Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Corporations can be citizens.

Thursday, February 21st, 2019

In last Sunday’s Toronto Star there was an interesting juxtaposition of two letters-to-the-editor on the SNC-Lavalin affair. It reminds me of the time I spent over the years lecturing business students at Ontario universities on corporate social responsibility. Despite the assumption by the public that you cannot charge a car for someone’s careless driving, you can certainly charge the manufacturer with liability if the fault is in a manufacturing defect.

Companies are people too, as far as the law is concerned.

And companies can also suffer double jeopardy as they have their own judge and jury when they are found at fault. The company that has just paid a fine or a court ordered recompense, is hardly going to say, “It is just the cost of doing business!” The company’s reputation is an asset and you besmirch it at your peril. I have helped carry boxes of a few careers to the parking lot and have seen how it can be an object lesson for others.

And while baksheesh can be considered a tip, a small gratuity, or a charitable donation in many countries, in large amounts, it is a bribe.

While many think corporations lack a brain, a soul and a moral compass, the truth is they have many. From the night cleaning staff to the chief executive officer, everybody has an investment in their company. And they do not always look favourably on people around them who disrespect the company’s moral compass.

People who invest in shares of companies for their retirement years should always look beyond the public relations department’s hand-outs. How employees think of their company, the rate of turn-over of staff and how their suppliers feel about them tells you far more.

Thinking of another example of corporate social responsibility, I am disappointed that General Motors Corporation has broken faith with William C. Durant’s vision for the company and certainly the deal made with Sam and George McLaughlin when GM bought their company in Oshawa, Ontario and made Buicks and Chevrolets there for the Canadian market. GM gave up more than just market share when it made the decision recently to end a hundred years of Oshawa manufacturing and leave North American production to the U.S. and Mexico. People do not buy your products quite so readily when you disrespect  them.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

The dynamics are different.

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2019

When talking about dynamics in politics, we are talking about what will influence the political outcome. And in looking at the upcoming by-elections in three federal electoral districts on February 25, we have to deal with each district as a separate entity.

Reading the tea leaves for the three by-elections is especially important because these will be the last federal by-elections before the general election scheduled for October, this year.

The complexity starts in Burnaby South. The electoral district in Vancouver, B.C. was previously held by Kennedy Stewart of the NDP. Mr. Stewart resigned to run successfully as an independent candidate for Vancouver mayor. He strongly opposes having the Trans Mountain pipeline expanded and coming through the city to transfer diluted bitumen from the Athabasca and Cold Lake tar sands to ocean tankers in Burrard Inlet.

Despite the resignation of the initial liberal candidate, her replacement is a former Speaker of the B.C. Legislature, also of Chinese heritage. With 38 per cent of the district population of Chinese descent, he has the same base as the previous candidate.

If the NDP’s Jagmeet Singh can get out the word forcefully that he opposes the Trans Mountain, he will likely get a lot of help in getting out his vote. Mind you he will have the prime minister and lots of cabinet ministers in the riding smothering the voters with kindness.

Pipelines are of nowhere near the importance in Montreal’s Outremont electoral district. The NDP consider this riding important in that it was former NDP leader Tom Mulcair’s seat. It is also a must-win seat in October for the liberals if they are to hold their majority in parliament.

The third by-election is in Ontario’s York-Simcoe electoral district. The fiefdom of federal conservative Peter Van Loan for the past 14 years, York-Simcoe was a cake-walk for conservative Caroline Mulroney in the recent provincial election. The conservatives could be too confident.

Like all by-elections, the key in all three districts is identifying your voters and getting them out to vote. To do that in February takes far more volunteers than the areas can produce. They will need help from other electoral districts. In by-elections, it is the party with the best ground game that wins.

If the liberals win none of the by-elections, they are in trouble.

If the liberals win just one of the by-elections, it will mean the October election will be hard fought.

If the liberals win two of the by-elections, it means the status quo in October.

And if the liberals win all three of the by-elections, the Toronto Maple Leaf hockey team is also likely to win the Stanley Cup.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

The Tentacles of Torstar.

Saturday, January 12th, 2019

It is a small hope of mine that Babel-on-the-Bay has some of the same objectives as the Toronto Star. It becomes harder over the years as the Torstar management keep swallowing the smaller fish to keep their big fish afloat. They have done more to deprive Canada of good journalism in recent years than they have encouraged.

Since the Canada Competition Bureau is still reported to be casting a jaundiced eye on the most recent collusion between Torstar and PostMedia to end professional journalism in Canada, I will deal with other bad smells coming from Torstar headquarters at One Yonge Street in Toronto.

Frankly, I have been concerned about the lack of competence Torstar has shown in becoming functional in the electronic world of news reporting. I have been waiting, with increasing impatience, for the wife and I to be able to discuss the day’s news that we can each access at breakfast on our personal table-top tablets. Instead, each version of the Toronto Star electronic newspaper comes out worse and more difficult to navigate than the earlier version and with fewer features.

It is so confused that the other day I received an e-mail from the Star’s programming geniuses. It expressed regret that I had cancelled my subscription to the electronic version and the cancellation would take effect at the end of the month. My opening question to the first person I found in the right department was why would I cancel something that costs me nothing? As a home delivery customer, I have access to the electronic version at no additional charge.

My other recent experience where my curiosity was tweaked was in late December by a news source that I have not been using. It is iPolitics, the Ottawa based electronic news source, concentrating on politics in Canada. One of the iPolitics staff appeared on a Global News panel. She was presentable, spoke well but appeared to have no basis for the opinions she was expressing. It occurred to me that this publication needs some help.

At the time, I was reviewing my ten years of producing a daily posting for Babel-on-the-Bay. My choice is to cut costs somewhere or to find some revenue. Since iPolitics needs help, I sent the publication a quick e-mail politely suggesting we have a chat. I was puzzled when I did not receive any acknowledgement.

All became clear though when I dug deeper and found I had missed the announcement that Torstar had bought iPolitics.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

Saluting Salutin.

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2019

Maybe you have never wasted much time on reading Toronto Star writer Rick Salutin. I have never considered his opinions of importance or particularly well founded. I have had the impression, that the Star editors just keep him on standby to fill empty spaces in the next edition. His recent effort discussing the B.C. referendum on proportional voting is probably a good example.

Here is Salutin, a week after the results were announced, panning the referendum and claiming that B.C. voters rejected a more democratic voting option and stayed instead with what he refers to as the odious first-past-the-post. You have to admit, this guy knows where he stands.

In a country where even six-year olds are encouraged to send a letter to Santa Claus, Salutin thinks using the services of the post office are too much for our young voters. This is why he objects to the mail-in voting used for the referendum. He thinks it was mainly those risk-adverse seniors who turned thumbs down on change.

He uses the example of the Swiss, who hold more referenda than Canadians and use the mails as well. He notes that most Swiss referenda lose, though it is not clear what point he is making. When visiting Switzerland, I have found progressive to be a somewhat rare human condition.

I lost track of where Salutin was going when he started talking Chartism (a mid 19th century human rights movement) and he then got into railing against neoliberalism. He also seemed to be concerned that the referendum was brought on by the sense of entitlement among the Green and NDP parties to gain them a larger representation in a proportionate legislature.

But he does not seem to want them to have expanded representation because they are not left-wing enough for him. Too bad.

And then he goes on to discuss non-parties such as the Yellow Vests in France. I like to think of them as more like the Occupy Movement in North America—but with flame throwers.

Luckily, I read the entire piece by Salutin. He had thrown in an ‘OTOH’ that I did not understand and something similar. At the end, he had an “IMHO’ which I believe means ‘in my humble opinion.’ I can really appreciate that he is humble about it.

But it would help if the Toronto Star gave Mr. Salutin some copy editing assistance.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

Dictators Don’t Debate.

Sunday, December 30th, 2018

A mainstay of our parliamentary democracy in Canada is the tradition of question period. This is when the opposition parties have a chance to tackle the premier or prime minister and the cabinet to ask what is going on. Over the years we have seen premiers and prime ministers who enjoyed talking in this forum, some who hated it but only rarely one who did not show up.

It looks like Doug Ford does not like to debate. He seems to think he is above this approach to democracy. He just does not want to attend. We expect it is all because he does not want to be made to look stupid.

Many thought prime minister Stephen Harper had the best strategy on this because he often sent his parliamentary assistant to Question Period. There was one of these who would stand there and talk endlessly about something else but he had to be replaced when he went to jail for something else. There was another who broke down and cried and said he could not do it anymore. It’s a tough job.

But Dougie is different. He is more like the loquacious con man who is struck dumb when the judge gives him a chance to apologize for his misdeeds. His reasoning must be that if you do not know what to say, why say it?

I think what really annoys Dougie on this is that there would be no questioning of him about getting his friend Ron Taverner appointed head of the Ontario Provincial police, if he had not brought the legislature back into session to send the electrical generation people back to work. Maybe Dougie thinks he should be omnipotent.

Mind you, there are not too many Ontario voters eager to let Dougie have any more power. There is no telling how long that list is that he consults to see how much trouble he should cause each day. He is certainly not finished getting even with his old enemies at Toronto City Hall and cutting them down to size. And he is nowhere close to letting his builder friends pave over the Toronto Greenbelt. Dougie is a man with a plan.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

All we got from Trudeau was a Ho-Ho-Ho.

Friday, December 21st, 2018

How do you like that bunch of ingrates in Alberta? Prime minister Trudeau comes up with a $1.6 billion Christmas present for them and all they do is complain.

Bet you just love the mental picture of premier Rachel Notley sitting on Justin Trudeau’s lap last time she was in Ottawa. She says she was only telling him what she wanted for Christmas.

But now she tells us that Trudeau is deaf and only offered the tar sands exploiters more opportunities to go into debt. He is not getting that girl onto a bicycle built for two. She knows what she wants and if she cannot have her pipeline over the Rockies, she wants more tanker cars to get that damn bitumen to markets that do not care about all the pollution.

There is a lot of speculation that premier Rachel will need a new job next year. It seems obvious now that she will never make it as a lap dancer. Nor will Trudeau make it as a department store Santa.

Maybe we should teach our eastern premiers to whine and carry-on like they do from Alberta. Could you just see Messrs. Ford and Legault carrying on about giving their free enterprise environment destroyers the store? It is bad enough that Dougie wants to sue Justin over some possible carbon tax. It is even worse that our genius premier in Ontario wants to pave over the aquifer that provides drinking water for about five million people in and around the City of Toronto.

What puzzles most easterners is that there are less than five million Albertans. They do not want to pay provincial taxes. They are horrified at the thought of paying more federal taxes. And these are the same people that scream and yell that the rest of Canada has to pay for their damn polluting pipeline. And if they cannot have that pony, they want millions of dollars worth of rail tanker cars.

What puzzles most Canadians is why these huge successful companies who are exploiting the tar sands do not plan ahead? If you are going to have a million barrels of diluted bitumen to export each month, would it not be best to plan ahead and make sure you can deliver it to your customer?

Well, surprise, surprise, reindeer cannot fly either.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Toronto’s Tacky-Town Casino.

Wednesday, December 19th, 2018

Had a weekend of fun with friends in Toronto last weekend. The entertainment was varied, the food ranged from perfectly grilled steaks to the excellent buffet at Woodbine’s Favourites dining room to pizza and beer and just talking. The entertainment ranged from the circus atmosphere of Circ du Soleil to Woodbine’s last thoroughbred racing card of the year to a look at Woodbine’s new casino.

The Woodbine casino was a shock. The operator, Great Canadian Gaming Corporation (GCGC), based in Burnaby, B.C., does not know Toronto and will long regret this cheap, insulting and foolhardy attempt at satisfying Toronto gamblers.

The one thing that occurred to me when Toronto Council went along with the Woodbine location was that it was the late Ken Thompson’s family that controlled Woodbine Entertainment and I hoped some of the class that man showed in life would pass on to his heirs. It did not.

This casino would be an embarrassment in the worst part of Las Vegas. Admittedly, these are temporary quarters under the old grandstand. They are building the new casino as fast as they can.

I hate multi-storied casinos. Like those in Atlantic City and Montreal, they seem tacky from day one. This temporary one is on three floors. In the basement, there are lots and lots of slots—frankly, a good place for them. Those gross table game machines that replace dealers are very much in evidence on floor two. The live table games—blackjack and all the variables were crowded and showed desperation. It was a mixed crowd ethnically but few looked like they could afford to play at a $25 table. They reminded me of the day-trippers who came to Las Vegas from Los Angeles by bus without hotel reservations.

The equipment on the gaming floor was cheap and the dealers looked exhausted but the surprise was to come. I recognized a floor supervisor formerly at Rama Casino and asked about the high rollers space. It turned out to be the third floor. The sign at the door said ‘No Admittance’ but we just said ‘hello’ to the guy at the door and marched in with the supervisor.

Have you ever seen silent discrimination? If there are a dozen or so tables for games preferred by ethnic Chinese and three for $100 blackjack, who do you think the room is for? And there were no craps tables anywhere. We were told that the operator did not like craps. It seems that craps is considered an American—and mainly black—game. If the wife ever meets the GCGC executive who holds those views she might kick him where it really hurts.

By the way, we only saw five players in the third-floor sanctum. One playing blackjack—badly—and the rest playing dollar slots.

Maybe this new Woodbine Casino only wants bad players who do not understand odds.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Bitumen’s Bedfellows.

Friday, December 7th, 2018

Global News and CBC News are both hung up on supporting the politicians and tar sands exploiters who lie to them about tar sands bitumen. The province of Alberta is even running ads on these networks that refer to bitumen as oil. They make false statements about what is being shipped out of the country at discounted prices.

What is ridiculous about the confusion this causes is ‘Chuckles’ Scheer, the conservative leader telling the House of Commons and Canadians that prime minister Justin Trudeau is ‘directly’ responsible for the “cratering” of the price of Western Canadian Select, which is still just bitumen any way you say it. Mr. Scheer blames Mr. Trudeau’s energy policies for the entire mess.

What might be puzzling Canadians amid all this false news and hyperbole is that Mr. Trudeau does not seem to know if he is for the environment or against it? Why, for example, would he buy a pipeline that is about to be expanded to carry bitumen to Burnaby, BC? Why does he not let all those free-enterprise supporters in Alberta solve their own problem.

Did you know, for example, that there is a growing movement in Alberta to process all that bitumen in the province. Nobody would object half as much if all that the pipelines carried was ersatz crude oil.

The only problem with this great idea is that after a few years of all that heavily polluting refining, the environment in Alberta would unlikely be able to support human life.

Despite the polls, that somebody paid for, that say Canadians do not care about the environment, many do.

I know this writer does. Many years ago, when stationed at the air base at Cold Lake in northern Alberta, some of us would go out and rent riding horses from local farmers enabling us to enjoy the beauty of the countryside. It seems very foolish to wantonly destroy that beauty because of greed.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Economists vs Environmentalists.

Tuesday, November 13th, 2018

Welcome to ringside folks. Tonight’s card is a new version of Albert Einstein’s E=MC². Tonight’s main bout is between Canada’s federal liberal economists and its liberal environmentalists.

The prize is prime minister Justin Trudeau’s pipeline. Justin paid $7 billion of our money for that pipeline over the Rockies and for another $6 to $7 billion, he can twin the pipeline, add high pressure pumps and heaters to heat the diluted bitumen to (hopefully) get twice as much of the highly polluting stuff to the ocean-going tankers playing Battleship in Burrard Inlet.

But tonight, Justin Trudeau’s cabinet champions are up against Canada’s leading liberal environmentalists. The first challenge is by a phalanx of cabinet colleagues spreading the word that bitumen is good. They tell us that Canada’s economy can only be sustained and kept growing by making Alberta rich again. They want the wonders of bitumen shipped to the third world where nobody gives a damn about pollution and our endangered planet. “Global warming is a myth you know,” they tell us.

“Not so,” scream the embattled environmentalists concerned that bitumen exploitation is destroying the beauty of Alberta with ugly settling ponds while third-world refining the bitumen is spewing three times the deadly carbon into our ominously darkening skies.

“But we must compete with the Arabs,” the economists claim. “Our petro-dollars must stay at home.”

“And bitumen must stay in the ground,” the environmentalists retort.

And so, the battle rages. It has become an ongoing argument of excesses and deceit. It is a cacophony of greed versus science. It is fortune versus fortitude. It is caution versus calumny. It is province versus province. It is father versus son, mother versus daughter, and also liberal versus liberal.

Do you know why we call MP Andrew Scheer, leader of Canada’s federal conservative party, “Chuckles”? Because he is watching Justin Trudeau tear up his free pass into next year’s election.

Chuckles might be on the same side of the bitumen question as Trudeau, but he knows when to shut up.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

The poisonous potential of populism.

Tuesday, November 6th, 2018

There is little new about populism in North America. Whether on the left, right or centre of the political spectrum is not the concern but whether society can constrain it is the critical question.

Canada only came into its own after the Second World War and the first major populists from that point were prime minister John G, Diefenbaker and new democratic party leader Tommy Douglas. Both came out of Saskatchewan and both were benign. Douglas, the socialist premier and Diefenbaker, the conservative firebrand from Prince Albert.

Despite their intense rhetoric, both stuck to the truth as they saw it. Both served the people. Neither needed the hyperbole of obvious lies to make their point.

Fast forward to 2015 and another populist caught North America off guard. Donald Trump confounded the pundits and the politicos. This was the television-trained pitchman, a bigot, a bully, a liar and a misogynist who revelled in the reaction to his claims of President Obama not being born in America. He reached his notoriety high by default, becoming the Republican candidate for president. He shared his surprise when the failures of the American Electoral College system won him the presidency. He was leader of a badly divided nation. He had only his rhetoric to blame.

Ill-advised, ill-equipped and confused, Donald Trump was sworn in as President of the United States of America.

Canadians looked south of the border and said “Only in America.” They should have looked around.

Canadians had their local populist politicians in the Trump mould. None as dangerous as Ontario’s Doug Ford Junior. Doug Ford saw the soft underbelly of conservative politics in his father—in the Ontario legislature. He saw the impacts of the bombast of his younger brother—the crack smoking mayor of Toronto. He saw the strength of the bumper sticker slogans of Donald Trump in Washington.

It was this mix that he took into the sudden opportunity to tackle the leadership of Ontario’s conservatives. It has been a roller-coaster ride since then as Dougie confused his enemies—as he has no friends. His strengths are in the users who profit from chaos. His future is tenuous.

Like Trump, Dougie yearns for the world stage. He enviously eyes the trappings of a prime minister in Ottawa. He has more wells to poison.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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