.

Except in Canada. Our trains are never on time for passengers because the train people in Canada put freight ahead of passengers. Our travels are interrupted to give us lengthy views of sidings. There are no dedicated rail lines for high-speed passenger service.

If you are old enough to remember the TurboTrain by Canadian National Railways (CNR) that was introduced in 1968, you remember a world-first in high-speed rail. The introduction was of a train capable of winding up its gas turbine engines to a speed of 274 kilometres per hour. The design of the cars allowed the train to lean into curves. The design of the brakes was regrettably for warmer climates. CNR never did solve the problem of the brakes freezing. They also failed to realize that high-speed trains and level crossings are a very bad combination.

As determined as I could be in wanting to use the train, the Turbo never did get me to Montreal or back home at the promised time. Anecdotally, I can still remember the luncheon speech I was scheduled to give in Montreal at a time when Air Canada was not flying. CNR employees promised me the Turbo would be on time. They lied.

But I will not give up hope that eventually we will have high-speed rail service in Canada. And please, for goodness sake, do not let CNR or Ontario Premier Wynne screw it up.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Tory Odd Couple Challenge Wynne.

Monday, June 5th, 2017

A pair of losers could be Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne’s nemesis. Meet ‘The Kid’ and the ‘Big Guy.’ They just got back from the Soo were they took a solid Liberal seat in a bye-election by 40 per cent of the votes. These cowpokes are riding high in the saddle.

But they are an unlikely couple. The Kid looks like a nerd, sounds like a nerd and is a nerd. He is leader of the Ontario Conservatives. He is Patrick Brown from Barrie, Ontario. He is a backroom political manipulator who got carried away with his own ego. He stole his party’s leadership with the age-old trick of signing up ethnics en masse. Nobody called him for cheating. Who knows how many paid their own membership? (And why do you think the federal party changed the rules for its leadership contest and required individual credit card number or personal cheque with each membership?)

The Big Guy is more interesting. He is the late Rob Ford’s older brother. He is what is referred to in show business as a Second Banana. He is the side kick who does not get the girl. He is brunt of the jokes. He always comes second, never first. Doug Ford’s management of the family business must have cost so much that the family want him to run in politics instead. It was his younger brother sweeping into the Toronto mayoralty in 2010 that allowed him to win the council seat Rob vacated. He lost to fellow Conservative John Tory when he tried to replace his brother in the mayoralty race in 2014.

What is amusing about the relationship of Patrick Brown and Doug Ford is that each needs the other. Brown needs the key to Ford Nation—the collection of malcontents across Toronto who bought into the populist promise of Rob Ford to “end the gravy train at Toronto city hall.” To defeat the Wynne Liberals, Brown has to win seats in Toronto. Brown does not understand Toronto and does not appeal to Toronto voters.

Ford, in turn, has to know by now that he cannot count on Ford Nation alone to carry him. He needs the party support that Brown can give him. These guys need each other. They deserve each other.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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