Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

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

Noticing the New National News.

Thursday, November 23rd, 2017

Many of us count on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation for reliable, well vetted news. Well, we used to. Despite Peter Mansbridge’s droning, all-knowing, stony style, we liked his panels, the depth and the humour they brought to the concerns of the day.

But news is not an art form. The National has been turned into a Picasso. And it is not the artist’s Blue Period. We have been restraining ourselves from commenting. The Toronto Star’s Heather Mallick jumped the gun the other day and she says she loves the new National. Frankly, we have been worried for a while that dear Ms. Mallick might be losing some of her professional observational skills.

We cannot understand why the CBC would waste a reporter of Adrienne Arsenault’s skills as an announcer. We do agree that Ian Hanomansing is a fine announcer and he is quite capable of doing that entire show by himself. Andrew Chang is new to us easterners and he also seems like a fine announcer. We assume that nobody wants to do seven nights a week, so the others could do backup. Mind you if they traded Rosemary Barton to the Montreal Comedy Festival, we might all be better off. She is just not our primary source of political news.

But the people who really need to pull up their socks are the guys and gals on the switches. From the first time I walked into Ted Rogers’ nascent TV studios on Adelaide Street in Toronto many years ago, as a new (volunteer) producer/director, I have been aware of the importance of these people. It was when I asked who will be on the switches that my admiration of them heightened. I was told that along with my lofty titles, I was to call the shots on the show by doing my own switching. As we rolled the credits at the end of that first show, I was desperately trying to figure a way to miss my name.

From that rudimentary switch in that pioneering studio to today’s electronic marvels, I have a great admiration for those who can make them sing. This new National is based on the ability of a master switch taking the inputs from satellite studios across the country and creating the picture on your screen. The quick mixing and cutting between four people and news scenes does not always come off. They should ease up on that fancy stuff until they get more practiced.

It is not that most watchers really understand what is causing the confusion between the four, and sound and picture, but today’s news can be confusing enough without adding to it.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

The Indignity to Indigenous.

Wednesday, November 15th, 2017

People struggled for many years with the error attributed to Christopher Columbus in thinking native peoples he found in the Americas were from India. That name stuck for a few centuries. It was either sensitive aboriginals or well-meaning non-aboriginals who then started playing the name game.

For a while we were happy to be calling the various tribes, bands, Metis, Dene and Inuit Native Americans, Native Canadians, Native Mexicans and so on. And then someone, somewhere thought it would be better to use the word aboriginal.

Frankly, aboriginal was a relatively poor choice. It fit the need but had connotations of the Australian name for their native people. While aboriginal and indigenous are treated as synonyms, aboriginal does not have quite the same connotation as to origin. Indigenous means ‘something or someone who originated here.’ That means it did not come from somewhere else.

And DNA science tells us that is wrong. It is likely that the first wave of peoples from Asia crossed from one continent to the other over an ice bridge during the last ice age, about 15,000 years ago. It was revealed about five years ago that DNA shows that there were two later waves of tourism by water that added to the DNA mix in the Americas. What that means is that we might have plants that are indigenous to this western continent but the peoples came from away.

But nobody denies the claims of the North American natives to their lands. There is lots of room for everybody. Maybe my ancestors came two centuries ago. Others are even more recent. We all share the same rights and privileges of a democratic country. We all share the same concern for equal treatment and protection under the law. We all share a very serious concern for any segment of our society that is disproportionately missing or murdered. We want to know why and what the police and politicians and people are doing about it. We want to share fairness and empathy and understanding.

Maybe some of our ancestors were less understanding than we are today. There have been long learning curves for everybody. What is critical today and for tomorrow is our respect for each other. We have much to share as citizens of this land.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Ten reasons for first-past-the-post voting.

Wednesday, November 1st, 2017

The following has been retrieved from the archives of Babel-on-the-Bay. It is part of the Democracy Papers and has been the most read item in our web site. Thousands of readers have searched for and presumably read the content. It was originally written for the Ontario referendum on mixed-member proportional voting in 2007. Co-ordinating the ‘No’ side in Central Ontario was one of the easiest tasks I have ever had in politics. Ontario voters voted ‘No’ by about two to one. The article has been edited for length.

First-past-the-post (FPTP) voting is an awkward name for simple, single-member constituency plurality voting. It is almost too simple: you just go to the polls, vote for one person, the votes are counted and the person with the most votes wins.

And that gives you reason number one in favour of FPTP: There is no confusion. What you vote for is what you get–if enough of your neighbours agree. If your candidate loses, you tried and you have nothing of which to be ashamed. Your vote was counted and you made a contribution to democracy.

It is the matter of democracy that gives us reason number two for FPTP: it is the most democratic method of electing members to government. Whether there are two candidates on the ballot or 20, FPTP means that in your constituency you elect the person preferred by the most voters. If it is fair when there are two candidates, why would it not be fair with 20?   If you would prefer that the person be the choice of more than 50 per cent of the voters, it is a simple matter today to have a run-off election.

But ideally, we want to keep the voting simple, which is reason number three for FPTP: it is very easy to keep honest. There are no complicated formulas, no mathematical manipulations, just a simple, easy to understand, count of ballots for candidate ‘A,’ candidate ‘B’ and so forth. The one with the most votes wins. No questions.   An occasional recount is needed when the vote is close but that can be fun to watch.

We cannot compare our politicians to horses but if we learn one thing at the racetrack, it is that training and past performance are critical factors to consider before we place a bet. And people need to find out something about the people on the ballot before placing their trust in them as politicians. There is far more than money at stake.

That is reason number four to support FPTP: You are putting your trust in people. You do not have to vote for a party. You can vote for a person, a person you trust, one who works on behalf of the people in your constituency. Parties do not have to keep their word. It is difficult to hold a party accountable. A person comes back for re-election and is accountable.

When you think about it, politics is about people. That is reason number five to support FPTP: It serves people. Elections are not about political parties, or party platforms or any of the parties’ broken promises. To put parties ahead of the people we choose in our constituencies is to give political parties control of our lives. Political parties deal with ideology, broad solutions and holding power. It is people who can deal with our concerns as individuals.

In that vein, you have reason number six to support FPTP: It gets things done. An election is a call to action. It is when we sum the activities on our behalf of the previous government and our member and consider our collective needs for the coming term. It is a time for change or a time to consolidate and it is the voters’ decision to make.

That leads us to reason number seven to support FPTP: It gives the voters control. It means, voters can quickly remove a government that becomes so convinced its ideology is right that it ignores the needs of voters. The ability to change governments is one of the most important capabilities of FPTP.

When our votes are counted, we have reason number eight to support FPTP: We know who to call. Your politicians are there to represent all the voters in their riding. They can ignore you, if they dare. They can even disagree with your ideas. They might tell you why they cannot support your ideas, but, if they are good at their job, they might have an explanation that satisfies you.

That is reason number nine for FPTP: Our politicians are accountable. They cannot get away with an answer such as ‘my party leader said I had to vote for it, so I did.’ There are no excuses.   The record of our politicians is there for us. They have to meet our expectations.

And, finally, reason number ten for FPTP: It is hard to get elected and hard to stay elected.   To be the first past the post in an election is no easy task. The voters are demanding and ruthless with those who think there are shortcuts to earning our trust. Should we ever ask for less?

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Copyright 2007 – 2017 © Peter Lowry

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