Posts Tagged ‘Ontario’

In the arrogance of ignorance.

Sunday, April 14th, 2019

You saw the big beaming smiles on their faces. If not in the newspapers or television news clips, you can imagine the smugness that Ontario’s conservative government felt bringing in their first budget accounting for Ontario’s billions in revenues. Despite their promises of efficiencies and despite the braggadocio, they failed to even keep pace with inflation. And they failed those who need the most from their government.

In the armour of their dark suits and bright ties, the conservatives laid their claim to the purse strings of the province. The treasurer was strident in his presentation and the premier laughing. He did not have much to laugh about as more and more the bad news was laid on those who could least afford it.

In the age-old tradition of politics everywhere, the treasurer blamed the former government for the slip-shod accounting that left the mess they inherited. They will let the deficit increase until the promised reform by the next term in office. Yes, we have heard it all before.

But the deepest cuts are in the loutish treatment of those less capable of defending themselves. Social services are slashed by a billion dollars. Legal aid can do with 30 per cent less money. Colleges and universities are set up for funding cuts. If you are poor, you can get by with less is this government’s claim.

But do not think of this government as just mean spirted and cruel. It also has a somewhat weird sense of humour. In the tradition of Hogarth’s Gin Lane painting of the mid 1700s, drink is the answer. Drink more, drink often as hours of sale for booze increase and there are more places coming to meet your need for the demon rum and beer.

And the most incongruous actions are the new Tory-blue licence plates and the adhesive signs for the gas pumps damning the federal liberals for the carbon tax that is part of the plan to fight pollution.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

Tories take a try at Toronto transit.

Saturday, April 13th, 2019

You really need to be a Torontonian to recognize the absurdity of the Ontario government’s latest plan for Toronto transit. It seems to be a right of passage for Toronto politicians that they all have to give transit another kick in passing. Premier Doug Ford should be passing out cigars for this baby.

The new scheme has the Ford signature subway to Scarborough. It will probably get the title of the Rob Ford Memorial Ditch if it ever gets dug. Built is yet another problem.

The parsimonious progressive conservatives of Ontario do not have the money. And they really have no intention of finding it.

As frightening as the plan might be, it does provide the odd chuckle. Why do you think the government wants a subway terminus at Ontario Place? It sure is not for the last half of August each year to bring people to the Ex.

And you hardly need to look at that proposed transit map for long to wonder what idiots did this design. Did they even look at bus use, traffic patterns, population demographics or densities?

Mind you, they must have some better vision of what the city should have in high speed transit than the ridiculous maze that cut King Street West off from logical traffic. The city needed to have some adults take control.

This Ford government experiment in transit planning is somewhat whimsical. And if not that, the timelines are mythical and the cost estimates hysterical. And this is so much that Toronto needed—one more damn plan that people will argue over for years instead of getting anything done.

I expect it is an unfair comparison but I have always compared Toronto’s transit solutions with those of Chicago, Illinois. Both cities have the problem of being built upside a lake. Chicago’s Els that are based on the city’s train network, are noisy and smelly and ugly. Chicago city is equally badly run—if not worse.

But Chicago’s Els are people movers and they have done the job over the past century. Toronto just needs to grow up and tell Ford’s phonies to get their hands out of the city’s cookie jar.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

Ontario liberals need a leader.

Friday, April 5th, 2019

It is good to see that there are a number of worthy contenders already at the starting line for the upcoming leadership contest for the Ontario liberals. More important than the names of those individuals, at this point in time, are the rules for the race.

And the simpler the rules, the better. Over the years, we have seen too many of all parties’ leadership races twisted to unfair advantage by leadership contenders. Surprisingly, it is the more complex the rules, the easier it is to bend them. The simpler the rules, the harder it is for the unscrupulous to twist them to advantage.

First of all, it should always be one member-one vote. Delegated conventions have been corrupted for too many years. And all electoral districts are not equal, nor should they be counted as such. There is no way a riding with 500 members should be counted the same as one with just 100 members. You do not want to honour mediocrity. Nor should anyone pay their basic membership with anything other than their personal credit card. The occasional person with no credit card needs witnesses.

Nothing other than a single mark or the single click of a mouse should be the process for voting. Please do not try to speed the voting process with preferential voting. You are seeking the best not mediocrity.

To come to a majority decision is the democratic choice of the party and each ballot should be called without dropped candidates trying to influence the subsequent voting. They can only dignify the subsequent ballot with their silence.

And the party has to realize that fund-raising by candidates cannot be a yardstick for quality of leadership. Less is more in leadership. Ideas stand tall. Communications are in the content, not the gloss. Can this candidate walk in your shoes?

We have an opportunity in this leadership contest to be proud of our choice of leader. Let him or her really reflect the liberalism people need in to-day’s Ontario.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

Even a stopped clock is right twice a day…

Sunday, March 31st, 2019

As inept and foolish as the Ford government in Ontario might be, you have to admit it when occasionally the chuckleheads do something right. It is like when the impossibly ideological Mike Harris government in the late 1990s amalgamated the city of Toronto. The province did it for the wrong reasons and, maybe, even out of spite. It was still the best long-term solution for the city.

And while some might wonder at Doug Ford and his friends picking a fight with the Beer Store, it makes sense for a populist government to fight with an organization that Ontario beer drinkers hate. Standing up to the foreign owners of the Beer Store is a rite of passage. It shows that Dougie and his buddies are the big dogs now.

And what reasonably intelligent business person do you know who would want to sue a government giving them increased access to a market worth more than a billion dollars per year? The deal made with the Beer Store five years ago by banker Ed Clark is only of historical interest. It was an inappropriate deal to begin with and neither the brewers nor the government want the gouging of the public by the Beer Store to become public knowledge.

We are told the three companies, Labatt, Molson and Sleeman, agreed to spend $100 million a year in the first four years to upgrade their Beer Store properties. If these companies are serious about staying in business in Ontario, they should be spending that much and more routinely to maintain and improve their 470 outlets, as well as adding new properties as the population grows.

And you can hardly ignore the less glamorous end of the business. The scope of the Beer Store’s recycling business can make many similar operations appear small and puny. And do not forget the deal with the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) to reclaim their liquor and wine bottles. This is not just social responsibility. It is a multi-million dollar business on its own.

But what do you want to bet that a company such as Costco could teach the Beer Store people a thing or two about marketing two-fours?

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

Ontario’s going to Hell in a handbasket.

Saturday, March 30th, 2019

There are various opinions about ways of getting to Hell but my American mother liked the phrase about a handbasket and I first heard it from her when I was quite young. It seems appropriate now that we have elected a Ford as premier, that the province is heading for hell and perdition faster than before.

Look at the difference between the much more parsimonious liberal regime than what was elected last June. The liberals used a form of water torture to distribute booze from a grocery store here and then another over there. Dougie is fixing that. The conservatives have already extended the hours of permitted sale and they are even talking about beer in convenience stores.

Just why Dougie has not been as adept in the task of marketing cannabis comes as something of a surprise.

And why is it, all of a sudden, that we have new casinos opening all over the province? Dougie also seems to be behind that. Any voters foolish enough to blow their vote on Ford and his conservatives last year had to be big time gamblers.

Mind you, the wife would like to grab that big schmuck by the throat and find out why there are no craps tables at these new casinos. I am not really embarrassed to tell you that my wife likes to shoot craps.

She might be one of the thriftiest gamblers you have ever seen at a craps table but she is a good shooter and I have seen her hold the dice for close to an hour, making her numbers and making thousands for the heavy hitters at the table. At Rama, where the regular players know her, they will always make room for her at the table.

We have dropped in at two of these new casinos now adding to their table action at Toronto’s Woodbine and at the trotting track in Innisfil and while they were offering some table games, there were no craps tables. The wife advised them that she might come back—when they have craps.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

Fighting the Beer Store fight.

Friday, March 15th, 2019

Have you seen the opinion pieces running in what is left of Ontario’s small-town papers? These are warnings forecasting higher prices for beer if we change the way it is sold? This is old-fashioned protectionism for the beer store’s unionized employees. Frankly, with some grocery stores already offering beer, that horse has left the stable.

What this public relations effort is telling us is that the beer workers union is assuming the recent on-line survey by the government is telling them to go ahead with a broader array of sales outlets for beer. As a populist premier, Doug Ford would be inclined to support sales through convenience stores.

What should accompany this decision is a better direction for the present beer stores. There is a strong movement to separate the recycling efforts of the beer store from case sales. It would serve the public better if the Beer Store management decided what business it is going to emphasize. By a better divide between the two businesses, the merchandising and sales of beer could be greatly improved.

Ontario beer drinkers are frankly tired of the poor merchandising and bad smells of recycling depots doing a part-time job of selling beer. It would hardly surprise me if many of the 447 stores in Ontario need to be condemned as unsanitary.

Is it just part of their bad service that they challenged 3.7 million customers last year? If the company’s employees can only guess that somebody is underage or drunk once in every 34 tries, they should get out of the age and sobriety guessing business. It would certainly improve their service for the other customers.

And while we should never constrain the choices people can make as to their favourite suds, most customers come to the store to get a specific brand in a specific quantity. There are lots of ways to improve the service for them.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

How great is it going to be?

Sunday, March 3rd, 2019

Do you really want to trust a politician who insists on telling you how great it is going to be? When the Ontario government announced its health care reforms this week, everyone was left wondering just how they were going to accomplish these great results. That was all we got, no details, just the objective.

Ontario was promised a new super agency called Ontario Health and other than the superlatives, that is about what there is to know about it. Many years ago, we had a super agency and it was called the Ontario Ministry of Health. It was also a super agency. It found though that it needed to keep creating other agencies to do the things that the ministry did not have the people, nor the expertise to do. It even created what were called Local Health Integration Networks (LHIN) to make the service more assessible. Now the LHINs are being absorbed into the super agency—probably because they spend too much.

Frankly, the Ontario government might have been smarter if it had delayed the announcement until it knew better what it was doing. I expect there would be a long wait for that.

What is particularly disappointing in all of this B.S. being washed through the corridors of Queen’s Park is the role of super MPP Christine Elliott. As minister of health, hers is not an enviable position. She has been handed her talking points about this new super agency and come hell or high water, she is going to read them through.

Every time reporters ask her about some problem in health care, she goes into a lengthy discussion of how bad the situation is now and the promise that the Tories are going to fix it. She has absolutely no idea how it will be fixed but, according to Ms. Elliott, you can be sure that the Tories will fix it.

And at the same time, the Tories are going to save money. Everything will be paid for with money saved by the wily Tories.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

When compromise is the problem.

Saturday, February 23rd, 2019

Nobody should celebrate too soon about the compromise solution to paying Ontario’s doctors. After more than four years of arguments, back-stabbing and threats, nobody is particularly happy. The three-member arbitration board did not have to find the money, so they could be generous. And they were. The doctors got what they wanted and they can go back to fighting among themselves for the spoils.

But why does it feel like there is still another shoe to drop?

Oh yah, I really do not think that Dougie and the gang at Queen’s Park are going to take this solution lying down. They are hardly about to bleed another few billions into the doctors’ pockets. Do the math for yourself. There are some 23,000 doctors in Ontario set to making a rather generous $12 billion plus per year—requiring almost a quarter of our health care costs.

And you were wondering why Dougie and the gang were putting the screws to families with autistic children? These purported politicians who told you that they were going to save the taxpayers money have been bleeding money since getting into office after that rout of the liberals. Dougie puts the president of partially-public Hydro One on a strict diet and yet pays his friends more than they ask for. And the government is now faced with open-ended payment for the doctors.

We will probably hear from the health minister soon that a new bill is coming to put a cap on doctors’ earnings. That could start another round of arguments with the doctors. And to complicate the situation further, it could cause more rifts between the specialists and the general practitioners. It would almost be a blessing to see the Ontario Medical Association become something of an amoeba and start splitting into multiple versions of itself.

And the politicians thought just one OMA was a problem?

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

Ford Follies.

Thursday, February 14th, 2019

This entertainment is settling in for a long run. Ontario premier Doug Ford and his ensemble are enjoying their reviews. You cannot help but compare the show to the old 19th Century minstrel shows—without blackened faces, though Doug Ford does seem pleased in playing the role of Mr. Interlocutor.

In this minstrel show, the Ontario cabinet is seated in a row with Mr. Interlocutor in the middle. Each routine is a chance for another member of the troop to do his or her stuff. When the minister of colleges and universities announced cuts in student funding in Ontario, Mr. Interlocutor added that there would be no more crazy Marxist nonsense promoted.

That is the way that these routines run. The minister of health will say that big changes are coming in health care. Doug Ford has already hired his pal Reuben Devlin at $348,000 per year to tell him what those big changes will be.

Ford even tried to hire long-time Mississauga mayor Hazel McCallion to tell his minister of municipalities what to do about the housing needs in Ontario. Mind you Hazel, being a wise person, said she would prefer to do it for free. At 97, Hazel has stopped saving money for her old age. And then, when she thought a little further about it, she decided she did not have the time. (There is a lot of humour in these minstrel shows.)

The funniest routine that the show came up with last week was the announcement by environment minister Rod Phillips that the province intended to give taxpayers’ money to the polluters to get them to try to stop their polluting ways. Even Doug Ford could not top that one.

Mind you, the environmental stuff is a rolling situation. Phillips changed his mind and is now saying polluters will pay but not as much as the federal government wants. Ontario will now have a carbon tax but want to call it something else because they are still suing the federal government over the carbon tax.

But I am going to have to stop this comparison to minstrel shows. It will get me in trouble.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

‘Super-agencies,’ been there; done that.

Saturday, February 9th, 2019

Health care in Ontario is a machine of many parts. It seems the Ford government wants to start collecting those parts into one super agency. The only problem with this is that there once was a super agency responsible for health care in the province. It was called the Ministry of Health. And it was the ministry itself that created all the disparate parts of the system with which the public is faced today.

Do the parts work well? Not really. Would a super agency work well? Not really. Would a super agency save money? Not in the long run.

But the mystical theory of all conservatives is that the fewer the agencies involved, efficiencies will follow. In theory, they are right. The only problem is that when you make a mistake in health care, you are mistreating people. It gets noticed faster.

When the 14 local health integration networks (LHINs) were established in Ontario, it was an attempt to take critical local decisions down to where they could be made closer to the needs of the patient. This localized arrangement was further structured more recently when local services such as home health services were taken over by the LHINs. If the idea was to reduce the heat on the Ministry of Health, it failed. And if the idea was to cut down on the size of the Ministry of Health, it failed.

The best guess of the Ford government’s intentions is that the 14 LHINs might be reduced to five regional oversight bodies. How this is supposed to save money is not clear to people who know how governments add and subtract. It is definitely not as simple as dividing by 14 and multiplying by five.

The danger that is obvious in this mathematical exercise is that many of the local services could be orphaned again. And woe to the local politician who gets caught in the cross fire. All I know is that for every act of kindness for a patient in Toronto, some sick soul is getting screwed out in the boonies.

It is disconcerting that health minister Christine Elliott—who was supposed to be one of the adults at the cabinet table—keeps talking about some sort of health care transformational policy that is coming.

It is even more disturbing that we hear that premier Ford has appointed his crony Rueben Devlin, former CEO of Humber River Hospital, to come up with this transformational policy at an annual stipend of $348,000 per year.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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