We are all responsible.

March 19th, 2020 by Peter Lowry

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.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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Our artificial monarchy.

March 18th, 2020 by Peter Lowry

It is well past the point where Canada should be doing something to eliminate the false monarchy in this country. It is not only a sham but it is interfering with serious reform.

And I say this in all seriousness in a country where a kid named ‘Archie’ happens to live. Archie is sixth in line for the British throne. Not only that but his parents have tossed up the role of being royals in coming to this land of opportunity called Canada.

This is a new experience for all concerned. I have met some of the crowned heads of Europe and, in my humble opinion, there were few of them who could hold down the job of bag boy in a supermarket. We can hardly expect Harry and Meghan to start a trend.

But I do worry that we are so generously spending $3 billion on refurbishing of a parliament that we have no idea what it should look like by the time the renovations are finished.

And why are we fixing the senate chamber that will hardly be needed if Canadians ever get a say in the matter? The senate was created as a pseudo House of Lords because the Victorian parliament putting together the proposed parliament in the Canadian colony did not trust Canadian commoners to do the job properly.

And why do our parliamentarians live in fear of re-opening the constitution? They have made it increasingly hard to change. It has reached the point that we need to elect a constitutional conference to address the issues. And even a constitutional conference will need a referendum to seal and delivery the changes we need.

Canada is not a colony. We have not been a colony for a very long time. We need to eliminate the false trappings that say we are. We desperately need to modernize how we are governed. And that includes a heck of a lot more than eliminating the royal image on our coins and the $20 bill.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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Trump trumps a coronavirus.

March 17th, 2020 by Peter Lowry

Which would you rather have, Donald Trump or Covid-19? Life is certainly a series of difficult choices, is it not?

At least, the nincompoop in charge at the American White House has changed his tune, a bit. He is starting to use some words of concern.   Whoever got to him and convinced him that a pandemic is a serious problem should be kept around to advise the president more often.

Up until now, the only American officials recognizing the seriousness of the coronavirus have been health experts, the seriously underfunded, Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta and some state governors and mayors. Last time we saw Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York on the news, he looked like he had seen a ghost. The man could not have been more serious about the outbreak.

Governor Cuomo has called out the national guard to set up a one-mile radius containment area around a serious outbreak in New Rochelle. The area has been put in quarantine for 14 days.

If Americans could just establish a containment area around the White House until this virus has been defeated—or longer—the country might have a chance. As it is, the country is plunging into recession because of Mr. Trump’s mismanagement. The cruise ship industry might never recover. They have just found out why bigger is not necessarily better.

And nobody seems to want to fly anywhere these days. Airlines are contemplating bankruptcy. Every human endeavour seems to be on the hit list. The pandemic attaches to everything we want to do together. From primal relations of men and women to singing Halleluiah in our cathedrals, we are infecting each other.

We can forget for a while what large conferences and entertainments are like. Though I do think we might make an exception for Mr. Trump’s rallies. The denier-in-chief has misled and misdirected his country long enough. If his devotees want to swap viruses with each other, why would we object? Just do not stretch the American health care system beyond its limits.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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When is ‘progressive’ not?

March 16th, 2020 by Peter Lowry

Are all you ‘progressives’ asleep at the switch? Who let that cretin into progressivebloggers.ca who is trying to get us to fight for conversion therapy? A little attention to the curating, please.

(For my readers who access Babel-on-the-Bay.com directly, on a regular basis, the daily blogs are also picked up by some collectives, such as progressivebloggers.ca. This commentary is about a recent blog on that pinboard on March 15 by The Arbourist.)

It is too bad that I do not believe in commenting publicly on other writers’ efforts. We each write our own blogs for our own reasons. I started Babel-on-the-Bay more than 10 years ago for something to do in retirement. There is no more disgusting trait in Canada than kicking people to the curb because of their chronological age.

I peruse ‘Progressive Bloggers’ periodically to see what others are writing about. There are some very good writers in this collection. There are also some hopeless cases that you can easily skip over. It is just that the suggestion that all of us are ‘progressive’ is really stretching it!

When I first noticed that the Trudeau government had a bill banning ‘conversion therapy’ coming up, I was mildly surprised that we had not already done that. I have no direct experience with conversion therapy but I support the professionals who tell us how harmful it can be.

But when I read the blog by some tree service that so blithely asks us to defend conversion therapy, I see red. Conversion therapy can take many forms, many of them damaging to the recipient. The basic idea is to re-educate the individual by wiping out what were considered the undesirable traits in his or her lifestyle. A simple way to describe the process is to call it brain-washing. It is a melange of methods designed by quasi-medical quacks, con artists and religious fanatics who convince the parents of what they consider is best for an under-age recipient.

What they are really doing is assaulting what might be an already fragile mind and often doing serious damage. It should have been banned many years ago.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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A day in the life of Canada.

March 15th, 2020 by Peter Lowry

It is not just another day. Canada has reached a new level. It is a day when we can say that this country can work together as one. Lately that has not been the case. We have been carping and complaining to each other for too long. It is time we showed some unity. It is just too bad that it has happened because of a pandemic.

We will have to take the good with the bad. We can do that. Our prime minister can work from home for a couple weeks. He is spending some time with his kids. He has a sick wife to look after. This is better than constant selfies with strangers.

Parliament is shut down. Our MPs are back in their electoral districts until late April. They were unanimous in passing the new North American free trade agreement before leaving. Now the hard work begins on ironing out the details but the American negotiators will not be as bullying.

Our American neighbours were not prepared for the Covid-19 pandemic. Their leadership was scoffing at this ‘foreign’ virus until reality came to call. They are coming from behind.

And we will pay the price for their unpreparedness. It might be the one time we will be less pleased with our porous border. It would be disastrous to the economies of both countries if an attempt was made to close that border.

But travel anywhere will be limited in the weeks to come. I was supposed to be in Ottawa today for a celebration of life for my oldest brother. I am sitting at home with a box of Kleenex at my side. In the time of Covid-19, I have a simple head cold. Just try to go anywhere today with those symptoms and you will still be ostracised.

My wife and I both feel the pain of not being with those we love. Our world is shutting down around us. I do not think we have yet seen the worst of Covid-19.

But Canada will come out of it stronger than before. We are a nation of resourceful and determined people.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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The imperfect timing of Doug Ford.

March 14th, 2020 by Peter Lowry

It seems that no matter what he does, Ontario’s premier Doug Ford, finds that it always costs more than he saves when he makes cuts in Ontario’s government budgets. It costs him money to fire people. It costs him money to cancel projects. It costs him friends when he cuts health or education budgets. And when he tries to give friends jobs, he is held up to ridicule by the media. He is beginning to think it is just that he does some things at the wrong time.

Probably the best example of Doug’s bad timing is this Covid-19 pandemic. Why only a year ago, he had decisively dumped some of the costs of public health services on Ontario’s municipalities. Even Mayor John Tory of Toronto dumped all over him for that.

But Doug Ford is not without experience at fixing things for people who are upset. He tells them that his government is restoring funding—maybe not all the funding—but maybe enough of the funding to get him off the hook for being a curmudgeon. He gave the whole thing a grace period and it would be in 2020 that some cuts would still be made. Which everyone grumbled about but figured it could have been worse.

And welcome to 2020. The budget-squeezed public health services had been complaining but are still doing their jobs. Nobody told the public health people that in 2020, they were going to have to face a possible pandemic called a coronavirus or Covid-19.

The only person that Covid-19 has helped is Ontario finance minister Rod Phillips. It means he can blow the lid off his projected $9 billion deficit planned for the coming fiscal year. He has to give the health ministry and others whatever they need to help battle the pandemic.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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Doug Downey doubles down.

March 13th, 2020 by Peter Lowry

That nice guy, Bill Davis, one-time Ontario premier, must be having some sleepless nights. Those idiots in his conservative party are busy destroying Bill’s legacy. They spend more money on their dumb ideas than any other Ontario government in the past. And they never get anything right. From the premier who wants to only appoint cronies to any job and personally picks stickers for gas pumps and license plates, to that education minister who acts like a fugitive from the Godfather movies, to an attorney general who ignores a common sense approach to appointments, this is a conservative government from Hell.

Did you hear about the latest dumb stunt by my MPP? Yes, Doug Downey is the member of the legislature from Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte. This guy’s justice ministry has more than 30 committees working to attract, vet and advise on Ontario citizens suitable to serve on all the legal and other appointments by the government of the day.

But what does Downey do? This schmuck appoints a Toronto police officer—a friend of the premier’s—to the Ontario Human Rights Commission. The cop did not even apply for the job. It appears this appointment is by Dougie, for Dougie, to appoint Dougie’s friend.

And, has the independent integrity commissioner ever got his shirt in a knot about this stupidity. I have no idea of the per cent of cases brought before the human rights commission dealing with policing but my guess is the cop would have to recuse himself at some time, at every meeting of the commission. I am sure we could all appreciate the insights that a former cop could bring to the commission’s work but not while still employed at policing.

And one further note: Doug Ford is younger but I remember driving through American states and seeing the Berma-Shave series ads along the highways. Maybe he also might have noticed them. It is no excuse though to be waxing nostalgic for billboard advertising along the 400-series highways of Ontario. He is talking about opening our scenic controlled-access highways to advertising. He must be desperate.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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Lessons Alberta is learning.

March 12th, 2020 by Peter Lowry

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.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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The hope for America: Bernie Sanders.

March 11th, 2020 by Peter Lowry

Win, lose or draw, Bernie Sanders has shown his country the way. To Americans, their country has always been the stuff of unfulfilled dreams. It has been the country that could have been. It has sunk into the acidic bog of capitalism gone rampant under Donald Trump.

Is it not time to rescue that American dream? What of the promise of the colossus in New York’s harbor? Nobody believes that Bernie Sanders can do much in his first four years in the presidency. It will take years to repair the damage of Trump. It will take a willing and eager Congress. It will take drastic measures to wrest control of U.S. politics from the effete one per cent.

But president Bernie can enact a proper single payer Medicare. It is worth fighting through Congress. Let the Canadians admire the American system for a change.

He can also work on restoring America’s foreign relations that Donald Trump has put in the dumpster.

Bernie could certainly end the knee-jerk support for Israel that has been destroying that small country. He could end the stupid wall that insults all Mexicans. He could bring decency and openness back to helping the world’s refugees.

These are things that Joe Biden cannot do. Biden is tied to the past. Bernie can see the future. Besides, Biden is leaving himself committed to the right appointments for the democratic party also rans who are scurrying to his side for the upcoming convention. They are just more commitments to the past that Biden does not need. Even Michael Bloomberg, with all his wealth, would probably love an appointment as ambassador to the Court of St. James. Bernie brings few such pieces of baggage to the job of president.

What Bernie Sanders brings is the will to do the job that must be done. He will bring the United States of America into the 21st Century.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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Bigotry is blooming early in Quebec.

March 10th, 2020 by Peter Lowry

It seems to come each year with the spring flowers. Bigotry is the passion of Quebec nationalists. They care less that people recognize them for what they are: small-minded, intolerant, ignorant and ungracious people who want to inflict children and youth with their narrow and harmful parochialism. They want to build Trump-type walls around Quebec.

These are the people who challenge religious symbols. They seem to fear the inanimate objects of devotion such as a cross, a Jewish yarmulke, a Sikh turban or a Bedouin hijab. Just how they are threatened by these objects or dress, we cannot fathom.

But their passion has launched early this year. With the smarmy connivance of premier François Legault and his right-wing pequistes in his coalition avenir Québec party, the national assembly has a new hate bill to pass. The education minister, Jean-François Roberg, is proposing a bill to abolish a program that teaches Quebec students respect and tolerance for people of different faiths.

To their horror, the politicians have found that the program works. Instead of joining the pequistes’ hate movement, the young people in Quebec are becoming more inclined to be tolerant and accepting of others’ views and religions.

This has angered the nationalists in Quebec who want to build walls against multiculturalism as evidenced in the rest of Canada. What they are really going to try to do is change the course to their religion, that is actually secularism. As a religion, secularism denigrates the various religions as pap for the masses. It is closer to an atheistic viewpoint. With the lingering vestiges of the once dominant Roman Catholic church in Quebec, these nationalists see even the weakened Roman church as a threat to their movement.

The nationalists describe the present teaching on ethics and religion as a type of virus that teaches the young to appreciate multiculturalism and pluralistic ideas. The youth of Quebec would certainly also benefit from learning about the European experience in lowering borders and expanding cultures. The nationalists in the national assembly have an evil agenda for them.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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