Premier Notley comes to Ottawa.

December 1st, 2018 by Peter Lowry

She rode out of the west to plead her case in Ottawa this past week. Strangely, it is the same case as her arch rival, Jason Kenney, would have made. He would have been more strident and threatening. Let us say that Alberta has many hopes for Ottawa—mainly money.

The practical lady that she is, Ms. Notley asked first for some money to buy tanker cars to send Alberta’s tar sands products by rail. What she really wants is pipelines. She knows they take longer. And she wants them all sooner than later.

But she also wants serious cutbacks in Bill C-69 that will soon be sent to the senate. C-69 is an environmental bill that causes Albertans to be worried. It seems to hold the producers of the raw materials responsible for the downstream green-house gas emissions of the ultimate products. It sounds like the tar sands producers would be responsible for the emissions caused by heating the water and pumping it down to bring the layers of bitumen to the surface. They would then be responsible for the thousands of hectares of Alberta land destroyed to create settling ponds for all that dirty, greasy water that can kill wildlife.

Whether shipped by train or pipeline or ocean tanker, the tar sands exploiters would also be responsible for any spills that mar our environment. And it also needs to be noted that when the tar sands bitumen is processed into synthetic crude oil, it will create three times the pollution of normal processing of crude oil. Much of this pollution is in the form of bitumen slag that is almost pure carbon. And only then does it join the crude oil processes that put the oil products to use.

But Premier Rachel Notley was spreading false news last week. Never once did she mention tar sands, or bitumen. She calls bitumen “Western Canada Select.” It is nothing more than a highly polluting bitumen, fit for nothing more than paving roads.

There is a growing demand in Alberta for the bitumen to be processed there and it would no longer be discounted to prices under $20 per barrel. If the people in Alberta allowed that, they would destroy the environment of their province for many generations to come.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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Meet Ms. Mulroney and Ms. Simard.

November 30th, 2018 by Peter Lowry

Coventry can be described as that place in the corner of the Ontario legislature to where politicians are sent to be forever forgotten. They continue to draw their pay from the taxpayers but there are no committee perks and no opportunity to speak on motions. It is a place for non-persons.

There are currently two occupants of this corner. One did something bad, maybe. We are not sure of what. The other chose the corner because of principles. She is MPP Amanda Simard from Glengarry-Prescott-Russell, a largely francophone constituency where Ontario and Quebec meet.

Ms. Simard found it impossible to have principles and remain a conservative. It tells you much about the other members of her former party in the legislature.

Of particular note in the legislature is the daughter of former prime minister Brian Mulroney. Caroline Mulroney is a politician with ambitions. She had barely selected a safe seat where she would run and bought a summer home in the electoral district on the shores of Lake Simcoe when an opportunity came along to be conservative leader. Ms. Mulroney is certainly her father’s daughter. She sprang quickly into the fray.

But when Ms. Mulroney could not handle fellow candidates such as Tanya Granic Allen, her hopes for early leadership bottomed out. Things did not get better when, as the New York trained Ontario attorney general, she tried to justify the use of the charter of rights’ not-withstanding clause to change Toronto from 47 to 25 wards.

But it was in her additional role as responsible for francophone affaires, that Caroline Mulroney did not support her parliamentary assistant in the portfolio, Amanda Simard. It seems Ms. Mulroney never even gave the younger MPP a heads-up on what was happening. She could, at least, have sent her regrets.

It should be obvious by now that Caroline Mulroney has none of the smarts nor judgement nor caring needed to be in politics. Daddy might be disappointed but daddy be damned.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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I, Dinosaur.

November 29th, 2018 by Peter Lowry

While ruminating, the other day, over something brilliant to say about the pickle the politicians are in over the unkind machinations of General Motors, I was actually more concerned about my Buick. It was selfish, I guess. It was also serious. It will probably be my last General Motors gas guzzler. It might have made me out a dinosaur but I really loved that car.

But like my first auto, that I bought for $90 off a used car lot on Toronto’s Danforth, I have had a love affair all my life with Detroit road warriors. That first car was a Chevrolet and had been built as a War Two army staff car. Its only problem was that someone had installed the radio upside down and the vacuum tubes kept falling out.

After that car, they became a blur of Chrysler, Ford and GM products. Over the years, they were newer and bigger with every step higher in the corporate chain. When GM stopped making Oldsmobile, I settled on Buicks. My family was grown before the SUVs started to dominate the market and I never liked the way those damn vehicles blocked your view of the road ahead. My Buick rides so well and purrs like a kitten as you fly down the highways of North America.

But the other day, someone stepped on that poor kitten’s tail. It made it to its dealer—but under protest. I found out that it was lacking two working cylinders for the trip.

The dealer might be a bit richer today but my concern is that Buicks will become pariahs on the roads of Ontario in the next few years. General Motors might have betrayed us but the company has also called it quits with a sizeable chunk of the North American market. Ontario will remember its rejection.

I might just drop by my local Ford dealer in the Spring and see what there is on offer. Or, if really daring, I might check on the latest Toyota or Hyundai.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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Where bullies wear blue.

November 28th, 2018 by Peter Lowry

Welcome to Queen’s Park. This is that island in the centre of Toronto that carries the weight of Ontario’s provincial government. The uniform of the day on this island of pecker heads is a blue suit. A white shirt or blouse is appropriate and a tie is obligatory for the boys, only when doing house duty. These are our rulers? These are Ontario’s elite? They are the product of voting against instead of voting for.

We had nobody to vote for and we scraped the bottom of the barrel. The voters voted against the status quo and soiled themselves. They voted for a party that said it was for the people and forgot to ask who these people were. They elected bullies in blue.

Our premier bully, Doug Ford, seems to get great delight out of going after some of his old enemies in Toronto city hall. It was the same time as he stopped former conservative leader, the disgraced Patrick Brown, from running to chair Peel Region. That was when Brown neatly flipped over to the Brampton mayoralty—winning Brampton by a Sikh’s whisker. Mind you, they are still trying to figure out what it cost winners, challengers and wannabes in Toronto to end up in just half the number of wards.

Toronto is still quaking, waiting for the other shoe to drop on their Toronto subways. Dougie has his heart set on playing with real trains. He has promised that he will take over the Toronto subways and create a regional system that will have just one stop for each line.

But Dougie’s major problem as Ontario’s “Kingfish’ is that he keeps telling people that Ontario is open for business and it shuts down behind him. Will Oshawa be the same without General Motors? Will a provincial government have any leverage to attract business under the new U.S., Mexico, Canada Agreement that replaces NAFTA?

Do you remember the time years ago when the commercials sang out that you should “See the U.S.A. in your Chevrolet.” Now we can put it to music to “See Canada in your Camry.” Or how about “Forging a new relationship with your Ford 150”?

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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American capitalism betrays us.

November 27th, 2018 by Peter Lowry

Since 1908, when Sam McLaughlin started building auto bodies in Oshawa for William Durant’s Buicks, Canada has been part of what became General Motors. Through good times and bad times, in World Wars and in boom times Canadians have supported GM. Today, we stand betrayed.

The relationship was always a consideration through the Auto Pact and the first Canada-U.S. free trade agreement and then the North American Free Trade Agreement. We always trusted General Motors. It was always a consideration. We willingly put up the loans that GM needed to survive the American debacle of capitalism in 2008.

We should have been alerted when General Motors did not take up all the incentives the previous Ontario government was offering for the development of electric cars. To now say that Canada cannot be part of the electric trend is insulting.

But we know that American capitalism is uncaring. American industry is an oligarchy without morals. It cares not for honour.

American capitalism funded Donald Trump as president. American capitalism and American politics share an unholy corruption that works against the real needs of the American masses.

And America is a land that insults and belittles its neighbours. It is a land that references its Gods but is steeped in bigotry. It is a land that corrupts politicians, police and parsons. It is where lawyers are amused by the overwhelming corruption.

Canadians spent a long time struggling with the confusion of negotiating a better free trade agreement. They were dealing with public servants who also had to struggle with their own leadership.

But the point all along was that such a deal has to be based on fairness, not greed. It must be based on honesty, not advantage. It needs to be based on all parties building something better together.

But General Motors’ oligarchs have wiped away the frosting on the cake. They have told those Canadians: Fuck you.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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Biting the hand with the handouts.

November 26th, 2018 by Peter Lowry

We have warned Justin Trudeau repeatedly that those so-called independent senators are going to bite him on the bum. Blame him for all those Christmas presents that Canada Post cannot deliver by Christmas this year. Every day of further delay is thousands of  packages undelivered.

But elitism cannot be rushed. Justin Trudeau made it clear back when he became the elite leader of Canada’s liberals that henceforth, the senators would not be liberals. And the slaves were freed.

And of course, they have minds of their own and they are always eager to emphasize their freedom. They were nominated by the elite committee that chose them as elite enough. They were then selected from the list of acceptable elites by the prime minister. They were welcomed to the senate by other elites.

And to sweeten the deal, they are paid the same salary and perks as an elected member of parliament. They even get a generous pension when they have to retire at 75.

But as an elite they answer to nobody. The government leader in the senate is not their boss. He has to be nice to them to get their cooperation. They might be considered nobodies by the conservative senators but they can outvote them.

They know that they can take an extra day to consider sending the postal workers back to work if they feel like it. It shows Canadians that they are independent and do not like being pushed around.

And so what, if Justin Trudeau is turning purple over there in the prime minister’s office? He is one of those elected people and therefore not as much an elite as the senators who do not have to get elected.

Here is an idea for you people who like the idea of proportional elections. Why do you not fight for the senate to be a house representing the proportion for each political party in each province in the general election voting. I would agree if these senators were nominated by the political parties and selected by registered voters for the individual parties so that they could be appointed senators for the term of the parliament. Think about it. There might be the germ of an idea there. It might work, as long as Canada’s elected parliamentarians always have the final word.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Doppelgangers don’t do it.

November 25th, 2018 by Peter Lowry

There is a tendency among political leaders to have someone very much like themselves to serve as their chief of staff. It gives them confidence that the person will react as they do and carry out solutions much the same as their principal. It is a lazy person’s solution. And how smart is it, to pay two salaries for the same opinion?

The notion of this person being something of a doppelganger is based on a person and their pet, over time, coming to look like each other.

In fact, in Ontario, premier Doug Ford and his chief of staff, Dean French, are two arrogant white men in suits. They are too much alike. It is just that Doug Ford lets French do the dirty jobs. French phoning the head of Ontario Power Generation to tell him to fire former conservative leader Patrick Brown’s former chief of staff might have been the ultimate in irony.

The claim that French might have directed the police to make raids on illegal pot shops was far more serious. The idea of any politico directly directing the police in carrying out their policing duties is anathema to how Canadians see their police doing their duty. It carries the risk of being interpreted as something that happens in a police state.

There seems to be no such problems for prime minister Justin Trudeau. In this age of feminism, it would be fascinating to learn if his chief of staff, Katie Telford, makes as much as his principle secretary, Gerald Butts. It is obvious that both make over $200,000 and that is quite a bit more than the much-touted middle-class job.

But the doppelganger danger still pertains. The charmed circle with which Justin Trudeau surrounds himself is isolating him from argument and reality. We now have elite selections of senators, elite selections of judges, elite selections for boards and commissions. It would never hurt to have a modicum of political common sense included in making some of these appointments.

But both Ontario’s Doug Ford and Ottawa’s Justin Trudeau have too much ego for that. Both need to have some better exposure to contrary thinking. There does not seem to be much danger of that.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Competing with Donald Trump?

November 24th, 2018 by Peter Lowry

It is unlikely that Canadians had any idea just how much American president Donald Trump would cost them. Our great-great grand children will be paying off Canada’s national debt. And if anyone could explain what good it will do, we would be rushing out to ring all the church bells across the land.

Not being one to worry too much about billions of dollars of sustainable debt, I would let it all fly by me. The only problem is the latest salvo from Mr. Trudeau’s elitist finance minister Bill Morneau added another $18 billion of debt when what he was really doing was stuffing the turkey at the wrong end. He was ignoring the fact that the front end of a turkey has limited capacity for stuffing.

The last thing that Morneau’s fall statement did was invest in middle-class jobs, so that was what they called the document.

After many years in the business of public relations, I can assure you that calling something by a positive name does not make it so. Simply stated, the Good News Bible is not all good news. All those ancients in that book are dead and no longer responsible for the misguided screw-up they made of our world.

What our finance guru Morneau was doing was catering to his pals in industry. He was competing with the business tax cuts of that ass they have for president in the United States. They want to see who can have the lowest taxes for industry. It was all in aid of better quarterly reports for shareholders. That is a suckers’ game. Who wants to have a contest to see who can give away the most to people who will always be whining for more?

If I wanted to win an election next year, I would go for a little more balance. Sure, give industry some tax saving so they know you care and then balance it by giving them more customers. Companies are always happiest when they have lots of customers wanting to give them money. That is how you stuff both ends of the turkey.

And you do it because companies do not vote. Keep companies happy and keep them creating jobs but it is the consumer who votes. Seniors like to vote. If Mr. Morneau was nicer to them, some might vote liberal.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

You don’t have to go to St. Mike’s to be bullied.

November 23rd, 2018 by Peter Lowry

The original intent was to ignore the bad public relations of St. Michael’s College School. It amazes me that the current situation there could be handled so badly. The principal and president might have taken the fall because they might have been a few generations behind times but it is the students who are feeling the pressure and it is the fault of their parents.

It is the parents who spend $20,000 or more per year to send their kid to exclusive schools, who are buying into false promises. It might be nice that they can spend lots to show they care but the kid can screw up there just as easily as at the public school around the corner.

The theory with these exclusionary schools is that your kid makes friends that will help him or her throughout adulthood after you have cashed in. Have you no confidence in your kid at all? Will s/he be traumatized with these feelings of inadequacy through a lifetime? Where’s your confidence?

Of course, you want the best for your kid. If you had told me, when my dear, sweet daughter was 15 and at a private school, that she would turn out later in life to be an excellent mother and a respected financial advisor, I would not have stopped laughing for a week.

With both a son and a daughter who had some experience of private schools, I can tell you that private schools are a very bad idea. They are an uncontrolled industry that sucks discretionary money out of the economy. Sure, there are kids with special needs. We should help them. And we should remember that public schools are always a work in progress. They must come first.

And, while we are at it, what qualifies any parent to home school their kid? I do not care how good and smart a teacher they might be. The days of the one-room school are long gone. Kids need interaction with a peer group. They need to socialize. They need to experience.

And do not get me going on religious schools. The worst thing we can do to children is to tell them they are better or different—or tell them Sally down the street is different because of religion. Canada is a secular society. Religious schools make a travesty of our equal treatment for all. They build walls of bigotry. They do not teach, they live in the past and attempt to condition.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

The Bitumen Business: Not for the timid.

November 22nd, 2018 by Peter Lowry

As much as we try to keep up to date on the business of bitumen, it is not because we want to report every dip and dive in the industry. Far from it. The problem is keeping track of what the tar sands exploiters and their public relations people at the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) are calling their product this week.

I sort of hoped that they would stick with ‘Western Canada Select’ but everyone knows that is just bitumen. They keep trying to call it ‘western crude’ or ‘heavy crude’ but nobody is sure what that is these days. All we know is that it fetches about $50 a barrel less than real crude oil from American fracking or the Middle-East.

And no, there is no joy in Alberta with discounted bitumen selling at less that $15 per barrel.

At current prices, it is hard to understand why any of these well-heeled companies would want to stay in the bitumen business for too long. It is so bad that they actually met as an industry with the Alberta government, in the person of the premier, to discuss possible solutions.

Some of the companies actually pressured the province to order them to curtail operations and reduce production by about 10 per cent across the board. The companies pushing this included heavy hitters such as Canadian Natural Resources, Cenovus Energy and Nexen Energy. The problem is that integrated companies such as Husky, Imperial Oil (ExxonMobil), Shell and Suncor are making substantial profits from the bitumen as they own the refineries and retail operations that can use the low-cost bitumen product. The only problem these companies face is getting their bitumen to the refineries—and the pollution their refineries are causing.

Listening to both sides left the Solomon-like premier with no option but to suggest that she would see if she can buy some more rail cars to carry the tar sands product to market.

But the situation of the non-integrated bitumen producers reminded me of the old story of the Prairie wheat farmer. His wife ran off with a pedlar, his daughter married a socialist, his local grain elevator burned down and nobody would buy his wheat. A CBC reporter asked him what he was going to do. The farmer thought about it and finally said, “I guess I’ll just go to the Gulf Coast of Florida this winter.”

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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