Peter Munk, you saved my life

Today marks the passing of a true Canadian icon. Peter Munk 1927 – 2018, nine meaningful decades of a life well lived. Little did I know at the time that the beautiful wooden cabinet Clairtone Hi Fidelity record player that sat in our living room as I was growing up was the product of Peter Munk’s first serious endeavour with his partner David Gilmour.

After the devastating loss of Clairtone in 1967 came the unprecedented success of Barrick Gold in 1983. And with that fortune, Munk began to give back. From the Peter and Melanie Munk Cardiac Centre to his School of Global Affairs at University of Toronto to his million dollar donation to the families who lost everything in the Fort McMurray fires, Peter Munk gave back to his chosen country.

Most selfishly for me, Peter Munk saved my life. Through his generous funding of cardiac research and training, the skilled team at Toronto General Hospital University Health Network brought me back to life, and continue to keep my big, fast paced heart in good health. I promise to earn it.

Peter Newman , in his book Titans, is quoted as saying that Munk, a refugee who lost everything to Nazi persecution in Europe, was driven by “restitution, redemption, revenge.” Restitution: restoring hope for those suffering from war, disaster and illness; Redemption: bringing balance to the dark and light forces in our lives;  Revenge:  holding the monsters to account.

Much like the mythical Count of Monte Cristo, Peter Munk escaped from the dungeons of war ravaged Europe to rise to a position of fame and fortune and use that fortune for good – with the greatest gifts, he said, to come after his death.

Well, Mr. Munk, I never met you, but my heart beats now because of your philanthropy. And by some fateful coincidence those three R’s of yours are  the three forces that have driven my journalism since my recovery. Thank you.

***

Skid Crease, Caledon

*image from mcleans.ca

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An Open Letter to Sylvia Jones, MPP

First, Sylvia, I think you are doing a wonderful job representing our riding in Caledon. And it was a pleasure meeting your enthusiastic constituents at your past Open House, many of whom are good friends and trusted confidents.

As a result, I was all set to join the provincial partying until the leadership fiasco – I fully expected Christine Elliot to win. Unfortunately, I have studied the Ford family for a long time now, and have been investigating politics for decades. Bill Davis was my idol and the Education Minister who gave me my teaching certificate, and he still is the epitome of a true Progressive Conservative.

Doug Ford is to the Ontario Conservative Party what Donald Trump is to the Republicans and he will be a lightning rod for the alt-right in Ontario, the old Mike Harris Reformatories. I have met them, groups of grumpy old white men in the coffee shops in Bolton, spouting misogyny and racism and blind condemnation for anything left of centre.

As an environmental science writer, I can assure you that we need a carbon tax of some kind and an immediate shift to a renewable energy economy, I have already chastised the federal Liberals for missing the boat on this one. Also, as an internationally respected educator, I can assure you the new Ontario Health and Physical Education Curriculum didn’t go far enough in delivering modern sex education to our school children. Besides the basic plumbing and issues of gender identity, we also need to make our children street smart when it comes to predators and pornography.

The only people truly opposed to this well-vetted and publically discussed curriculum are religious zealots and those who stoke their fires and fears. The idea that their values are being challenged is ridiculous considering that the curriculum is not mandatory. And it is certainly not being opposed by the young people who are about to inherit an abusive twenty-first century world. Especially if it ends up being run by Lingerie League loving “leaders” like Doug Ford.

Sorry, Sylvia, but we get known by the company we keep, and Doug Ford is not on any of my guest lists. Your online and print support for Mr. Ford as “leader” is admirable from a loyal Party member.  But, as our voice for Ontario in the twenty-first century, he doesn’t deserve a second glance, or a first chance.

If, as befell the United States, we elect a populist wealthy white male to office, I hope you will hold him to account the way John McCain has tried to keep the ideals of honourable centered conservatism alive in America.

Courage, Integrity, Truth … the way I see it.

Sincerely,

Skid Crease,  Caledon, Ontario.

***

Image and T-shirts from threadsquad.com

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Caledon Deserves Better

On March 22, 2018. In their Letter and Commentary section, the Caledon Enterprise published a letter by Derek Clark titled “Caledon deserves better”. Mr. Clark forgot to mention that he declared himself to be a candidate for the position of Regional Councillor Wards 3 and 4. A significant oversight since his letter was a direct assault on the sitting Council member in the Wards.

In his letter, Mr. Clark proceeded to take strips off current Regional Councillor Jennifer Innis for being a good councillor. Ms. Innis had spoken out on a radio talk show where she is a regular guest. She had commented on a case where the previous Caledon Mayor and her family had been threatened and bullied by development interests who were not happy with the Town’s planning.

Well, yes, Mr. Clark, the bullying and threats and assaults actually happened and were reported to the OPP. And yes, Mr. Clark, one of the accomplices served a three-year jail sentence for his role in the abuse. And yes Mr. Clark, the current Mayor had a rock thrown through his front window during another disagreement over the Town’s planning. This was also reported to the OPP. Time to be afraid.

This bullying and threatening is physical and psychological and intimidating, whether it is having someone beat up your husband or slur you on social media. Imagine Mr. Clark, if someone in Palgrave attacked you on social media with the #heknew just because you had hosted a reception at your home for Patrick Brown, allegations against whom have not yet been proven. And this kind of intimidation is already happening in Caledon months before the municipal election.

So, I couldn’t agree more with Ward 3/4 Candidate Derek Clark when he concludes that “Caledon deserves better.” Certainly much better than the pre-election self-interested slant contained in his letter. Before attacking Ms. Innis, Mr. Clark was an enthusiastic volunteer on Ms. Innis’ campaign team in the last municipal election. It was only when Ms. Innis decided not to run federally and vacate her Ward for a very eager Mr. Clark, that the collegial atmosphere dissipated. The mantra that Mr. Clark espouses in his letter seems to come straight out of the playbook of the two politicians in Caledon who continually oppose the Town.

Before going to print, I asked Mr. Clark and Ms. Innis the same questions by email. Only Ms. Innis had responded by Press time. These are her answers:

  1. Was Mr. Clark a member of your volunteer election committee?
  2. Did Mr. Clark encourage you to run for a federal nomination?
  3. Are you, like Mr. Clark, a member of the Conservative Party of Canada?

“Yes, Mr. Clark was an avid and dedicated volunteer and friend. He was a supporter until his decision to run for Council in the fall of 2017.

Yes, Mr. Clark encouraged me to seek the federal nomination for the Conservative party for the 2019 general election so that he may either run for Regional Councillor or Area Councillor in Wards 3&4.  After much consideration, I clearly conveyed both to Mr. Clark and the current Area Councilor, Mr. DeBoer my intention and wish to continue to serve as a Regional Councillor. While I was humbled by the encouragement and support received by many, I have committed fully to the good people of Caledon and will be seeking re-election as the Regional Councillor for Wards 3&4.

Yes, While partisan politics has no place at the municipal level, I am a proud Conservative Member.  And further, I am also proud of my employment history and the opportunity to have learned from some our finest Conservatives, like Hon. Ernie Eves, late Hon. Jim Flaherty, late Hon. Chris Stockwell and MP David Tilson.  In my role as a Regional Councillor, I work collaboratively with members from all political parties as it serves in the best interest of Caledon and Peel.”

Clearly and honestly answered, Regional Councillor Jennifer Innis. There is nothing more satisfying in political reporting than getting a straight “Yes” or “No” answer to your question, along with factual truth in the details. No spin or fake news here.

As to Mr. Clark’s letter, there is nothing more despicable than seeing the desire for power corrupt the vocation to serve.  Sorry, Mr. Clark, Ms. Innis is absolutely correct. If your letter is any indication, the good politicians of Caledon have every reason to be afraid. And the citizens of Caledon have every reason to vote very carefully in the upcoming election. I am very afraid, Mr. Clark, that you have already lost all credibility.

The way I see it.

***

Skid Crease, Caledon Journalist

image from Twitter

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Contaminating the Environment

In early March of this year, there were reports of hazardous waste being dumped along the roadsides of Caledon. Police reports from March 5th and 12th indicate that the materials came from a synthetic drug lab. Not only is the air, water, and soil being contaminated, but also the personal and social environment associated with drug production, trafficking, and addiction.

This kind of hazardous waste is easy to spot – usually dark garbage bags or large buckets dumped on the shoulders of side roads away from prying eyes. It makes detection of the perpetrators difficult in a rurban area with homes well back from the road and infrequent traffic to witness the crime.

In my twenty years of community clean-ups in Caledon, I have found more than my share of garbage bags dumped unceremoniously in the ditches. Usually these bags would be filled with construction waste or sod or the excavations from frustrated homeowners digging out the clay from their backyards. Yes, hard to believe, but not all developers lay down the appropriate clean fill and the required 10 cm of topsoil before they lay down the sod.

This kind of waste disposal  is illegal dumping, and the fine for that in Ontario is $500 to $5000; the cost for illegally dumping hazardous waste is much higher. A recent case in Leamington, ON saw North Shore Express Ltd. Fined $150,000 and its owner Daniel Andrew Tiessen sentence to 30 days in jail and two years’ probation from holding a position of responsibility in any corporation. And that was for non-hazardous sludge.

In 2013, Walmart was fined $82 million for illegally dumping pesticides, bleach and fertilizers into American municipal waste streams. Walmart was not alone in this wrongdoing – Target, COSTCO Wholesale and Walgreens also shared fines in the millions to tens of million dollars. The bigger you are, the harder you fall.

That applies as well to the other type of type of environmental contamination going on in Ontario right now. With Provincial and Municipal elections coming up in the next few months, you can expect the toxic sludge to be flowing fast and furious as candidates trade barbs with incumbents while they campaign for a place at the public trough. Here in Caledon, it has already started.

While we are fortunate to have a majority of our Town Council possessing integrity, civility and respect for both each other and the majority of residents in Caledon, there are always the usual suspects. And as new candidates and coalitions jockey for their voices to be heard, the nasty underbelly of political campaigning gets exposed. During my brief stint as a federal political candidate I was cautioned that “Politics is a blood sport.” After watching the leader of my Party at the time get betrayed by competing power brokers, I withdrew rather than play that game.

However, some are playing the blood sport very well in Caledon. In my mailbox this week I received a plain brown 8×10 envelope with a stamp (but no postmark) with a printed sticker to my name and  address No return address, and inside was an equally anonymous single sheet of dark red paper, an interesting choice since it is very difficult to photocopy clearly.

This single sheet attempted to cast aspersions on a sitting Area Councillor by including an accusation that his donations to a certain federal political party, and a candidate’s leadership campaign last year for that same party indicated that he was “Trump-esque” in his philosophy. It referred to concerned residents in Bolton which is not even a major player in this Councillor’s Ward. Further it included a copy of Elections Canada funding records showing the details of those donations. Something that is easy to obtain if you sit on or have access to the executive branch of a political party.

As of the time of publication, both the Conservative Party of Canada and Elections Canada had responded positively to my emails, and both groups were actively working on identifying where the information originated. Since the stamps for the mailings had to be purchased, and it turns out it is connected to a municipal candidate, it would be considered an expense for a municipal campaign. Financed municipal campaigning is prohibited before May 1, 2018.

There is also the case of a sitting Regional Councillor for that same Ward who was recently the target of a vicious social media smear campaign impugning her integrity for her association with a controversial political leader. These attempted smears are egregious for two simple reasons. First there are no Party alignments in municipal politics – councillors are elected as independent citizens. Secondly, a person’s personal choice of political philosophy and associates is their democratic right. It is a person’s actions in public that speak louder than words. Both of these sitting incumbents are intelligent, social justice focused, economic conservatives and as far from anything “Trump-esque” as I can imagine.

It is hard to know where toxic waste like this originates. One could presume it is coming from competing candidates, or maybe a disgruntled citizen, or a litigious developer’s lobby group. So far there is only one declared candidate for that Ward, but there are other factions in the Town of Caledon who would love to see their voices come to power.

Well, if they play the game with toxic waste and hazardous materials, they should be outed, publicly shamed, and fined in the order of other “illegal dumping” penalties, including a lifetime ban on running for public office or campaign lobbying anywhere, ever again. This is one time I agree wholeheartedly with the “Not In My Backyard” philosophy.

Any person or their team who hides behind anonymous slurs and misinformation campaigns should be run out of town. This same kind of dirty politics cost my Ward one of the best, most genuine, hard working and honest councillors ever elected. We cannot afford to let it happen again. Caledon citizens be alert! Whether they are dumping hazardous waste into our ditches or our mailboxes or our social media sites, it’s all toxic. And we all need to remember that the price of good governance is eternal vigilance.

The way I see it.

***

Skid Crease, Caledon

* images from oaklandnet.com and stockfresh.com

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Defamation and Libel Primer

In November of 2017, I published a piece titled “Defamation and Libel and Smears, oh my! In it, the meanings of defamation and libel were clearly covered. However, one of my readers asked me to re-clarify for him the differences in relation to another article, so here is the simpler primer.

In the Province of Ontario and across most of the civilized literate world, if you say something about someone that is true, it is NOT defamation. If you say something about someone that is false, but does not damage their character or reputation, it is NOT defamation.

The main difference between defamation and libel is that the former is in speech and the latter is in print. Print it in a newspaper or magazine or blog, and it’s libel.

So for example, if you write in a blog that a certain journalist does not have professional credentials and smear his reputation, and it turns out that the accusation is not true and you were using misinformation, that is libel. If you say those same false things in public or private, that is defamation. Now, if when discovering your error, you withdraw the offending accusation, and make a full and sincere apology for your error in print, you’re a decent human being. If not, there’s a rock waiting for you to crawl back under.

In a recent blog, I commented that a colleague of mine, a well-respected local reporter and editor, had written an insightful commentary about gun violence and bullying. In that editorial he asked for answers, to which I responded last week with an article titled “An Easy Answer for Bill.” Bill also published my shorter Letter to the Editor response in his paper last week.

In his original article, Bill confessed to having been part of a group in school that had bullied other students. One day one of the targets of his taunts threatened to kill Bill. The situation was resolved without violence, but being a man of good conscience, it made Bill reflect on, as he put it so eloquently, “trying to navigate through adolescence while crashing into people trying to do the same.”

When I concluded my editorial on how differently that could have ended in a high school in Florida, I commented, “Just be grateful, Bill, that the boy you bullied in school didn’t carry an AR-15.”

Now, for my challenged reader, although this gave a fine opportunity to clarify the difference between defamation and libel (and compliment Bill on his eloquence) there is nothing even remotely associated with either defamation or libel in my editorial. Learning to read and comprehend is such a valuable skill.  These editorials are written for graduate level readers. According to the good old Flesch-Kincaid analyzer, the Star and Globe & Mail and National Post all come in at upper high school levels. On the other hand, the Sun is at a Middle School level and may be easier to understand for some – it uses a lot of pictures.

In summary, it is defamation if spoken, libel if printed, and neither if the words are true.

And, dear reader, I’m still waiting for that full and sincere apology.

***

Skid Crease, Caledon,

Member in good standing with the Canadian Association of Journalists

* image from azblackpeek.com

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