Posts Tagged ‘Ontario’

A summer of silly slogans.

Saturday, August 11th, 2018

It has to be this hot summer. It is either that or we have some of the stupidest politicians in the world right here in tropical Ontario. Premier Ford and a few of his political cronies took a road trip—with news media in tow—back down the Highway of Heroes to Prince Edward County the other day. It was all in aid of a silly slogan about “A buck a beer.”

The conservative politicians—in their suits and ties—were heading for a beer pub down the highway that had agreed to their doing a political stand-up comedy routine there for “A buck a beer.” In the news clips produced at the small brew pub, Dougie and his buddies looked like idiots handling craft-beer cans back and forth.

Dougie kept spouting this silly suggestion that beer drinkers will be able to pay just a buck for a beer by Labour Day weekend. If they saw it, millions of Ontario beer drinkers must have been wondering what Dougie was drinking.

Nobody in their right mind was going to believe that any brew pub could afford to sell their product to the public for just a buck a beer. Nor was anyone so gullible as to think the foreign owners of the commercial brands in Ontario were about to give away their traditional brews for just a buck a beer. If you can tell me were I can get a two-four of Molson for just $24 plus deposit, I will be in line right behind you.

The point is—for anyone who would like to believe Dougie—the Ontario government does set the minimum price for beer in Ontario. They do that to encourage something called “responsible drinking.” The province also imposes what is sometimes referred to as a “sin’ tax or an alcohol tax. This charge for being booze is in addition to the usual harmonized sales tax that is split between the feds and province—as well as the fed’s ‘sin’ tax.

But, surprise, surprise, our Dougie is not even considering lowering any taxes. No sir. He wants full measure from the sin taxes to allow him to create tax savings for his fellow millionaires.

He obviously thinks the Liquor Control Board of Ontario will strong-arm one or two craft brewers into doing a ‘Buck a Beer’ promotion through the liquor stores for Labour Day weekend. You should not expect stocks of $1 beer (plus deposit) to last through the Saturday of the long weekend.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Folks find Ford far from frugal.

Monday, August 6th, 2018

We are told that Ontario premier Doug Ford is going to sue prime minister Justin Trudeau. And he is going to use our money to do it. I hardly see how that is going to please Ontario residents. Other than our money going to enrich a bunch of lawyers, what is the point? Why is premier Ford using our money to massage his ego?

This does not make sense. Why should this guy use our money? He is supposed to be a millionaire. Why should he not have some skin in the game?

This is the guy who promised us all kinds of savings in the provincial government. The only cuts in spending we have seen so far are the announced cuts by the lady with the sharp pencil from Oshawa in the increase in proposed spending, such as for the mentally ill. That is a less than impressive saving!

Ford promised us that it would cost us nothing to fire the guy running Hydro One. It seems ‘nothing’ is more like $9 million. Bad math Dougie!

That social services minister from Hell, Lisa MacLeod, did her part. She shaved half of a three per cent raise in funds for people on disability payments. Maybe she figures that will hold those shirkers!

It is what Lisa did to the people expecting two more years of the test of guaranteed income that caused the greatest shock. These people were rebuilding their lives under the test program that the conservatives promised would continue. No, it is not. The Ford cabinet changed its mind.

But, do you note that most of these cuts were in proposed increases. Nothing has been saved, it was all future spending. Yet it is alright to spend $30 million to make lawyers richer on a law suit that will go nowhere.

And the laugh in all of this is that the law suit will be under the management of a lawyer who has only practised law in New York State. Attorney General Caroline Mulroney will likely have her application against the federal government’s carbon tax plan thrown out of the Ontario court of appeal by a judge who has much more important matters on his or her calendar. And there are definitely fewer guarantees that the other version of the carbon tax case being sent to the supreme court jointly by Ontario and Saskatchewan will get much further.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

The Patrick Brown legacy lives on.

Tuesday, July 31st, 2018

It is like a bad smell that does not go away. There was some relief in Barrie during the period when Patrick Brown was living the high life in Toronto as leader of the Ontario conservatives. It was the complaints by two young, unidentified Barrie ladies that caused him to resign as conservative leader. And it was the vindictiveness of fellow conservative MPPs that convinced him not to run to replace himself as leader or to contest the Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte provincial electoral district as a conservative.

But like a bad penny, Patrick Brown keeps showing up—recently as a home owner in Mississauga—then as a candidate for Peel Region chair—and then, just as suddenly—candidate for mayor of Brampton.

Patrick Brown of Barrie is a political conniver. Some people think he is a pretty good ‘retail politician’ in the sense that he knows all the angles to work on voters. Yet he abuses those angles. He is slippery and has little respect for truth. He is only in it for himself.

Brown spent years in Ottawa and never made a contribution to his party policy or on behalf of his constituents. On free votes he voted against women’s rights and to re-open abortion arguments.

The old political term for Brown is “carpetbagger.” He little cares for the needs of Peel region voters but he figured to make around $200,000 per year in the newly elected role as regional chair. He took a quick look around when premier Ford slammed close that opportunity and selected mayor Linda Jeffrey of Brampton as the only potential opportunity. He has no personal connection with Brampton but figures, in the current times, his being a conservative and Jeffery being a former provincial liberal cabinet minister gives him a chance at winning. He knew better than to go after Bonnie Crombie in Mississauga (where he now lives) who has done a good job replacing a retired Hazel McCallion.

What reminded me of this was Brown’s acolyte, Alex Nutall MP, who is very proud of taking over Brown’s role at Hockey Night in Barrie this year. I think Royal Victoria Hospital and the other charities getting involved should get a forensic audit of this event in recent years. They might not know the kind of legacy to which they have tied themselves.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Ford-style mathematics and The Kingfish.

Monday, July 30th, 2018

Even health minister Christine Elliott is going along with the mathematics used by the new Ontario premier. Once you accept that two and two add up to zero, you are one of the true believers. The only problem is that when we are so obviously in need of improving mental health services is no time to fool with the mental health funding as planned by the previous provincial regime.

Recent events on Toronto’s Yonge Street and then in Greektown on the Danforth tell us that serious mental health problems are being allowed to escape our notice, our concern and possible action. It is worrisome when the new health minister starts her job denying the allocation of funds needed to address mental health problems.

But can we expect more than summary decisions of this summer session of the Ontario legislature? There was no examination or discussion of the whys and wherefores of the York University strike and how to prevent such a disruption for the students in the future. The process was cursory.

In the same sense, does the conservative government want more than a cursory study of the bill to end “cap and trade” carbon pricing? Will we just see “Ford” mathematics used to qualify his ten-cent drop in the price of gasoline. And will we even notice the drop in the ever-increasing profits for the oil refining companies?

Would that we could have had any warning of changes in Toronto municipal ward boundaries? Should there be 24 city councillors or 47? Are not the voters in Toronto interested parties in that discussion? And do we understand what is the role of a councillor as opposed to a member of parliament or of the legislature? Instead of having dialogue on these issues, we are being ruled autocratically. Elections of regional chairs are being summarily cancelled. And is that a decision that we should discuss? Is it from spite—or some other spurious reason?

Is this the style of public discussion that Dougie is proposing to use to send sex education for Ontario students back in time? Does Dougie think he can now rule Ontario by fiat.

We initially assumed that Doug Ford would be like Donald Trump Lite. We are rethinking that and are starting to see him in more the role of a governor from the past in Louisiana, known as Huey P. Long. The story of Huey Long could be a cautionary tale. He called himself ‘The Kingfish.’

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

 

Doug is doubling down.

Friday, July 27th, 2018

Is it fun yet watching our new Ontario premier doubling down with our money? Doug Ford has given the back of his hand to all the efforts in the recent years to protect our environment. He wants to take us back to what was the middle ages of sex education. You would think the damn fool would take it easy at first. After all, he has four years to really screw up.

But Dougie is a man on a mission. He has sent the unions at York University back to their classrooms in anger. His solution was to solve nothing. He left the blame on the university board when it belonged on Queen’s Park He is afraid the people of Ontario will find out he is a fraud.

He has Queen’s park settling in for a rare summer session. He wants to see just how much consternation he can cause. He is a man on a mission. He has a city to consternate and political enemies to obliterate.

This will not be a time of well thought-through improvements. It will be a time of slash and burn. The barbarians have breeched the gates.

Education and health will lead the way in the tumbrils to the public pillories. They account for the bulk of Queen’s Park expenses and must bear the brunt of the cost cutting.

And we already know that there will be little of the truth told as these ideologues struggle with the realities of multi-billion cost overruns. We already saw the truth trampled as Dougie pronounced that there was no cost in getting the Hydro One chair to leave. Some of this conservative government contract cutting will take years to wend its way through a slowed and under-funded court system.

The reality is that Dougie has absolutely no idea what the conservative’s hatred of clean energy efforts will cost to liquidate. Will the occasional wind turbine be left turning in the wind as a nostalgic note from the past?

But where Dougie will really sell his soul is in getting even with his municipal enemies from Toronto. There is more to come than to just reducing the number of councillors and settling old scores.

And then there is that promise of ‘a buck a beer’ and even buying beer in convenience stores. Hopefully that will be resolved in what is left of this simmering hot summer in Ontario.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

A house without manners.

Saturday, July 21st, 2018

You would think their mother would have taught the Ford boys some manners. Maybe she tried but then maybe it just did not take with her sons. You would think that the crack-smoking younger brother, the late Rob Ford, would have prepared us for the lack of manners in brother Doug Ford. You can dress him up but he brings no decency to Queen’s Park. It is now a place without honour.

Of course, he has help in this. Today’s conservatives in Ontario are not the same quality as the conservatives of our youth. They are not your father and mother’s conservative gentry. They lack the concern, conscientiousness and civility of the Bill Davis era.

Those were the days when it was a pleasure to drop by Queen’s Park. You could park in front of the pink palace, run up the steps, stop for a few minutes of chat with the premier’s chief of staff, give a friendly wave to NDP leader Stephen Lewis and then stop by to see opposition leader Bob Nixon. We were dealing with issues in those days that that could be discussed and often resolved.

My role at the time was that of a functionary of the liberal party. We worked hand-in-glove with the party leader’s staff at Queen’s Park and had a good working relationship with the news media who were based there.

And all of these relationships were built on respect. It was not that we did not argue long and strong for our objectives. We could also listen to the other guys and give consideration for their concerns.

It was not that the house could not be raucous but it seemed to be mainly after a somewhat liquid dinner hour. Evening sessions at the Ontario legislature were never very productive back then.

Listening to Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell reading that speech from the throne entitled hypocritically “A Government for the People” recently helped to show how great the gap was with the past. The document was uncompromising, determined and gave no quarter. None of the customary niceties of a civilized legislature were included. There was no French language in it. There were no niceties. It was a cold, take-no-prisoners, approach.

Looking at Doug Ford’s front bench was particularly chilling. The experienced sat there, pleased with themselves, the newcomers seemingly eager for the blood of those across the floor. Times have changed.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

 

For love of money.

Monday, July 16th, 2018

Never having met Mayo Schmidt of Hydro One, I really cannot pass judgement on the six million dollars he was reportedly being paid. Not that I think anyone is worth that much, unless he can also guarantee that the Toronto Maple Leaf hockey club will win the Stanley Cup.

But Schmidt is not a hockey player and I have no idea of what the going rate is for CEOs of electrical distribution companies. Besides, it seems like there would be a rather small pool of talent from which to choose.

That being said, my sense is that executive salaries have gotten out of hand. Not to the extent that politicians such as Doug Ford should be allowed to ridicule the man for his high salary. At the same time, there seems to be a rather vulgar stretch from less than $20 per hour for factory help to more than two million a year for the presidents of too many companies.

And please do not get me going about executive perks, corporate performance bonuses, stock options and golden parachutes.

I will make an exception though for those who persevere in starting and developing new businesses into successful enterprises. A friend of mine has worked long and hard to develop a successful enterprise and should have retired several years back. He kept on going to make sure the company had a good potential for continued success. His employees encouraged him to treat himself and he listened and is now driving a Rolls Royce.

The other side of the coin is how some of these entrepreneurial billionaires spend their winnings in the corporate game of chance. Thinking of people such as Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, I wish more of their profits could go into the tax pot that is controlled by the people through their elected representatives. Charity starts at home and education and health care can always use more funds and at the same time public infrastructure needs constant updating.

But it smacks of greed when we find CEOs making millions while our premiers and prime ministers make much less. We pay our politicians at a rate that is carefully studied and that they feel the public will accept as fair. That makes sense. Maybe our corporate executives can learn something from this political approach.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

 

Trump-Lite’s Triumph.

Saturday, July 14th, 2018

On returning to Rome after winning wars, Roman generals were customarily awarded a triumph. This was a parade through the streets showing off the slaves and other booty of war. In Ontario, this triumph takes the form of a ritual parade through the legislature to the chambers where the lieutenant governor tells us what the government hopes to bring into law in the coming legislative session.

There was something terribly appropriate about Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell reading about a so-called ‘government for the people.’ It was the past and future coming together in an horrendous scene of chaos. She was gamely reading words that had no meaning to an audience of sceptics. She was describing a past without a future, a future without hope.

There was the shallowness of a commission of inquiry into past government spending while making no clear promises of where the government is headed other than its assumed restraint. It is a government that rejects change. It disavows the need to protect our environment. It rejects updated sex education for children when it is adults who need the lessons. It says we can neither dither nor delay and does both.

The most serious delay in the speech is in decommissioning the Pickering Nuclear generating station. Against all the best scientific advice, the Ford government thinks it knows better.

This writer was delighted to hear that the government will be adding convenience and big box stores to those who can sell beer. There was no mention though of the ‘buck a beer’ promise that was made during the more desperate days of the campaign.

Like his hero Donald Trump, Doug Ford is more charged by large crowds than by the realities of public office.

Nor does Doug Ford seem particularly worried about the potential lawsuits over some of his less well-researched promises. It appears that there has been a limit imposed on the number of outlets for beer in Ontario. This is in an agreement with the Beer Store retail outlets owned by the brewers.

Maybe the Ontario premier will just ignore the real costs as he did when Hydro One CEO Schmidt retired rather than letting Ford fire him. Ford gleefully told the news media that this cost the taxpayers nothing. Premier Ford’s idea of nothing seems to be about $8 million.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Sales people can be the easiest sale.

Monday, July 9th, 2018

Justin Trudeau blew it the other day. His task was simple. He was to sell Premier Ford of Ontario on helping to save the environment. And while he was at it, he also needed to help Ford understand that Canadians try their best to help refugees. At the same time, Ford needed to help preserve a common front with the feds on the ongoing North American Free Trade (NAFTA) negotiations.

But we are not sure that the third item even made it into the discussion.

Instead of pitching his product, the prime minister set out to lecture the premier. It would be hard to choose a bigger waste of time. Doug Ford was there to prove that he was now the premier and the prime minister had come to him for something. Ford was feeling like top dog in that kennel.

Next time, Trudeau should remember to send for Ford. He should have had the meeting in the more impressive prime minister’s office. Turf is everything to a guy like that.

And what right does Trudeau have to get miffed at the obduracy of Ford? Did he expect instant understanding? Those guys do not speak the same language. And I hardly mean French and English.

Ford is not an environmentally friendly kind of person. He is the type who doesn’t care about plastic straws and probably throws his empty Tim’s cup out the SUV window at a stoplight. He seems to see environmentalism as something for wusses.

And his attitude on refugees is straight out of the Donald Trump Handbook. He sees them all as mad rapists and criminals who want our free medical care and housing who will take the bread from Canadians. Mind you, if Trudeau thinks it is a complex subject, he obviously is not going to enlighten the likes of Ontario’s Doug Ford.

Despite Trudeau’s background as a teacher, Ford is probably a special needs case when it comes to this subject. Ontario’s bombastic new social services minister, Lisa MacLeod has also indicated to her federal counterpart that the province was no longer interested in doing anything for asylum seekers who are shifting their focus from the United States.

Be warned you tired and poor and huddled masses, the signs at the borders of Ontario are no longer going to say ‘welcome’ either.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Secrets of the speech writer.

Saturday, July 7th, 2018

There seems to be a wealth of expertise today on why the Ontario liberals failed us in the June election. One of the more recent apologists was a speech writer who tells us he has spent, probably too much, time at Queen’s park. His article made me wonder about how speeches are being crafted today.

There are certain basics about political speeches that I am sure never change. One of the first basics is understanding your audience. If you do not know your audience, you are better to say hello, introduce yourself in simple terms and then keep quiet and listen.

Writing speeches for somebody new is always a special challenge. I was criticized more than once for asking a lot of seemingly inane questions. What I was doing was listening to how the person talked. I had to be able to hear in my mind, the person saying every word I would write.

You also had to convince the new client that you will rap their knuckles if they dare to change any of your phrasing. You spend a good deal of time seeking to preserve what is built into the speech that makes logical clips for the broadcast media.

But I would never recommend to a political client that they think or talk like Doug Ford. The one thing you can count on is that most people are smarter than the younger Ford brother. Doug is no business genius. He is just a salesman, albeit a good one. He knows to repeat the winning slogans as his brother taught him. What he also tried to pick up from his late brother was Rob’s commitment and street smarts. Rob connected—maybe with people you are not interested in—but he built Ford Nation on their loyalty. You should never be critical of a guy with his own mob!

The speech writer is knowledgeable enough to know that politicians should not be going around giving lectures in civics. Nothing seems to turn off voters faster. And he thinks they should explain to voters why they care about them –also a good idea.

But the problem now for salesman Doug Ford is delivering on what he has promised his customers. They delivered the votes he wanted. He now has to deliver the goods. A good speech writer cannot always solve that problem.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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