Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

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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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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Welcome to our Downton Abbey.

Tuesday, March 24th, 2020

In reliving the period from before the First World War to the mid 1920s, the television series Downton Abbey was often criticized for not being more critical of the pomp and puffery of the British class system, of the time. Instead, the series showed the interdependence of the classes in artificially sustaining the declining class system. I think there is a similar class schism becoming apparent in North American society during the current coronavirus concern.

And yes, there is a class structure in North America of the 21st Century. I am no anthropologist, but a lecture I sat through as a very young person, has stuck with me all my life. The lecturer had colored charts to show the gradual movement of upper-class Torontonians over the years since Confederation. With today’s more ethnically split upper class, there would have to be more colors used in the charts.

But it is the many pockets in the Greater Toronto Area of desperation and impoverishment, that need our attention. And just think of the conditions in the city without those disappearing pockets? How often have you actually looked at that clerk completing your store transaction? That person probably works for our disgusting minimum wage. Do you know who the person is who empties your waste basket at work? When was the last time you really looked at the people doing the menial work that keeps our modern society from drowning in its own waste?

And has it ever been more important to recognize those people cleaning our hospitals and public spaces? We have to start caring. We have to be concerned. We are not all sitting around at home, bored out of our minds. Who is keeping the food stuffs moving? Who is growing the food? Who are the people keeping the lights on? Our phones and Internet working? We have a long way to go before the robots take over.

In the Downton Abbey series, we saw how the people below stairs supported those above, and vice-versa. When later anthropologists speak of our generations’ one per cent, will they be as kind to them?


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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In my humble opinion.

Monday, March 23rd, 2020

What the hell does a commentator comment on when the world’s news media (in English anyway) are totally committed to telling us, ad nauseum, about the world’s trials with a coronavirus and the results of covid-19?   Is there a message of hope among all these horrendous statistics? Like the plagues of the Middle Ages, the pandemic knows no barriers of money, or prayers, or position.

Should we soldier on, giving hope and encouragement to our leaders and the front-line medics who are struggling with the virus? There seems to be no glimmer of light yet at the end of the tunnel. If we think this will end soon, we might have other delusions as well. Check with Mr. Trump in Washington. He even lies to himself.

For myself, I am not making plans for a summer holiday this year. I just might have time in the coming months for some of those thick political biographies that I have always promised myself to read.

And my brothers in the U.S., who are American citizens, had better stay healthy. Not only have our governments closed the border to non-essential travel but I have let my Canadian passport expire.

I am having trouble practicing social distancing in my apartment building. We can call out from doorway to doorway and then we can crowd together into a tiny elevator. We are supposed to go down to the front door for all our deliveries but I have not told our self-appointed people policing this policy that the Toronto Star is delivered to my door every day before 5 am.

I think the real problem of this pandemic is that we are in danger of losing the closeness and the caring of those who live in proximity to us. Being a good neighbour is a precious gift that we share everyday. We cannot let fear drive us apart. Whether on our street, our cities or our countries, we need to continue being a good neighbour.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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We are all responsible.

Thursday, March 19th, 2020

It matters little where you are on the organization’s charts, you will always feel the crushing weight of the whole on your shoulders. There is no release mechanism whether you sit in a lofty corner office, draft memos for the person in the corner office to sign, or toil on the line with the other hourly-rated employees. If you care, you carry a share of the load.

And the type of organization matters little. Make the widgets, feed the multitudes, cure the ills, or make the rules, it is all the same. The walls of the institution can feel like they will come in and crush you.

It is not that we lack defence mechanisms. The boss can have another Scotch at lunch and wonder why the staff are friendlier in the afternoon. The top guy can still play a round of golf instead of going back to the damn grind. And there are more quality rejects on the line from the disgruntled.

But what does it boil down to? It is stated in four simple words. You hear them thousands of times in a lifetime. You hear them from the corridors of power in Ottawa to the Congress in Washington, from the expressway stop in Arizona to the Alaska Highway north of Edmonton. They are simple words: It’s not my problem.

If we never heard those words again, would not life be more fun?

In a career in public relations, I found that few people really understood what you do. It gave me an opportunity to do many things. And one of the things I found was that the fewer times I heard those words, the easier the job turned out to be.

Once when replacing the receiver in a large supermarket, I proved to management that keeping the place clean and neat, greatly reduced the slippage.

When sitting in that top corner office one time, I found that I could ban the words. (Why should I have to hear them?) It was amazing when people knew they had to fix the problem.

It is like this pandemic. You cannot say those words. We all share this problem. We are in it together. It will not defeat us.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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Lessons Alberta is learning.

Thursday, March 12th, 2020

Albertans are disappointed. They cannot blame Ottawa for this one. They cannot win an oil price war with Saudi Arabia. Alberta tar sands bitumen is not even in the running. Alberta has to get off oil fast.

How many times has Alberta heard the clarion call of diversification and ignored it? Now the province has to replace 28 per cent of its gross domestic product. That is a lot of jobs. It is time to become creative.

It is hell to be older. I can remember the time there was a line drawn down the Ottawa River. People west of the river had to buy Alberta gasoline at higher prices. You remember those people, don’t you? Those were the ones that some Alberta wags later suggested should be left to freeze in the dark. Oh, how times change!

I remember when prime minister John Diefenbaker sent 50,000 Canadians searching for a new job in one day. And a lot of those people did really technical work on the Avro Arrow. I bet Bill Morneau will be able to fund job retraining for Alberta oil workers. Just be nice to him for once.

Heh, if the big resource companies are looking for opportunity, Ontario is stepping up to build a road into the Ring of Fire in Northern Ontario. Would chromite mining be much different from mining bitumen? Chromite sure is more valuable.

Of course, that leaves Albertans with the one serious problem. What to do with that Neanderthal premier Jason Kenney. He enjoys his ‘Wicked Witch of the West’ role too much. I expect he is too far gone and is beyond being retrainable. He had the opportunity to return to federal politics and take the conservative federal leadership and he blew it away. And, for the life of me, I cannot think of a suitable job for which we might retrain him.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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Not all pipelines are created equal.

Wednesday, February 19th, 2020

It would appear there are questions about pipelines that are dividing this country. They are dividing people, they are dividing scientists, they are dividing concerned environmentalists. The only problem is that maybe 10 to 15 per cent of the population understand what the argument is about and the other 85 per cent will take a stand anyway.

As a writer I have always taken some pride in my ability to research complex issues. I think I have spent most of the last two days researching Coastal Gaslink’s pipeline proposal and actions on this file and I honestly cannot fault the company. I see that they have done a responsible job in meeting the concerns of the government and of the native peoples whose lands they are crossing.

These Coastal Gaslink people are laying a 48-inch pipeline to transport natural gas within B.C. that is far safer and far more environmentally friendly than the twinning of the Trans Mountain pipeline to pump tar sands bitumen to Vancouver. I, quite honestly, would rather have neither, as I fear the long-term consequences of shale fracking for natural  gas, but, between the two, Trans Mountain is a disaster waiting to happen. A leak from the Trans Mountain pipes can be irreparably destructive; a leak from the Coastal Gaslink pipe dissipates in the wind.

It is important to remember that natural gas does not become LNG until it is cooled to -160° C. That only happens to load it on a specially-built ship.

Yet all the general public hears is that pipelines are safer than trains and/or that pipelines are bad. Most people neither know nor care about what is being shipped in either. Nor are many drivers in Canada and the United States aware that most of the carbon-based fuel for gas or diesel powered vehicles and equipment arrives in their area via a vast network of pipelines.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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Politician or diplomat for Washington?

Thursday, February 6th, 2020

It has always been the argument. Does Canada need a diplomat or a political apparatchik representing us in the American capital? I also expect some humourist to suggest we go back to having the British Embassy in Washington represent us.

Canada was a footnote at the British Embassy in Washington until Vincent Massey presented his credentials to the U.S. State Department in November 1926. Massey was ranked as an envoy. I had fun 25 years ago in my book My American Mother, creating a fictious conversation between, then foreign affaires employee, Lester B. Pearson and my book’s hero. Pearson is telling the fellow foreign affairs employee why Vincent Massey hated Washington in the summer months.

If he were alive today, Massey would be more than pleased with the modern—and fully air-conditioned—Canadian Embassy at 501 Pennsylvania Avenue.

But the argument today is whether we should have a politico or a diplomat, representing us as ambassador. And believe me, we have had the good and the bad of both over the last 90 some years. What makes the argument more fun is appointments such as prime minister Jean Chrétien appointing his nephew Raymond. Chrétien, the foreign affaires employee, was fully qualified for the posting.

And that is saying more than we would for some of the political appointments over the years. Michael Wilson, the conservative finance minister for Brian Mulroney—who ran up some of the biggest deficits for Canadians—should have been sent further away than that by prime minister Stephen Harper.

Many liberals were disappointed when David McNaughton was sent to Washington after his less than stellar job on the 2015 liberal election campaign. Luckily that campaign did not require much effort. That seemed to me to be what he gave it.

The current discussion is whether civil servant and acting ambassador Kirsten Hillman should be named ambassador. She is the one who really provides the expert advice any way.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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Who do you trust?

Tuesday, January 28th, 2020

Trust seems to be on a sliding scale throughout your life. Trust is as simple as giving your baby a small toss and the loving feeling as the child squeals with laughter as you catch and hold the little tyke to you. Trust is family. Trust is in holding the child’s hand as you teach him or her how to safely cross a street. And trust transfers over the years as the young adult steadies the elder as you also journey through life.

Trust is earned. Trust is learned. Trust is what helps sustain us through our years. The retailer wants our trust in the products and services offered. The police, fire and emergency services want our trust should their services be needed. The news media want our trust that their reporting is fair and balanced. Our teachers and educators want our trust of their lessons. Our neighbours want our trust in exchange for theirs. Communities live and thrive in trust.

And yet, how can we trust politicians? Do they all speak the language of ambiguity? Do they speak through a smoke-screen of ‘ifs’? Do they consider their knowledge and logic superior to ours? Do they offer a future or are they locked into the fixed tenets of their ideology?

It would pay us well to consider. Are we seeking Aldous Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’ or are we enjoining other locked-in visions of long-dead philosophers? Since Marx and Engels did not envision a vibrant, educated middle class, who then represent today’s proletariat?

What we have to face today is the growing dissatisfaction with our politicians. The reality is that we need politicians who can prove they have earned our trust. We want to be represented by the person who grew up next door. We want them to be tireless in negotiating a better life for all.

We want to be able to trust them.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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On being royal refugees.

Tuesday, January 14th, 2020

It was hardly just the Downton Abbey dowagers who were clucking over the American divorcée marrying into Brit royalty. Well, their predictions of trouble are in, fast and furious. Harry and Meghan are rebelling against the vacuous life of the royal family. The very good news is that Harry’s gramma reacted as a loving grandmother, not as a queen. Good on her!

The trouble is that those kids have absolutely no idea of the problems such a fall from grace can present. There is far more to the separation of royals and their estates than naming your kid Archie.

And hiding out in a millionaire’s estate on Vancouver Island is far from the fun times in Toronto.

What makes you think you could live in a little two-bedroom apartment in St. James Town and find jobs immediately. At least you speak the local language—sort of. That apartment would fit in a very small corner of your Kensington Palace digs.

Will you get those acting jobs because you are a former duchess? Does it make it easier for you to find baby sitters or daycare for when both you and Harry are working? And, what is Harry good at? If he could learn to drive in the right lane, he could get a job as an Uber driver—no experience required. Hey, McDonald’s is also hiring.

Just wait until the immigration people hear he has only been trained to shoot a machine gun and how to wave to crowds.

It is not likely that Harry would be interested in the types of jobs being offered to former dukes. He does have a pleasant demeanour and does know something about charities. He would likely have some good ideas about planning fêtes.

And would he ever get used to the casual way Canadians would approach him and say “Aren’t you a prince or something?” Nobody is going to pay to keep the riffraff away. And what about the ones too polite to say anything, who just stare?

I think the toughest challenge will be with those Canadians who have no respect for royals and do not believe that your gramma should be Queen of Canada. And then there are those who think the whole idea of royals is a crock. Welcome to Canada.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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