Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Are some more indigenous than others?

Friday, June 1st, 2018

Either we are all ‘from here’ or none of us are. If academics and government can refer to our first nations as indigenous then they must have changed the meaning of the word. Does the Oxford dictionary get a vote in this? The word experts still think the word ‘indigenous’ means ‘from here.’ And why are all these supposedly learned and authoritative people using the word ‘indigenous’ improperly? Canada’s first nations peoples are not indigenous.

And why are we choosing to stigmatize Canadians who also happen to have ancestors from among our first nations? Their ancestors came by land bridge or by sea many thousands of years ago. In Ontario, the aboriginal peoples tended to be nomadic. They lived off the land, picking seasonal fruits, trapping animals and birds and fishing the fresh waters. There were few, if any, ancestral lands but the ones we knew could be honoured.

And yet Canadians have vague knowledge of those early citizens of the land. Theirs was an oral history, passed down through generations. Little is preserved of the past.

Does being connected to Canada’s distant past bring shame? Is there some special honour imparted to those whose ancestors came 200 or 300 years ago?

What is going on? Are we honouring ignorance?

And we should stop mindlessly vilifying those who tried to help our aboriginals by showing them the path of the ‘white man.’ The residential schools were crude, terrorizing and unforgiving but what else would you expect of the times? How were people living in our cities back then?

The truth is today that there is no possibility to maintain a sustainable lifestyle for a hunter-gatherer culture in North America. We need to respect and honour the past and the customs we share. Reality is that our climate is changing and if it was thousands of years ago, we human types would finally uproot and move with it.

And what are we doing in those remote communities where only government handouts can sustain life? Why should we condemn people to live in such desolation and distress?

Humans have to continue to evolve. Change is the constant. We leave the past behind. We leave the old and embrace the new. We learn. The evidence of change might be generational but it does happen.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

 

In defence of local media.

Friday, May 18th, 2018

It came as a surprise the other evening to learn that for the past two years, NDP activist Gerry Caplan has also been a resident of Barrie, Ontario. He had been invited to participate on a panel of mourners for the late, and frankly unlamented, Barrie Examiner newspaper. By the time Torstar wrote fini on the Examiner saga, it had been through more hands than a Dunlop Street hooker on a busy night.

I congratulated Dr. Caplan later for bringing a bit of humour to the discussion. I was less than pleased with the performance of the moderator Robyn Doolittle, a working journalist from the Toronto Globe and Mail. She offered clear evidence that she had no idea of what a community might be or how you hold it together.

The other two panelists were walking wounded from the demise of the late community newspapers in Barrie and Orillia. One was the former editor from the venerable Orillia Packet and Times and is obviously struggling with his new career as a reporter for an Internet-only newspaper.

As a one-time managing editor, I could have easily told them the realities of Torstar killing the Examiner and keeping its weekly grocery flyer wrap called the Barrie Advance. The editorial content of the Advance is only there as a form of bilge balancing but it is the only print media in a city of over 140,000.

Regrettably Barrie is not a community in itself. As a Barrie matron explained to us when we came here, you have to have three generations in a local cemetery before you can say you are from Barrie. It is a city of 30,000 with 110,000 interlopers who just live here. It is the fastest growing city in Canada. City council tries to please the 30,000 real Barriites and ignores the rest of us.

I tend to look at Barrie as a challenge in communication. As a former political activist, I look at the problem of reaching people in two electoral districts that split the city in half and add rigidly conservative rural areas to each half. The federal conservatives gerrymandered it that way to keep the area voting conservative. The local liberals had no clue they were being shafted.

While I found the panel discussion interesting, the lack of understanding of how to pull the community together was the panel’s problem. Nothing accomplished; we went home.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

The price of success for Netflix.

Saturday, April 21st, 2018

As Netflix keeps adding to millions of subscribers, so do the costs to customers. There is no free lunch and what started as the poor man’s alternative to network programming has become a ravenous giant in the network TV class.

And giants are noticed. How long will it be before the taxman comes calling? Netflix has had a free ride in Canada for far too long. We all share the wealth in this country.

But there never was that much of a saving with Netflix anyway. How much is that box that makes Netflix work? Alternatively, you might want to spend thousands on a smart TV. Mind you, you should never buy a toy smarter than yourself. You end up with the neighbour’s 12-year old showing you how to make the thing work.

And the monthly expense for Netflix includes your Internet connection.

In Canada, with our cabal-controlled Internet pricing, you might be looking at more than $60 per month to have sufficient bandwidth for decent streaming video. And they will charge you more if you are binge-watching.

And just watch as this upstart Netflix takes on the TV networks with original programming. How did you like the Netflix effort with the series Crown? Oh, not a royalist are you? Our French speaking friends gave very short comment on the Marseilles miniseries. Maybe it will do better dubbed in English?

Netflix needs to face the facts that the TV networks have had far more years of making programming mistakes. And where is Netflix going to get some sports? Pre-recorded Tiddley-Winks tournaments, simply will not cut it.

From the Olympics down to neighbourhood street hockey, Canadians love their sports. It is the sponsors and the advertisers who bring us into the world of professional hockey, golf, baseball, football and Netflix has yet to compete in that area.

And what about news? Your television is irreplaceably a source of news that allows you to quickly check the different network treatments of the news and to verify its authenticity. The day is long gone that the family could gather around the radio to learn of important events.

The stock experts have been raving lately about how Netflix is growing. They should always remember how it is easy to blow up a balloon and how fast it can deflate.

And, it is much easier to live without Netflix than to live without live television network news.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

 

Premier Wynne’s nemesis.

Saturday, April 7th, 2018

If Premier Wynne really wants to keep her job in Ontario, I would suggest that she should make amends by first firing Ed Clark as chair of the Liquor Control Board and of the Ontario Cannabis stores. Even at the price of one dollar per year, he is not worth it. She has given a guy with absolutely no political smarts the ammunition to destroy her.

This is not a question of loyalty. Bad advice and bad advice followed are the problems. Ed Clark has absolutely no political smarts and would ask his doctor if there is a pill for it, if he did. Ed Clark is a banker. Bankers are the people who want you to borrow money, when you do not need it, and demand you pay it back when you lack the funds. They give you a nice shiny new credit card but cluck their tongue when you over use it, in their estimation.

Bankers are never your friend. To suggest that Clark’s experience running TD Bank was a consumer success is to suggest that he failed as a banker. If bankers were honest with you, they would admit that they do not like dealing with the hoi polio. Consumers with their grubby little deposits are not the stuff of bankers’ dreams.

You need to remember that the one blunder that really caused Premier Wynne to fall off her high horse was following Ed Clark’s advice to sell off Hydro One. That was the turning point. Against all political instincts, she started to sell Hydro One without realizing that the voters did not even know what she was attempting to sell. Given the history of Ontario Hydro, it goes down in political history books as a really dumb move.

Somebody should have told Wynne that Hydro One—the transmission network—was hived off from Ontario Hydro 15 years earlier by the Harris government with the intent to sell it. Everybody thought Kathleen Wynne was smarter than Mike Harris. Even he was convinced not to do it.

The other suggestion that Ed Clark made to the Wynne government was that they start selling beer and wine through the grocery stores. That is probably the worst implementation of a government program we have ever seen. The grocery stores do not make money on it. The rules are inconsiderate of the grocers. And they want the same guy to sell marijuana in Ontario?

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

A different kind of baseball.

Friday, April 6th, 2018

It was as much as a surprise to me at the time as it was to those who know me. I fell in love with the Toronto Blue Jays. From opening day of the new SkyDome in Toronto in 1989, they were my Blue Jays. I think I have seen games from all five levels of the stadium, the restaurant and from different boxes and bars. I was there for both back-to-back World Series wins in the 90s. I am Canadian and hockey still gets me going, but to me, baseball is the beautiful game.

But I have never been back since the Rogers people took over the team and so crudely renamed that unique stadium. I even refuse to pay the price for the specialty channels on my Bell Canada-supplied television service to watch the Blue Jays in action.

Did you hear lately that those leeches at Rogers are getting the Blue Jays to take a kickback from the ticket scalpers. That is a new low even for Rogers.

When I moved six years ago, I checked ahead at the new building and found that Rogers had a lock on the cable services. When I asked the Rogers’ call centre for a quote on home telephone, Internet and television service, I was quoted a price of just under $200 a month before taxes. When I asked why the price was so high, the call centre guy said it was because Rogers believed there was no alternative. What they did not know was that Bell was to announce Fibe service in the area the following week. While Bell Fibe has interesting weaknesses, it is still cheaper than the same service from Rogers.

The last time I appeared before the Canadian Radio-Television Telecommunications Commission, it was to oppose the acquisition of CTV Television and its subsidiaries by Bell Canada. The intercession was futile but the objections I gave the commission have come true. The sorry state of CTV today is because Bell has no idea how to run an operation that relies on the goodwill of its viewers. In its 135-plus years, Bell never has never learned to respect its customers or its employees.

Like the evil brother, Rogers tries to outdo Bell. It has locked-in both baseball and hockey in Canada and as the CBC’ contracts expire, we will see the squeeze play on hockey. Sports bars with their multiple screens will replace the home viewing of the popular sports as fewer and fewer of us will be able to afford the Rogers surcharges.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Joining the #IMBUSYTOO movement.

Wednesday, February 14th, 2018

What can be more appropriate for Saint Valentine’s Day than to recognize true love. And even if it is not true, it is what passes for true love over in Ole Blighty! It is the upcoming nuptials of Prince Harry and his American bride Megan. Have you got your invitation yet?

It must have been U.S. President Donald Trump who started the #IMBUSYTOO trend on Twitter. He was miffed when he heard that Barack Obama was getting an invitation and he was not. He warded off embarrassment by sending out a twit saying that he was too busy to attend that day. He had no idea what day it was but he knew he would be too busy.

Donald Trump’s idea caught on. Self-important Washington politicians quickly joined in and twitted their regrets. They know that you can never trust the U.S. Mail to get you something on time from a foreign address such as Buckingham Palace.

But the wife is threatening to start a #IMNOTBUSY movement in retaliation. And if her invite does arrive, she tells me she will find a new plus-one to take with her.

Luckily, I expect that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will be invited to represent all us Canadians. He at least knows which fork to use in what soup course when dining with the Brit royals. And he might even take wife Sophie—what mother does not want to check out current wedding ideas for that time she might be mother-of-the-bride.

The prime minister might as well get his fill of all this silliness of having royalty for Canada while he can. They are kind of cute. They are like the pandas that are about to leave the Toronto Zoo. We were watching a news clip of one of the little buggers playing in the snow the other day and the wife said she was glad we went down to the city to see them. She knows I would not cross the street to see the Brit royals. That is despite that Brit royals likely bath more often than pandas.

But I might send an idea for a new money maker to our lottery people. We could have a huge pool on how long we expect Harry’s Megan to put up with all that being royal crap. I expect the old Queen has insisted on an iron-clad pre-nuptial agreement. (She is not about to share the crown jewels.) My guess is that this wedding for Megan will be good for about three years.

Have a great Valentine’s Day!

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

In search of truth.

Monday, February 12th, 2018

There was an article in The Economist recently that discussed “Truth Decay.” It is an amusing headline for an awful truth. People have lost their confidence in the news media. It is not just in North America, it is everywhere. What we are reading the most today is opinion—and there is a plethora of opinions and not enough good reporters.

We are well past the point of confluence where the streams of journalism, print and broadcast news media and the digital world were joined. Print and broadcast have struggled and consolidated to remain profitable and are still in business to joust with the digital. And, at the same time, the digital outlets have presented us with a confused and untrustworthy environment for news in these transitioning times.

One of the serious failures in this digital era is Facebook. This is a highly intrusive social media outlet that also supplies a news feed feature for millions of followers. It takes its news feeds from anywhere, without care, without human thought. What it lacks is the trust that we had in the older media. Facebook’s algorithms do not have the insight to separate the burgeoning dross from the news that might be truth. It is not edited, as material is selected as trending by algorithm, based on your previous reading. This can lead the ignorant down the garden path

You can also be assured that there is nothing new or news about Twitter. Social media is a container to trap a vapid consumer society. The social media follower is sheep to be shorn—drones, in need of getting a life.

And it is not that bloggers are safe from critique. They often seem to be egos, seeking to be free. There are many who still need to learn to write. We all need editors. We need to define ourselves better.

When starting Babel-on-the-Bay.com ten years ago, the idea was to provide a depository for some written output. Frankly, I have been amazed at the thousands of people every year from around the world who read our archived material on voting systems.

It was only when I realized how many people were also interested in our experience and comments on politics that I made Babel-on-the-Bay.com a daily item. It is drawn from today’s news headlines but it is just one politico’s take on recent political events.

It is my hobby. It gets me up early each day. It is fun. No matter how roundly I might castigate some poor politician, please remember that I am having fun doing it. And no matter how thorough my research, I am as prone to error as any writer. I always welcome your comments.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Welcome to our Gripes of Wrath.

Saturday, January 13th, 2018

It makes sense to save up our complaints and just share them periodically. There is no need to write too much about them. We should see if we can give them the quick shot in the head they deserve.

It is like that guy Desmond Cole who is playing coy about running for mayor in Toronto. And you thought the late Rob Ford was a problem?

It is highly unlikely that anyone in the offing is a challenge for incumbent Toronto Mayor John Tory. The problem with John is that I imagine all Toronto’s streets converted to a version of his silly King Street solution. Why are the burghers of Toronto allowing this business-destroying foolishness?

Did you hear that Peel Region really appreciates its School Resource Officer (SRO) program? So why did Toronto cancel its program of police involvement in schools before the results of the Toronto study were known? If a minority of students felt threatened by the program, it might pay to find out why.

And speaking of civic stupidity. Did you hear that a Kingston, Ontario pub has changed its name from “Sir John’s.” It seems that some local First Nations dilettantes feel that Sir John A. Macdonald did not respect our First Nations peoples. And in Sir John’s time, few did! What Sir John had was an idea called Canada. And I will raise a glass in his pub to that anytime!

While always admiring Toronto Star columnist Bob Hepburn’s political insight, I think he is losing it. He wrote the other day that Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne is going to lose the June election because she is a woman. First of all, he knows full well that it is far too early to say which party might win. And to say her party will lose because she is a woman is sexist and silly. Wynne is a lesbian and she is proud of it. If Patrick Brown makes the mistake of trying to debate directly with her, he will get lessons in politics he never expected.

And have we all heard enough about the Trudeau family vacation with the Iman of the world’s 25 million Ismaili Shiite Muslims? The prime minister probably should not have to resign over this incident of bad judgement. He will probably make more errors in judgement and we can weigh them all at the next federal election.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

What Santa left under the tree.

Monday, December 25th, 2017

Whether you believe in Santa Claus or not, the Province of Ontario and the rest of Canada have been treated pretty well by the cheery old elf. Before we dig into a sumptuous Christmas dinner later on today, we will raise a glass to our bounty and the quality of life in this country.

We Canadians live in a land rich in treasures. Our forests provide our shelters. Our mines produce the metals in those shelters. Our electrical resources power our factories and light our cities. Our farms cannot naturally grow bananas but they can grow wheat and other grains to help feed the world. We can grow what we need for a healthy diet and trade with the world for the exotic foods to intrigue our taste buds. Our quality beef, pork and poultry products are regular fare in many countries.

Canada has always grown to meet our needs. We build so that we can accommodate peoples from other lands. We want them. We want their energy, creativity, ambition and toil. They can help us build. We have become a successful multi-cultural country. We have built it with our resources, we have built it with our democracy and we have built it with the promise of a shared future.

Here in Ontario, as we have in other provinces, we have built a superb education system that is open to all. The technologies learned are becoming a larger and larger share of our country’s gross domestic product. Our advances in health care are noted worldwide.

Nobody claims Canada is perfect. We only know that we have a basic formula under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and we have to keep improving it. We want our recent immigrants from Syria, for example, to write home and tell their friends that Muslims can live in peace with Jews and Christians and agnostics in a permissive, yet respectful, society. Just think of what that idea could produce across the Middle East.

Maybe we know something about democracy that even Americans have failed to discover. Democracy serves people first, not the politicians. And caring comes before ideology. We also know that protecting our environment is a shared responsibility. We take this beautiful land from our forebears and we owe it to future generations.

I do hope you also raise your glass later today to recognize your province and your country at this family time of year. It is a wonderful land in which we live. Take a moment to give your thanks, in your own way.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Dealing with diversity.

Tuesday, December 12th, 2017

We often note that Canada’s greatest strength today is its diversity. It is even emphasized as we compare it to the weaknesses in other countries as they succumb to the anger of bigotry. Travelling in England, France and the United States, it is easy to see where an inability to live together in harmony can drive the frustrations and conflict. Maybe Canadians have made better use of the opportunities diversity offers.

I remember when mother first took my younger brother and I to a Hindu household for dinner. We children were included because our hostess (who worked with mother) had children close to the same age. The East Indian kids were wide-eyed so my brother and I tried to act nonchalant. Luckily the Hindu food was less spicy for the children’s benefit and while we needed the explanations for the various dishes, we found them interesting. What disappointed my brother and I toward the end of the dinner was her ’piece de resistance’ in honour of their Canadian guests, an apple pie. It was a disappointment.

But it was the first of many such experiences as we moved about and grew in Toronto’s increasingly multi-cultural environment. Years later when I took over the Liberal Party’s Toronto and Ontario communications roles, ethnic news media were not all that unfamiliar or challenging. As the Conservatives and the New Democrats were later to learn, these media were key to many of the ethnic groups who were joining the Canadian mosaic.

Not all ethnic groups are print oriented though and with more than 150 language groups in Toronto, at that time, the growth of broadcast media in a variety of languages became accepted and created new opportunities. The producers had to recognize that they were transitional as their listeners became more proficient in the local language(s) of their new homeland.

But it is the subsequent generations who identify with their homeland as Canadians that build this country and influence its future. Those of us with English or French roots have to work hard to keep pace.

What we all need to guard against are the self-promoted spokespeople for some of the ethnic groups. There seems to be more than a few of these presumptive people around and we need to be wary of their objectives.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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