Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Gambling with losers.

Friday, July 21st, 2017

You find by being observant that the people in a hurry to get to the cashier at a casino are usually the ones wanting to get more money to gamble. Why a casino would extend credit to people is a question that is hard to answer.

The question was partly answered recently when it was noted in a newspaper article that Ontario casinos had recently written off $10 million in bad debts. That is a very small percentage of their more than a billion in revenues each year but a surprisingly high percentage of the money advanced to gamblers. If you were in a large cash business such as a casino, you would question hard the wisdom of advancing money to people who would default on that much money.

The rationale we are offered is that the casino does not want their whales to be bringing suitcases full of money to the casino. They do not want to encourage criminals to try to harpoon their high-rollers before the casino gets a chance at the money.

The argument seems to be a bit silly when you consider that people who can support a habit such as high-stakes gambling can also draw money directly from automated teller machines on the floor of the casino. Yes, the fees are high on those machines but it costs the casinos less than writing off millions.

Our experience in casinos over the years is that there is very little difference between gambling at low or high stakes tables, penny slots or $100 slots. There seems to be no change in the law of averages. And nobody ever wins because they need to win.

You should look on gambling as fun. You are in for a lot of pain if you gamble with more than you can afford to lose. Always look around that casino and understand that it is the gamblers who pay to keep the lights on, pay the salaries and keep the facilities looking attractive.

The smart gambler: knows the odds and knows when to quit, increases their bet when winning and keeps to a minimum when losing and never tries to guess the number on the next roll of the dice.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

 

Expo 67: A sharp turn for Canada.

Sunday, July 2nd, 2017

It was 50 years ago that the wife and I went to Montreal and camped for a week at my brother’s house while we spent our days at Expo 67. It was in glorious summer weather and we had a wonderful time in line at exhibits with people from all over the world. We met fascinating people. We laughed with them. We joked with them. We learned from them.

This was the real experience of Expo 67. We learned from others’ view of the event. It heightened perceptions and the enjoyment. It was in itself a conversation with our world.

It was also in many ways an intensification of the experience at that time of Toronto. In the years since the hiatus of the Second World War, Toronto had grown. It was not just our fathers and older siblings who came home but the rapidly growing streams of people from the rest of the world choosing Canada. So many of them came to Toronto. They were builders and entrepreneurs, artists and entertainers, engineers and accountants. They came to grow with us.

It was fascinating seeing how quickly Toronto lost its reputation as a city of churches and bigotry. We watched the new business leaders challenge the enclaves of the rich along the ridges of the valleys cutting the city. And we saw urbanization triumph over the farms of the Golden Horseshoe.

But it all seemed to spin from the vortex of Expo 67. It was a platform launch for both Pierre Trudeau and the Quebec liberation movement. It intensified and changed Canada and we had to deal with different kinds of nationalism. We certainly became more aware of our responsibilities to our aboriginal people. We learned but we also stumbled. Platitudes do not suffice.

From the black and white beginnings of television to the intense color of today’s screens, it has helped us to grow and learn together as a nation. It made the Internet familiar as social media grew to encompass the millions.

Canada has grown since the happening of Expo 67. We bear witness.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Lament for Liberalism.

Saturday, June 17th, 2017

This is not Diogenes searching for honesty. It is just a poor liberal searching in vain for the true meaning of liberalism. Has liberalism eluded us all? Is liberalism just an ideal?

It has always been our belief that a true liberal is a progressive. It is a denial of liberalism to say you are a financial conservative. And how can anyone deny individual rights? It is akin to the denial of fresh, pure air to breath and clear, cool water to drink. And yet we allow people to pay to pollute our air and defile our water. To buy the right to pollute through politicians’ ‘cap and trade’ offer is an abomination.

Liberalism has its core in the Rights of Man. Written by Thomas Paine more than 200 years ago, he believed human rights have their origin in nature. As such, we should not need charters or laws to protect those rights nor judges to argue over them. And our rights must never be subjected to any government’s ’Notwithstandiing’ clause.

But liberalism without progressivism is also a travesty. Our politics might be based on yesterday but the needs of people must be addressed today and solved for tomorrow. To live in the past is a denial of there being a tomorrow. Yesterday must always accommodate tomorrow.

Humans are sentient creatures. We have the ability to care. To deny that ability is to deny life itself. We are all as equal in birth as we are in death. By caring, we enhance our own life. Life is but a short period between birth and death to make a mark: Let it be kind.

There is no greater calling than that of leadership. It is not something that can be bequeathed, bestowed, borrowed nor bought. It is always easier to lead the lazy and uncaring than those who want to achieve. The true leader is the one who sets the greater challenges and works tirelessly to complete the journey.

Check it out Canadians. Look around you in Ottawa, at our provincial legislatures and our municipal councils. Seek out the true liberals. And you wonder why we despair?

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

 

Plan B: Tell Trump to Get Stuffed.

Tuesday, May 2nd, 2017

Watching a Canadian cabinet minister being interviewed on the weekend was almost painful. Despite the goading of the interviewer, he refused to say exactly what he thought of the stance by American President Trump on North American trade. Like most Canadians, he would probably like to have the opportunity to tell the American President to get stuffed.

But we know he cannot do that. While it is obvious that Mr. Trump is mouthing off to hear himself sound important, it would be foolish to respond in kind. Countries deal with their international relations with diplomacy, the fact that Trump does not understand that not withstanding.

Nor is it the role of Canadian politicians to tell the American President the facts that he could get from his own trade officials. Trump’s knowledge of the facts of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) seem deliberately limited. It might even surprise him to learn that Canadians are frustrated with some aspects of the trade deal. That is why dispute resolution takes up more than a few pages in the agreement.

And it is why the recently imposed softwood lumber tariffs are a just a form of harassment. This is the fourth time they have been imposed and they are just as likely to be dismissed again this time as they were previously. Lately China has been recognizing the opportunity to buy Canadian lumber and that looks like a more reliable market.

In all of the complaints we have heard from Trump’s White House, the lack of facts or understanding of the issues are apparent. He is playing to his audience of poor ignorant Americans who think he is doing this for them. He is not.

His threatening to end NAFTA immediately is about as dumb as the blokes in the United Kingdom who thought they could cut themselves off from the European Union overnight. Taking down NAFTA would take a lot longer than even the six months required in the agreement. It would take several years to sort out the earlier Auto Pact that became a key part of NAFTA—without bankrupting Ford and General Motors.

In his first 100 days, Donald Trump has proved he is ignorant, boorish and unsuited to be president of the most powerful nation on earth. His threat to unilaterally scrap NAFTA could cause the beginnings of a world-wide recession. That would be in nobody’s best interest.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Revisiting the hopes of Dr. Zamboni.

Wednesday, March 15th, 2017

As past president of the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada, we have known for a long time that the Liberation treatment for Multiple Sclerosis patients does not work. It never had credibility to begin with. It was over seven years ago that Dr. Paulo Zamboni of Ferrara, Italy excitedly announced a treatment he had developed to increase the drainage of blood from the brain of MS patients. A Canadian replication of the treatment with a double-blind study has shown conclusively that the procedure makes no difference.

But consider the cost. Thousands of Canadian MS patients spend anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000 at special ‘clinics’ in other countries. That was in addition to their travel and hotel costs. Canadian doctors were very reluctant to provide any post-operative care for a procedure that was not even considered safe in Canada. In some cases the treatment was a scam. And there were deaths from the treatment in clinics outside Canada.

It was not the W5 program on CTV that caused most of the stir for the Zamboni treatment. It was the CTV news programs that promoted the program for the network. They sensationalized the supposed cure. That was when the promotion crossed the line.

And then there were the politicians who jumped on the bandwagon. One of the first was the then M.P. for Barrie, Ontario who is now leader of the Ontario Conservative Party. Mr. Brown has never met a charitable cause that he cannot jump aboard to publicize himself.

But to be fair, politicians from other parties wanted aboard the publicity train. Two Liberal M.P.s who are also medical doctors thought the procedure should be fast-tracked and they spoke out on behalf of the procedure without really understanding what they were promoting.

The problem had to be resolved by the Canadian MS Society with the aid of the medical research community across Canada. The first problem, we assume, must have been finding a safe and fair way to test the theory while providing a placebo test that could verify the results. And then you have to find a researcher who can find the time to handle a lengthy double-blind study with sufficient patients to produce credible results.

Now, eight years after the fact, we conclusively know that the Liberation treatment treats nothing. It does not work.

But, joy oh joy, the people who promote these off-shore ‘clinics’ called CCSVI Ontario were reported to have the nerve to tell a newspaper reporter that this extremely costly Canadian study was “sham science.”

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

That political instinct.

Sunday, February 19th, 2017

One of the key measurements of budding politicians is their political instinct. You measure this in how these people interact with voters, fellow politicians, the news media and with the apparatchiks who work with them. At the same time, it would be an asset if they are articulate, charming, intelligent, personable, rich and have an attractive (and supportive) spouse and children. These are all nice-to-haves.

But without that political instinct, you are likely to be wasting your time. Sure, you can try to overcome the lack of political instinct. Look at Donald Trump. The man ran on ego instead of instinct and look where it has got him—probably the most reviled President in American history.

But for the guy or gal looking at a school board seat or a council opening as a first step into politics, ego and money are no panacea. Hard work and determination can make up for some limitations but it is political instinct that tells you the right thing to say at the voters’ doors. And be careful with how you choose to separate yourself from the also-rans.

Standing out from the crowd is your first challenge. If you run in the middle of the pack, you will end up there. You have to be lead dog. You cannot be too rich, too aggressive, too political, too sure or too smart. You have to fit the role for which you are running. And you can be assured that a post-graduate degree in education is not what gets you elected to a school board.

You have to be representative of the people you want to represent. And you have to keep them regularly informed of what you are doing on their behalf. It is your political instinct that you have to rely on to as to what is the right amount and frequency of communication.

And be careful of jumping too fast when further opportunity arises. Voters like success stories but they also resent being used. Use caution.

And since this has turned into advice for newbie politicos, you should always remember that politics is very much a team effort. You can hardly fit all the roles that a campaign team needs but you can put those strengths together over time. And even if you write great speeches, that is an area where good back-up can reduce stress. By building the team you need over time, you could be surprised at the possibilities it can open to you. If you build a strong team and remain loyal to them, you will find they becoming increasingly loyal to you.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Hand-wringing in academia.

Thursday, February 9th, 2017

You would have thought that Edward Greenspon had covered the subject. He released his Public Policy Forum report on Canada’s news media recently and we thought that was it. We all hung some crepe for a dying industry, maybe shed a tear and the report was consigned to the recycle bin for things we will not solve.

But now the academics are weighing in. The first were the researchers from the University of British Columbia and University of Ottawa who did Greenspon’s research for his study.

These people should have left all the writing to Greenspon. In the first chapter, they referred to a lack of “VC funding.” After finally concluding that they meant venture capital funding, it was obvious that they had little experience with that breed of vulture.

Despite the limitations of their journalistic skills, they went on to explain why they believe that the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation/Radio Canada should be refocussed on municipal news across the country. And they wanted it provided under “Creative Commons license.” Since that means free, they want the federal government to pay for it.

What is very annoying in their assessment is that they want the CBC out of digital advertising despite the fact that the CBC has been doing the best job of all its competitors in digital news. Bell, Rogers and Shaw have made a sham of self-promoting news coverage on their major newscasts to the point that they are turning off their viewers and their promotion is bleeding into their digital coverage. The bar is set so low, they make the CBC look good.

It must be only academics who promote Creative Commons licensing. They think that individual citizens and organizations will honour the license conditions and help spread the word. They have never seen the party trick of passing a complex story down a line of people and comparing the changes from the beginning to the end of the line.

It also pays to remember the time in the Ontario Legislature when there would be a lone reporter in the gallery over the speaker’s chair. It was the Canadian Press who covered for all the others. The bar was open.

And the most annoying comment of these academics was that many people they interviewed for the media study referred to the CBC as a “predator.” Everyone becomes a predator when you are fighting to exist.

(Note: As they were research principals for the Public Policy Forum Report, they should be mentioned: Taylor Owen is an Asst. Prof. of Digital Media and Global Affairs at the Univ. of British Columbia and Elizabeth Dubois is an Asst. Prof. in the Dept. of Communications at the Univ. of Ottawa.)

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

One person can spoil your whole day.

Thursday, February 2nd, 2017

No, this is not about the poor, sick misfit who is charged with murdering six Canadians in a Quebec City mosque. It is about the guilt we all share for bigotry world-wide. We share the guilt because we let it happen.

Sure, you can pile the guilt on the pathetic President of the United States. His Islamophobia, xenophobia, ego and careless actions might have triggered the event but he can hardly be the sole cause. Who lets him think he can blame an entire religion for his unfounded fears? Who are the fools who elected him? Who are the wimps who could have done a better job supporting his opponent? Why did the news media promote his lies and mistruths?

And how dare Chantal Hébert of the Toronto Star and the opposition in parliament lay any blame on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau? He has done the best job he can do within the bounds of diplomacy to show that Canada takes exception to the ham-fisted actions of that incompetent in the White House of our neighbour. We show decency by example, not shouting.

And who left retiring CBC news anchor Peter Mansbridge out in that biting, minus 20 degree cold in Quebec City without a hat the other night? It was hard to tell if the poor man was emotionally distraught because of the horrible subject he was trying to deal with or because he was freezing.

It is not the intent here to rub salt in such a terrible wound to the social fabric of Canada but that event is hardly the first example of bigotry getting out of hand. Nor is it that other parts of Canada are free of bigotry.

But Quebec has its own problems. From the historic complicity of the Catholic Church in discouraging interlopers, to the repressive padlock laws of Maurice Duplessis and even more recent PQ Charter of Values have encouraged distrust of non-conforming values. It’s the insular attitude that can create an environment with the potential to breed radicalization.

But what can stimulate a murderous rage against a religion that its Prophet conceived in peace and taught submission to God? Are we not centuries past the medieval crusades against Islam? What possible purpose is there in murdering people living so peacefully among us?

Maybe we will recognize our complicity in this, maybe not. It just seems so unlikely that there is more to this than a sick and sorrowful mind. To label him as terrorism is giving credit to the same sick minds murdering innocents in the Middle East.

But let us all take heed that evil can only exist when we fail to speak out against it.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Meet the Elites: Business.

Tuesday, January 10th, 2017

Now let’s talk about the real aristocracy in Canada. These are the nobles. They direct the troops that dig our mines, produce products, market the goods, merchandise wares, account for our monies and provide services that all add up to our gross domestic product. It is the chief executives that are the elites of business and they know who they are. They measure their successes in our productivity, their company’s bottom line and their remuneration.

Their strength is in the approbation of the stock market and the wealthy for their quarterly earnings, for the acceptance of their brand, the jobs they provide and for their support of their community.

While there are those who worry about the ownership of these businesses, it really only matters that they act as a good citizen where they do business. Three of the top paid Canadian chief executives are George Cope of Bell, Nadir Mohammed of Rogers and J.R. Shaw of Shaw, the largest communications and media companies in English Canada—that are restricted to Canadian ownership. Each of the three has earned the anger of Canadians for their companies perceived rapacious pricing, immunity to customer concerns and resistance to the regulatory surveillance of the Canadian Radio-Television Telecommunication Commission (CRTC).

But it hardly matters what we peons think of them. They also have the power of the Business Council of Canada behind them. Run today by former Liberal cabinet minister John Manley, the Business Council is a self-appointed cabal of business leaders who exert ongoing influence on the federal government and provincial governments as well.

The Business Council goes far beyond supporting the goals of the individual companies. It proposes policy directions and international trade objectives for the government on behalf of its members. It lobbies for more free trade deals and open borders for business. Its proposals are mainly political and on the right of centre. The council served as a cheerleader when the federal cabinet recently approved the expansion of the American Kinder Morgan pipeline to Burnaby, B.C. Pressure works.

We should always remember that it is regulation that ensures the quality of the food we eat. It is standards that keep costs of needed goods within reach of our pay cheque. It is the breadth and access to education that builds our future. And it is strong and effective government that enables us to drive on safe highways that are properly policed and have emergency services when needed. Good government provides a good life.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Meet the Elites: The One Per Cent.

Sunday, January 8th, 2017

If anyone ever got a bad rap, it is Canada’s one per cent. This group of Canadians is supposed to control about 50 per cent of the country’s wealth and is divided between old money and new money. And there is constant conflict between the old and new. It is simplest to divide them into the ‘benefactors’ and the ‘scourges.’

The benefactors are basically old money that has survived generations by carefully protecting and building the capital. Both the Toronto-based Thomson and Weston families fit into this category. They are considered benefactors because of the charitable foundations this group often create to control charitable giving and to ensure the maximization of tax benefits.

With wealth comes privilege and these people sit on the right boards of both business and charities. They attend the right galas as their children attend the right schools. They are part of the community and stay in plain sight.

The scourges, on the other hand, are the newer wealth that cares little for the communities and people earning their wealth for them. They prefer gated communities and obscurity. This group brings to mind the fortune that K.C. Irving ripped out of New Brunswick and took with him to the Bahamas. His will was reported to stipulate that his sons had access to the billions only if they left the province.

Stephen B. Roman of Denison Mines was also in this category. His generosity seemed to be mainly in seeking to buy politicians and succor for his immortal soul at his tomb east of Ontario Highway 404 under the golden domes of the Slovak Cathedral of the Transfiguration of our Lord.

It is hard to measure Canada’s one per cent beyond the few obvious billionaires. Not that many lists are produced. Our prime minister barely makes the list of millionaires despite the inherited family wealth of the Trudeau’s that has been passed down from Justin Trudeau’s grandfather.

But the point of this is that we can hardly blame the one per cent for being wealthy. It is what they do with the wealth that matters. There are well meaning people with wealth and there are the skin-flints. They are all human. Our politicians are obviously doing a very poor job of making sure that the wealth of Canadians stays in Canada. And there are too many tax loopholes letting them keep more of their wealth than they should.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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