Conflicts of Interest

Ah, the words that rev up every political junky’s heart – “CONFLICT OF INTEREST!” Yes, we just love to get the dirt on our politicians at every level. It helps to distract us from our own failings. There’s just one problem. It is a politician’s responsibility to report any potential conflict of interest prior to that item being discussed in council or in caucus or in parliament. It’s not exactly headline news. Unless you’re a C grade reporter trying to create a crisis as happens often in one of our local papers.

Really, the stories we should be reporting are about the politicians who DON’T declare a conflict of interest, I’ll give you an example, purely hypothetical of course but, just in case, the names have been changed to protect the guilty.

First, here’s an example of a case that goes by the book. A politician who lives in a rural area in Ontario, decides to sell the family farm. Kids have moved on to software development, and, as much as they love the grass fed beef, don’t want to be mucking out the barn anymore. The sale of the farm may affect the course of residential development in the area, The politician rightfully declares a “conflict of interest” and is dutifully excused before the issue is resolved,

No biggie! Unless you’re a reporter hungry for headlines and think you’re the smartest guy in the room. NOT.  A politician declaring a “conflict of interest” is a non-story – it’s what they are supposed to do. We don’t report on every dump we make in the toilet. It’s just not front page news. Unless you are trying to create a crisis … or relieve a lower bowel impaction.

What is front page news is about the politicians who DON’T declare a conflict of interest. Keep in mind that the “pecuniary” advantages and financial impacts of these deals can go up or down. A land deal close to your abode could jack up your home value, or a huge warehouse next door could lower your residential development potential. The good politicians declare. The slimy ones don’t.

Secondly, let us suppose that a major golf course development is being proposed for a property that abuts ours. Prior to being elected, I rant long and loud about this proposed development. After my election, I say nothing. Am I guilty of a conflict of interest? Oh, yeah … big time. But it doesn’t make the front page.

You think? So, let’s start reporting on the politicians who are NOT reporting their conflicts of interest, specially if they’re running for higher office. And leave the good ones alone to do their jobs without incompetent reporters trying to make headlines over smoke and mirrors.

The way I see it.

***

Skid Crease. journalist, Caledon

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Canoeists in Cars Getting Coffee

With total apologies to Jerry Seinfeld and Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee

As narrated by Sharon …

***

“Hi, Harry, this is Sharon. In your neighbourhood and wondering if you’d like to go out for a coffee.”

“Sure Sharon” replied Harry.

Now the car I picked out for Harry, although he is more at home in a canoe, is my 2006 Porsche Boxster. This car can do zero to 60 mph in under 6 seconds.  It’s a 5 speed manual transmission, a 2.7-liter horizontally opposed six-cylinder that develops 240hp.  The engine is located behind the seats (mid-engine) but ahead of the rear axle. This gives the car two cargo compartments. Very practical.

But it also has the enlarged front and side air intakes for cool styling. Finished off with 17-inch alloy wheels. Inside, two occupants enjoy body-hugging leather-upholstered bucket seats.  Seat warmers included for cool spring and fall temps. Bose surround sound and a navigation system. Not a bad choice for my favourite teacher.

He was rather astonished when I pulled up in his driveway. “We’re going for coffee in that!”

“Oh yes,” I answered, “and with the top down. Harry, this car is like our friendship.  Still going strong after many years and stands out amongst others. Will always be a classic. We are stylish.”

“Alright,” said Harry, “I am definitely in a Seinfeld Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee episode. Drive on!”

It was a wonderful afternoon. Having missed the 50th Reunion of my Junior High School, I wanted to catch up and hear the stories. Harry had attended and had been mobbed by his old students, from science to English to outdoor education. He had been our guide through the wilderness, and school, and far beyond. The lessons we learned on trips with him will remain with us for life. Over those years we became such good friends that I even asked him to give the speech for the bride at my wedding.

“So Harry, what’s retirement like?” “Eggsellent,” he replied, as I got to learn all about his current Caledon backyard hens project. With that teaser, I just had to see the hens, so the Boxster navigated the potholes on the Albion Hills Community Farm driveway to visit the hens.

He’s there at 5:00 in the morning and 9:00 at night and those hens love him. I even got to take home some free run, organic Omega 3 eggs for my son’s breakfast the next day. After the hens, we headed to the Four Corners restaurant in Bolton for that long awaited coffee – and it was a perfect cappuccino.

Then began that exchange of catching up on the many years in between the canoe trips of my youth and the realities of life as a working mom. Harry talked about his family and his children and his journalism. Mostly he reflected about how important his students were to him. I got to share my enthusiasm for golf, my children, and my grandchild. We both reflected on the joys of getting older with my knee problems and his cataract surgeries. But our memories are always young.

My friends and I travelled with Harry on canoe trips from Grade Eight until we left high school. The level of training and our capabilities of performance increased every year. It was almost as though he was waiting to see if we could fly on our own.

On the last night of our final canoe trip to Algonquin Park, my friend Marie noticed another group just upwind from us washing their dishes in the lake. Harry, who taught us to always leave our campsite cleaner than we found it, had spotted this but uncharacteristically hadn’t said anything. Marie marched right over to their campsite and said, “Excuse me, but I don’t appreciate you washing your dishes in our drinking water!”

That was our last trip. Harry told me over coffee that he didn’t say anything that day because he was waiting to see what we would do without him.

“When Marie spoke up that was the precise moment when I knew my work here was done.” We had all learned to fly.

And now I drive a Porsche Boxster taking Canoeists in Cars to Get Coffee. I wish I had been able to be at the 50th Reunion at Zion Heights, but I got to see the joy of it through Harry’s eyes as he talked about how wonderful it was to see almost all of us together again and recount the glory days with happiness.

I dropped him off at his home with the teaser that he could get to drive it the next time. Now I’m off to watch the Seinfeld episode that he said is most like him – Jerry taking Steve Harvey for a coffee. Who knew our teachers were such comedians! And would be friends for life.

Sincerely,

Sharon

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Extreme Political Correctness is a Disease

… a bitchin’ satirical evisceration …

Bitch noun:

1.  a female dog, wolf, fox, or otter.

2.  informal: a difficult or unpleasant situation or thing. “the stove is a bitch to fix”

verb informal:   to express displeasure; grumble. “they bitch about everything”

“While female students often affectionately refer to friends as “bitches”, the term “bitchin” is commonly used as a positive description by young people in the U.S.A. “Bitch” can also be used as a verb, meaning to “complain”. Or changing it to “biatch” can add humour or force. The word biatch is the youth slang for bitch. While it is pejorative it is not misogynistic.

Yep, right out of the dictionary, Matthew and friends. Golly gee, get with the times. It was way back in the 15th century that it started being used as a derogatory term for women – if you were the “son of a bitch” it implied your mother was a whore. That allusion apparently descended from the notion that because female dogs have multiple nipples they must be promiscuous. Men are so visual.

However, the actual acceleration of the usage of “bitch” more than doubled around the 1920’s when the word was applied to those annoying suffragettes. Yes, it was the rise of feminism that brought “bitches” into real prominence. Author Jo Freeman in The Bitch Manifesto, declared: “We must be strong, we must be militant, we must be dangerous. We must realize that Bitch is Beautiful and that we have nothing to lose.”

However, the Merriam Webster dictionary defines “bitch” as “a malicious, spiteful, or overbearing woman.”

Well, I have witnessed that malice and spite from certain people associated with the Chamber of Commerce and I have witnessed that malice and spite at Town Council from certain politicians, and I have witnessed that malice and spite from extreme politically correct delegations and their supporters, so I really can’t understand what all the fuss is about.

It’s 2018, and no hard feelings John Rutter, but if it looks like a duck, and it walks like a duck and it squawks like a duck … it’s a duck.

The way I see it.

 

Skid Crease, journalist, Caledon

*image from smallholder.co.uk

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A Perfect Summer Solstice Sunrise

I was up to Albion Hills Community Farm this morning at 5:30, waiting with the hens to catch the sunrise that would mark the beginning of summer 2018. As promised at 5:37 a.m. EST. the sun broke the horizon line and flooded the fields with light and warmth.

It is no wonder that early humans worshipped the Sun God, the bringer of light, and the end of the dark cold days. It is no wonder that all modern religious ceremonies evolved from those seasonal changes of either four seasons or two seasons.

We live in a temperate climate with spring (rebirth), summer (growth), fall (harvest) and winter (death). So our gods are born, grow, prosper, and die … and then get reborn the next cycle. If we lived in the equatorial regions where there are two seasons of wet and dry, our gods would have two terms to their cycles. It’s all about the geography and the ecology. And then we ritualize it.

This morning it was pure sunrise, pure celebration of the summer season. There were no church bells or prayer mats, no homage to the words written by humans and attributed to higher powers. It was just the coming of the light, the longest day of the year, and the joy in children’s hearts with the knowledge that school’s out for summer.

Last night at the community gardens on the Farm, my neighbour Pam and I witnessed the most beautiful sunset – we both stopped our watering and weeding simply awestruck at the beauty of this world. How lucky we are to bear witness, how lucky we are that our families are living here in Caledon, Ontario, Canada and not separated by cages at a detention centre in Texas, U.S.A. “Praise be!” to quote Margaret Atwood.

A superb Summer Solstice to all, and to all a loving longest day.

The way I see it.

***

Skid Crease, journalist

*image from farmersalmanac.com

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Caledon Perspectives, again

Caledon Perspectives

“To permit ignorance is to empower it.”  ― Dan Brown, Origin

It is so interesting how two people, or two groups of people, can see the same person or situation from two totally different perspectives. The old saying, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” has an equal and opposite force that reads “Ugliness is in the eye of the beholder.”

Recently in Caledon Town Council, the quality of my writings was questioned because I had called out some local politicians and citizens for blogging misleading, smearing, and defamatory statements. I was accused of writing hate speech, bullying, misogyny, and not being a real journalist.

Now, I will admit that my political satires cut to the bone in exposing stupidity and corruption, but they are as far from the definition of hate speech as you can get. Not remotely close to being a bully. All of the good women in my life find me a respectful and supportive person. And my journalistic credentials are intact.

Only two days before, I had been given the “Golden Carabiner” by a local Bolton Scout Troop for demonstrating the qualities of “Integrity, Loyalty, Courage, Honesty, Fortitude, and Self-Control.” So confusing. Of course, children with no political agenda have much clearer perceptions of character. Regional Councillors trying to upgrade to the position of Mayor can get blinded by ambition.

At this same council meeting, one of the online communications for which I write was also called out for even associating with me. Keep in mind none of my truly satiric eviscerations are ever published in this Caledon online community newspaper – I reserve those for my private blog. My writings for the online newspaper are monitored by a very ethical editor who is extremely conscious of journalistic integrity and the readership’s sensibilities.

However, the usual suspects wanted the Town of Caledon to pull its advertising from this newspaper simply for associating with me as an occasional author. That sounds a lot like political correctness censorship in the extreme. Of course, this had nothing to do with the fact that the communication in question tends to publish good news articles and not ones that create a crisis.

Previously, this same very positive online community newspaper had its status questioned by these usual suspects because it has a catchy title that was deemed not worthy of a quality news publication. OK, let’s give it a classy title like “Caledon Perspectives.” That sure sounds like a real newspaper, right.

Oops. No. It turned out that particular title (previously Vaughan Perspectives, then GTA Perspectives) was created by Benedetto Marotta’s Solmar Development Corporation and the “editor” was on the marketing staff of that same corporation. The intent of that “community newspaper” was to create a crisis in the Town of Caledon over a local development issue to sway public opinion in favour of the development corporation. I guess you really can’t judge the quality of a publication by its name.

By the way, Caledon Perspectives Corp, ON -2153785, inactive for years, has recently amalgamated and changed its name to … wait for it … Solmar (Niagara) Inc. and Benny’s Two Sister Vineyard is located in … wait for it … Niagara-on-the-Lake. The Vineyard, incidentally, gets a 4 Star rating and their Restaurant 76, although rated noisy and on the pricey side, is known for great Italian dishes.

Now a real newspaper, the Globe and Mail, recently published an investigative report that actually documented this development corporation’s influence from Caledon to Queen’s Park. The alleged corruption and lobbying in the Globe’s investigation was so clear that on Friday the leader of the NDP formally asked for the Ontario Integrity Commissioner to probe the allegations.

Those allegations implicate Spiros Papathanasakis (an unregistered lobbyist), Maurizio Rogato of Solmar Corporation (and formerly on the board of the Caledon Chamber of Commerce), ex-Liberal Minister and MPP Glen Murray, and Liberal Premiers McGuinty and Wynne, who were informed of the situation, but apparently did nothing to rectify it.

NDP leader Andrea Horwath was quoted as saying, “When you have a minister of the Crown being alleged to have engaged in this sort of activity and alleged to be intimidating a mayor of a municipality for the purpose of greasing the wheels for a property development, and then you have a premier who is accused of not acting on those allegations, those are some pretty serious problems.

Gee, you think? But when this issue of intimidating local politicians was raised recently at Town of Caledon Council, the same perspectives accusing me of hate speech tried to sweep it under the carpet and dismiss it as a non-issue. Well, it’s a big issue now, extending all the way to the credibility of Glen Murray’s new “dream job” as head of the Pembina Institute.

These allegations have the potential to extend into the influence applied to national and local media outlets and reporters, and to support for local politicians, organizations and citizens in favour of this same property development. Once the tangled web we weave begins to unravel, the house of cards falls down.

In my Caledon perspectives, those embarrassed by having their bad behaviour called out, might want to reflect on some old sayings that apply when this kind of “poor me” hypocrisy takes place. It’s a clear case of the pot calling the kettle black, or “If you can’t take it, don’t dish it out.”

Until then, I’m going to continue to dish it right back, only with more literary flair. No hard feelings, Matthew.

The way I see it.

***

Skid Crease, journalist, Caledon

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