The year was 1969, my second year of teaching with the North York Board of Education, I had been promoted from a portable to an actual classroom inside the school. On the day the miracle took place, I was reading E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web to my Grade Five class. A story about a young girl’s love and a pig and a spider and a rat and life on a farm. And when I finished the story, I burst into tears.
The whole class gathered around me, crying too. “It’s OK Mr. Crease. It’s OK.” And what they were really saying was, it’s OK for a teacher to be real to care to show genuine love to cry to smile to get ticked off to be human. It’s OK Mr. Crease.
Charlotte’s Web is really a story about friendship and life. We live and grow and die and maybe along the way we get to have a friend. Now, keep in mind that I was not a big fan of spiders or rats at the time I started reading this story to my class. By the time I burst into tears I was converted. Spoiler alert: as all pregnant spiders do, Charlotte the spider lays her egg sack and dies after having saved her humble friend Wilbur the spring pig with her eloquent web spinning.
When I cried in front of my students that day, it confirmed both the power of story and the power of friendship. As E.B. White wrote at the conclusion of the story, “It’s not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.”
My salary that year was just under $5000, so I was living in an affordable little basement apartment near the school. Later that fall, a spider laid an egg sack on the side door of the house where I was staying. I protected it. One warm morning in the spring as I was leaving for school, I checked on the egg sack and noticed it was vibrating and little spiders were starting to crawl out. I ran back into the house and called Mrs. Besso in the school office. “Please have someone cover my first class, I’m having babies!” I ran back outside and watched.
I watched for over an hour as hundreds of tiny spiders sent their silks into the air and floated away just like in the story. It was all true. They were little aerialists like Charlotte and her children. I remember calling out, “No, don’t leave!” But soon they had all gone and I had to go to work. My Principal forgave me. He thought it was “the teachable moment” and the class ran with it for the rest of the day – Charlotte and Wilbur and even Templeton the rat became their heroes – be a good friend and a good writer.
A few weeks later as I was checking out the garden at the back of the house, I noticed several little spider webs. Just like in the story, a few had stayed at home to keep me company.
At the end of a movie based on the book, Sarah McLachlan sings a beautiful song that captures the wonder of it all as only her voice could bring to life:
Caledon appears to be safe for another four years! And considering that six (nearly seven) out of nine picks on my Dream Team were elected – a pretty reasonable prediction – I would say that my research was of a passing standard. Plus, most of those on my Scream Team list were defeated.
We returned our sitting Mayor and three solid incumbents, several bright new lights, and an old wisdom. If the paddlers can take Canoe Caledon in the same direction we may just make it to our destination. We have rid ourselves of one of the most divisive and disrespectful politicians who I have ever witnessed, and that alone should improve the atmosphere on Council. And we have a new Mayor in Brampton who may be more respectful of our place in Peel Region.
My work here is done and I am returning to do what I love best, environmental literacy and storytelling. There are so many sacred spaces and species in this world that need protecting and illuminating, and there are so many of their stories to tell. We have issues to resolve from reconciliation for residential school survivors to the consequences of half a degree more of warming on Turtle Island, and we’re complaining of traffic calming in our downtown core. Really?
Our backyard is safe; now it is time to get back to looking after our Home Planet.
Tomorrow is municipal election day in Ontario and in the Town of Caledon. Advance polls are all done, and Sunday should be a day of rest and reflection as Caledon citizens of voting age ponder the impact of their choices Monday on the next four years of their lives.
We should also be tuned in to what is happening in Brampton and Mississauga given the rough ride that politicians in those two cities gave to the Town of Caledon last year.
I had the opportunity over the past year to sit at the media desk at Caledon Town Council and observe and record the words and behaviours of politicians and public delegations. Based on that experience, interviews with candidates, and research into the full slate of possible future captains of our ship, I have come to conclude that we have a chance to elect either a Dream Team or a Scream Team for Town of Caledon Council.
Since I only want to acknowledge the positive, eliminate the negative and leave out those in between, here are my choices for a positive, respectful Council. In some cases, the choice was simple. In others, with several strong new candidates running in some of the wards, the selection is much more difficult. Picking the best of some really good draft choices is a lot tougher than when there is only one Gretzky standing on the ice.
So, here is, my Town of Caledon Dream Team 2018:
Mayor: Allan Thompson
Ward One Area: Lynn Kiernan or Mauro Testani
Ward One Regional: Jim Wallace
Ward Two Area: Sandeep Singh, Chris Gilmer, or Christina Early
Ward Two Regional: Johanna Downey
Ward Three/Four Area: Nick DeBoer
Ward Three/Four Regional: Jennifer Innis
Ward Five Area: Steve Conforti or Joe Luschak
Ward Five Regional: Angela Panacci
Monday, October 22nd, 2018 – if we don’t vote, we surrender our voice and the purple wool pulled over our eyes will be testament to our apathy and gullibility. Either way on Tuesday Morning, Caledon citizens will have exactly the Council we deserve. Hope it’s not a nightmare.
Skid Crease is a member of the Canadian Association of Journalists, an author, an internationally renowned speaker, and a lifelong educator currently living in Caledon, Ontario.
In September, a Candidates’ Candor questionnaire was emailed individually to all of the candidates running for political office in the 2018 Ontario Municipal Elections in Caledon. All candidates were given until the beginning of October to submit their answers. All of the councillor incumbents seeking re-election to their existing positions on Council, except for one, submitted their answers. Only one Mayoralty candidate replied.
Several new candidates responded eloquently showing hope for the future of politics. One of the new candidates submitted a response, but did not answer the questions, choosing instead to critique the questionnaire – the art of deflection.
Here are the questions and a selection of the respondents’ answers
Question 1. In order to build a forward thinking, respectful and consensus building Council for the next four years, what would be the qualities you would look for in your 2018 – 2022 colleagues and your Mayor? Answer from Nick DeBoer: “I would like to see new members ask questions and learn process. Much of the problem comes when someone new comes in and they don’t understand the limitations of what we can and can’t do. To listen and learn.”
Question 2. Since literally anyone who is breathing, of age and a Canadian citizen living or working in the area can run for Council, what are the credible professional and life skills you would bring to this position? Answer from Jennifer Innis; “Someone with great reading comprehension (there is a lot of reading on many subjects and you must understand what you are reading): a good researcher (as a Councillor it is your responsibility to make an informed decision on behalf of your residents – that often requires you to do independent research); someone who is honest and trustworthy; someone who understands the rules and knows how to work within them in a respectful and professional manner; and a strong communicator to advocate for the best interests of the community. In one day you could be dealing with the effect that China’s “Paper Sword” decision has on our waste management, a resident’s property flooding, a new business needing permits through a conservation authority, and a new user group looking for ice rental. Most importantly, a Councillor must be a Problem Solver.”
Question 3. In an era where politicians are accused of and found guilty of violating their Codes of Conduct, Integrity and respectful social mores, yet do not change their behaviours, what are the positive character traits that you would bring to Council? Answer from Johanna Downey: “I will continue to hold myself and those around me to a high professional standard. No member of council or staff should have to work in an environment that is less than professional. I have great respect for public process and the equity it affords to all members of society; upholding that process is integral to council.”
Question 4. The catch phrases “I speak for the people” and “I promise honesty and transparency” and “I do this for the hard working taxpaying citizens” have become meaningless porridge spin clips from politicians.If re-elected, what do you truly desire for Caledon? Answer from Nick DeBoer: “What I want for Caledon is a place where we can live and enjoy life. A mix of farms, some with markets, natural areas to enjoy, and local businesses that can thrive. Communities that are connected to the natural areas in some form.”
Question 5. As a newly elected Council member, how do you intend to deal with litigious private interests who lobby, bully, and intimidate local politicians? Answer from Allan Thompson: “Let’s be clear. Over the last 12 years there has been a pattern emerging here in Caledon. Efforts made for no other reason than to try and influence Caledon’s planning. Caledon should plan for Caledon and I will continue to stand strong for that. This last term I was targeted and false allegations were made against me. I fought back, won in court and was awarded costs. Then my home was vandalized. At no time during all of that did I even consider putting private interests ahead of the interests of Caledon. I refuse to be bullied or influenced into making decisions that are not good for Caledon or its future.”
Several new candidates had insights into their role as elected servants of the public in Caledon:
Question 1. In order to build a forward thinking, respectful and consensus building Council for the next four years, what would be the qualities you would look for in your 2018 – 2022 colleagues and your Mayor? Answer from Joe Luschak: “Honesty and Integrity. “I expect to look my fellow councillors in the eye and tell me that the decisions they make and support are truly in the best interests of the town. I don’t want them telling me one thing and then turning around and saying or doing something totally different. Four years is a long time for us to work together and I can’t stand special interest cliques.”
Question 2. Since literally anyone who is breathing, of age and a Canadian citizen living or working in the area can run for Council, what are the credible professional and life skills you would bring to this position? Answer from Angela Panacci: “I worked for sixteen years for one of the top financial institutions in Canada. I led teams, projects, strategies and managed budgets. I have an understanding of what it takes to get results and I have the skills needed to achieve the objective. In addition, I currently sit on the Board of Directors for the Caledon Community Services (CCS); we work together to solve community needs such as food insecurity, transportation, youth, employment, and we assist our seniors.”
Question 3. In an era where politicians are accused of and found guilty of violating their Codes of Conduct, Integrity and respectful social mores, yet do not change their behaviours, what are the positive character traits that you would bring to Council? Answer from Steve Conforti: “I don’t know all of the issues I will have to vote on as a councillor. But you as a voter must trust your judgement. People have described me as professional, authentic, caring, passionate, dedicated, honest, trustworthy, loyal, and helpful. I am collaborative, cooperative, and respectful. As someone who has played many sports, I understand the importance of working together as a team. I am a leader in the community. My integrity is extremely important to me. I have nothing to hide and I don’t have any ulterior motives for running for council – I just know I can have a positive impact on our community.”
Question 4. The catch phrases “I speak for the people” and “I promise honesty and transparency” and “I do this for the hard working taxpaying citizens” have become meaningless porridge spin clips from politicians. If elected, what do you truly desire for Caledon? Answer from Joe Luschak: “Let me add another phrase: “Talk is cheap,” so I can say anything I think people want to hear. However, time will tell if my efforts succeed to bring some unity to council so that all the wards aren’t pitted one against the other or decisions aren’t made with conflicting or special interests in mind. Unfortunately, mine will only be one of nine voices so at times my input may not carry a lot of weight, but I can assure everyone that I will be heard and II will not be pressured into making decisions that are not in the town’s (and the ward’s) best interests.”
Question 5. As a newly elected Council member, how do you intend to deal with litigious private interests who lobby, bully, and intimidate local politicians? Answer from Christina Early: “In my business life, I have become accustomed to a broad variety of ways in which stakeholders try to have their interests heard. I believe it is Council that must define appropriate ways to engage and for all members of Council to support each other against threats and intimidation. It will also be important for Council to engage with those who bring their issues and concerns more quietly, and even more so, those whose vices are not heard above the noise.”