Why I Love My Wife

I am blessed with being married to an exceptional woman. Not only does she put up with my eccentricities in the normal ebb and flow realities of Men are From Mars and Women are From Venus, she also happens to be a really fine Principal running a wonderful public elementary school. I have very high standards of excellence in education and I can tell you quite honestly that I would be honoured to work for this particular Principal 24/7. Not only is she the epitome of a lifelong learner, a consummate professional, and a mindful arbitrator, she has a sense of humour.

Here is a classic example. As she was getting ready to leave for work at 6:30 am, she asked, “Can I borrow your Dad’s old coat?” She knew this coat was special – my Dad had left it to me to use in my outdoor education storytelling. It was a knee length deep brown Orlon fake-fur jacket that looked just like sheared beaver. When I wore it, I felt like a 17th century coureur de bois. “Sure,” I said, “Special  dress-up day?”

“I have to be a bear,” she replied as she kissed me goodbye. “Oh,” I said to the closing door. I got the full story that evening.

It turns out that one of the kindergarten classes doing an Inquiry Learning Project on habitats had built a cave in their classroom. Not only a cave, but a pond complete with frogs and fish, and Canada geese flying in a ecosystem that only primary imaginations could create. The children had just gone out for recess. My wife, the Principal, put on my Dad’s coat, tiptoed into the classroom, and curled up in the cave.

The children came back from recess. It took a few minutes, but finally one of the children whispered, “There’s something sleeping in our cave!” They gathered around. One of the braver children gingerly poked the sleeping creature. “I think it’s a bear.” The bear got another poke. This time the bear stirred and growled a little. “Maybe it’s hungry. Give it a fish!” So one of the fish from the pond was placed in the cave with the bear. The bear must have smelled the fish because it rolled over and opened its eyes.

“Principal!,” the children yelled, “We thought you were a bear!”

“Oh my, no,” said the Principal, “it was cold out on yard duty and and your cave is so nice and warm that I came inside and I suppose I fell asleep.” The Principal bear stretched and yawned and lumbered back to her office. The children put the fish back in the pond … you just never know when another hungry bear might show up

Now keep in mind that in previous incarnations this particular Principal has been a Doctor, a WWF Champion, and a Pirate to mention only a few. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be a child in a school where imagination and inquiry learning are nurtured and your administrator can not only run the ship, she can inspire the crew and the passengers to love the journey.

As soon as she told me that story tonight, I had to come and write it down to share with you. The world is full of so much bad news right now that this story made me reflect on all the good. Thank you Principal Bear.

Yes there are people out there who threaten the sanity of our social fabric; but there are far more  great people out there working their hearts out for the children and the adults in our communities. So, why do I love my wife? Because she is a constant reminder of all that is good and intelligent and caring in this world.

Thank you.

***

Skid Crease, Caledon

 

*stock image from media.gettyimages

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Fire and Fury at Caledon Town Council

“Never retract, never explain, never apologize; get things done and let them howl.”

Nellie L. McClung

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The following quotes clarify this journalist’s reaction, and lack of apology, to the impassioned indignation of “them”, as referenced above in Nellie’s quote. On Tuesday, January 16, 2018, in the afternoon Town of Caledon Council Meeting, a recent Integrity Commissioner’s Report that looked into possible violations of the Council Code of Conduct by two Regional Councillors, found they were not guilty of violating their Council Code of Conduct:

“Look honey, I ain’t buying what you’re selling so get out!”  S.L.J. Shortt

“It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” William Shakespeare

“I’m not a crook.” Richard Nixon

“I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” Bill Clinton

“My two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart …. not smart, but genius, and a very stable genius at that!” Donald J. Trump

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So, let me ask my readers to judge how all of that fire and sound and fury signifying nothing could have been avoided.  The fire was ignited by the misinformation and confusion that flowed from a public meeting hosted by a regional municipal councillor, with another regional municipal councillor in attendance. That misinformation concerned a false accusation that the Town was providing free taxpayer funded transportation from outside of Town to a local workplace. The second bonfire was set, again falsely, because the Town was allegedly slowing down the availability of medical facilities to be built on a “gift” of land, the fine details of which were being negotiated privately in-camera. That led to the Mayor and a “member of the public” invoking their democratic rights, and civic responsibilities, to file a Complaint with the Town’s Integrity Commissioner.

Prior to the Complaint being filed it should be noted that the “member of the public” had asked for an apology, a retraction, and a clarification of the information from the parties concerned. The Complaint was filed when that request was not fully honoured.

Imagine we had attended that local meeting public meeting. Imagine that two Regional politicians were in attendance. Imagine that the regional politician directing the conversations of the evening had simply said, “There is a private shuttle funded totally by the company to our local workplace with no cost to taxpayers.” Period. And that the location and lands, like our possible land “gift”, required for specific types of medical care facilities are sized and approved for use depending on population and transportation, and are Provincial responsibilities. Or imagine that the other regional politician, had misinformation been discussed, clarified with correct facts immediately.

I can only imagine. And because that did not happen, I applaud the Mayor and the “member of the public” for raising their concerns. Now, the Town’s Integrity Commissioner did not find that the Council Code of Conduct had been violated. That was very good news for one regional politician who had previously been found guilty of two previous violations for using racial slurs and bullying colleagues.

But the “poor me” histrionics were way over the top. Sorry, regional politicians, you may not have been guilty of violating the Code of Conduct, but you were guilty of allowing your constituents to leave your meeting with enough misinformation that they attacked the Mayor and integrity of Town Council on social media and in a local newspaper.

So, as far as this journalist is concerned, “I’m not buying what you’re selling.”

Your crocodile tears may have been appreciated by the tiny base of supporters that was present at Town Council that afternoon, but a political lie for survival is still a lie. Idiots, crooks, liars, and megalomaniac geniuses – you are in good company. Just make sure that the next time you hold a public meeting, the cameras are running.

Note to self: if you are that challenged and irresponsible that you can’t get a simple piece of factual information across to your audience, get off the stage … and out of public office.

***

Skid Crease, Caledon

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A True Crime Story

The Suspicious Deaths of Barry and Honey Sherman: suicide, murder, and insurance money

 The details of this story are based on all available public records at the time of writing. The specifics of the case are accurate; the speculation as to motive is pure conjecture based on the old adage:

“Follow the money.”

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 You be the judge.

On the morning of December 15, 2018, the bodies of Barry and Honey Sherman, wealthy owners of Apotex Pharmaceuticals, were found in their home at 50 Old Colony Road, Toronto, discovered by a real estate agent who had been trying to contact them.

Their deaths were shocking. The passing of such great philanthropists was mourned by family, business associates, and friends. The Toronto Police were called in to investigate and announced that the deaths were “suspicious” and the cause of death was “ligature neck compression” usually associated either with strangulation or hanging. Now the question became, was it a double suicide, or a murder suicide pact, or a double homicide? In the one photo broadcast briefly on television, the crime scene showed two bodies in white robes or coats hanging at the edge of their indoor lap pool posed in symbolic elegance like something out of a Dan Brown novel.

Autopsies were performed. Initial speculation of murder suicide was obtained by the press. The family did not think that reflected well on their parent’s legacy and so they stepped in to the crime scene. This is something that generally only the very wealthy can do. A poverty stricken family of a mentally troubled person who is from a visible minority does not have access to private autopsy doctors or private investigators. They have to go with the standard police investigation, conclusions and report.

If you are very wealthy, and there is a lot at stake in terms of an upper class family brand, inheritance fortunes, insurance money and corporate control, you can do these things. They had their own private autopsy done. No doubt that the owners and partners of Apotex had access to every pharmaceutical under the sun, so who knows what chemical mix could turn up in one or both of the bodies.

What if it turned out that the “murder victim” had been drugged into a total relaxation before the ligature compression was applied? What if a similar pharmaceutical mix was found to have been ingested later by the “suicide victim”?  What if the victims calmly waited side by the side at the edge of the pool until the drugs took effect and the weight of their sagging bodies against the ligatures took care of the strangulation part? If the blind bitch goddess of justice is truly impartial, these are the questions that should be probed by the Toronto Police and not by a purchased private autopsy report or a family financed private investigation. The perception of conflict of interest is tantamount to a conflict of interest, especially when billions of dollars are involved.

When an ongoing investigation does not immediately deem that the deaths are homicides, nor are suspects being sought, and police have stated that there is no public safety risk, it usually indicates that whatever happened at that crime scene is isolated to that crime scene. In this case, the home of Barry and Honey Sherman and the indoor lap pool at 50 Old Colony Road, a home that was up for sale for nearly 5 million dollars.

Besides tarnishing the honourable and philanthropic legacy of Barry and Honey Sherman, a police report of suicide or murder/suicide would slow down the settlement of the estate. It would definitely slow down any life insurance payouts, possibly even eliminate them. Unhappy with the police “suspicious deaths” label, the family hired private investigators to look into the deaths.

A little background: generally, in Canada, if a person commits suicide, insurance policies become null and void. If a person is murdered, the policy goes to the beneficiary. In the case of a double suicide, no insurance money. However, in the case of a murder/suicide, the money of the murdered victim goes to their beneficiary, but the suicide victim gets no payout.

Now, this is where being wealthy and being able to afford really, really good lawyers and a sympathetic judge are important. Who was the murderer and who the suicide victim? In a case where the victim has been stabbed to death and the murderer has a single gunshot wound through the top of the skull, the verdict is pretty clear. The person without a brain is most likely a suicide and the insurance payment goes to the murdered victim’s beneficiary. There are variations on a theme here, like when a murder/suicide pact note is found indicating that both parties wanted out. That nullifies any life insurance payments.

The simplest case of all is when the police determine that the victims were a double homicide. Insurance gets paid as soon as the investigation concludes. That is exactly the conclusion reached by the private investigators hired by the Sherman family. That report was released to the Toronto Daily Star on Friday, January 19. 2018. It proposes that proposes Barry and Honey Sherman were victims of a double homicide. The family purchased private report now contends that that Shermans were found kneeling at the edge of the pool with their hands bound. Insurance problem almost solved.

Almost. But given that this contradicts the Toronto Police report, and that no suspects are being sought and that no public safety warning has been issued by the police, enter really, really good lawyers and judges to settle the dispute. No pressure, but there are millions of dollars and 1% reputations riding on the outcome.

Crime and Punishment in Toronto 2018 … the story has yet to be concluded, but you can write your own conclusions and see how they compare to the next chapter.

Wait for the public autopsy, compare it to the private autopsy and then write one ending from the official police perspective, and one from the Private Investigators hired by the Sherman family. Write one from a Globe & Mail perspective, and one from a Toronto Star perspective. Maybe even one from a Toronto Sun perspective. You be the judge.

And then write the screenplay. It will be riveting.

 

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Truth, Justice and Responsible Communication

You be the judge. Here is a hypothetical scenario to test your comprehension skills. And, at the end of this fake news show, like The Donald, you get to say, “You’re hired,” or “You’re FIRED!”

Here we go:  Principal A holds a local parent information night on the same night that the School Board is holding a board-wide meeting on Safe Sex Education. A colleague, Principal B from another area, attends the local meeting hosted by Principal A rather than the Board-wide presentation. Both Principals later claimed that they knew everything there was to teach about Safe Sex.

A variety of local and board wide information is presented at Principal A’s meeting which is attended by a very small group of parents.

The next day, social media is aflame with reports that the School Board is squandering funds to provide public bus transportation for students from outside the area to a local private school. Parents write that they are “very disappointed” that the Director is spending thousands of their local dollars to fund this private transportation for spoiled, ethnically diverse rich kids.

Worse than that, after years of trying to get a new soccer field for the students, the parents have discovered that the Board is dragging their feet on an arrangement with a local resident to have the new soccer field extended onto her property.

Now, although the parents who attended the meeting the night before claim they heard this information being presented and  discussed, and although the parents put out their complaints on social media, and although the local press picked up the story from social media and ran with it, it turns out that none of it was true.

There was never any public school funded transportation to the local private school. Period. The soccer field deal with the local neighbour had to be settled by the Ministry of Education and not the local school board. Period. Although both Principals in attendance could have clarified this at the meeting, they apparently did not, leaving parents so confused and misinformed that they vented their falsely aroused frustrations on the school board Director.

Now, you might be concerned that if information this simple can get screwed up so badly, what about the nuances of world history, quadratic equations, Shakespearean plays, and Safe Sex Education. Yes, you might be very concerned, and so was the Director of Education. The Director, acting responsibly, asked the Supervisory Officer to look into the situation. Unlike teachers, Principals are not protected by a Union – they can get fired by Supervisory Officers for not doing their jobs properly.

Further research revealed that this was not the first time that Principal B had been called up on the carpet, in fact twice before for unprofessional behaviour. As well, not the first time that Principal A had been associated with communicating misinformation like, “There’s a bomb in the school – we’re all going to die!” (There was no bomb – a primary student merely had explosive flatulence.)

In the end, a partial apology and clarification was made by Principal A, a histrionic defense of innocence was performed by Principal B, and the Supervisory Officer carried out no further disciplinary action on either one. It is not clear at the time of going to print if the Principals have made their apologies to the Director of Education or the parents for the embarrassment and confusion caused by their lack of clarity at a public meeting. Nor is it clear why Principal A called a meeting on the same night as an important Board-wide public information meeting, or why Principal B was even in attendance at Principal A’s meeting.

Now, let us pretend that your children are students in one of those schools led by Principal A and Principal B. You will get to decide if the Principals return to your schools or not. Choose carefully because your children’s future depends on a thoughtful and informed decision. You can decide to keep one or both Principals employed by the Board in the same or other schools, or you can reassign one or both of them for the next school year. To a galaxy far, far away ….

What’s it going to be … hired or FIRED? You be the judge.

***

Skid Crease, Caledon

 

 

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A Council Divided

 Original shorter version written for Just Sayin’ Caledon

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“A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln spoke those words in 1858 at the Illinois State Capital in Springfield after he had accepted the Illinois Republican Party’s nomination as the state’s U.S. Senator. Those words ring just as true today, and they apply as equally to governments great and small as they do to citizen movements, and to family clans, and to canoe trips.

 Picture a canot du maître in historic times with nine paddlers heading down the swollen Humber River, most of whom are paddling hard in one direction, a few  paddling in another, and one perennial lily-dipper on board. Not only is the forward progress slowed but the course becomes an erratic zig-zag despite the best efforts of the avant standing in the bow and the ­gouvernail in the stern, both trying to steer a true course.

Their route and the goods in their trade canoe have been selected by a talented team of mapmakers, clerks, accountants, and artisans, each a professional in their own right, and highly valued by the Company. They want to get those goods to markets quickly and efficiently.

Ask yourselves how successful those fur trade entrepreneurs would have been if those trade goods had not reached their outposts in the northwest of Canada or the trading posts on the Bay, or if the returning bales of beaver pelts had not reached the chapeau fashionistas of Europe. Which is why you need all the paddlers to be sharing the same vision – a successful journey for their employers, a journey most successful when all the paddlers are pulling in the same direction.

Now, apply this analogy to our Caledon Municipal Council where one of the members recently remarked that they were “very divided.” The paddlers are our Mayor, Area Councillors and Regional Councillors, the avant, the bow steering paddler, is our Town Clerk and the gouvernail, the stern steering paddler, is our CEO. The team backing them are our Town Staff, and the employer is the taxpayer, a minority of whom get off their couches to vote every four years. An even smaller minority of whom bitch and complain about every paddle stroke taken and every decision that the team makes.

Some of the “paddlers” are beginning to signal their intentions to return for another voyage. Others are getting ready to move on to other ventures. And the selection of the nine newly hired voyageurs will be decided by the good townsfolk. However, their decision this season must be to select a very competent crew for a four-year journey into the unknown.

On this voyage the canoe will travel into the uncharted waters of the 2018 to 2022 years, years of sweeping technological innovations, complex population growth, and social diversity challenges.  It will be as challenging as it was for our First Peoples when the European farmers arrived in Caledon in the early 1800’s.

As challenging as when their fur trade rivers were harnessed by grist mills and saw mills. As challenging as when their forests teeming with country foods were razed for farms. As challenging as when their spirituality and culture were almost destroyed by missionary zeal, colonial arrogance, smallpox, and broken treaties. And as challenging for us now as we face nuclear button insults, waves of environmental refugees, and the unpredictability of accelerating climate change.

Given the scope of those challenges, the new crew of paddlers must have the qualities of endurance and strength of character. They must have a skill set that will help them guide our canoe through turbulent waters as we draw our own map into the future. They must possess the qualities of an adaptive mind: curiosity, creativity, initiative, multi-discipline thinking, and empathy. These are the skills that will take them beyond being simply paddling machines in a canoe. These are the skills that make them, and us, truly human.

Hindsight gives us the wisdom of seeing what we should have done a little differently too late. Like, “Well, in hindsight, maybe we shouldn’t have built our downtown core in a river valley floodplain.” As 500-year storm insurance guidelines rewrite our town plans, we begin to realize the 10,000-year wisdom of the elders who built their villages on the high ground. Wisdom and foresight. Something we need to use in selecting our next paddlers.

We have seen the patterns in the paddling styles of our current crew. We need to take a very careful look at those who are signing on again because we can’t afford any lily-dippers or divisive contrarians who might sabotage the venture. Great people make a great team. It’s going to be a long and challenging journey – let’s pick the paddlers who will take us through safely.

A Council divided may fall, but a canoe united will carry our Town on a phenomenal journey into the future.

 

 

 

Skid Crease, Caledon

 

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* images from Heritage Canada

 

 

 

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