Oil Pipelines and Oily Promises

There is a certain sense of Alanis Morissette irony in watching two NDP provincial governments bicker over oil pipeline approvals. Alberta on the one hand is trying to defend the construction of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline for economic and employment reasons, and British Columbia is trying to stop the pipeline to protect their Pacific coast for ecological and cultural reasons.  When the right wing flow of Big Oil money hits the left turning paddle wheel of environmental ideology, the NDP provincial grist mill grinds to a halt. Well, if you won’t pipeline our AB oil, we won’t drink your BC wine!

So much for left of centre eco-governance. Well, unless we look to the recent statements of national NDP leader Jagmeet Singh. At the latest federal NDP gathering, he said that his fight wasn’t with the two feuding NDP provincial premiers, rather: “My fight is with the Prime Minister who promised to overhaul our environmental assessment process.” At the same time, he also endorsed the Leap Manifesto. An endorsement that left British Columbia smiling and Alberta stuck in the tar sands.

The Manifesto, spearheaded by Stephen Lewis’ son, Avi, and Naomi Klein, calls for an overhaul of the capitalist economy to wean the country quickly off fossil fuels. While Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley was telling delegates that pipelines are crucial to revive Alberta’s resource-based economy, among other things, the federal manifesto calls for no new pipelines. The “Leap” is really a reworking of then Liberal leader Stephane Dion’s “Green Shift” – a quest to move Canada from a fossil fuel economy to a renewable energy economy. Lest we forget, that put the federal Liberals into an election that saw the party abandon Dion faster than the Ontario PCs dumped Patrick Brown. And that led to eight years of the Harper regime.

Fast forward to the federal Liberals of today, where Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is also caught between the sticky bitumen and a hard place, trying to defend his mantra of environmental sustainability and economic security balanced peacefully in a consensual partnership. The problem is that the male economics of Big Oil have a long history of abusing the female ecosystems of Earth, and the environment is now saying “Me Too!”

Jagmeet Singh is absolutely correct; the Prime Minister seems to have forgotten a promise to clean out the National Energy Board of its Harper era appointees, and replace the pipeline approval process with a scientific fact-based analysis involving full participation from all local communities, particularly First Peoples. A promise broken is a trust lost, as the young protester at a BC Town Hall scrum recently reminded the PM. To which he angrily responded, “Really?” And had the protester removed.

Yes, “Really!” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. You made all of Canada a promise. Now either act like a statesman and keep that promise, or behave like a politician and spin it. But you can’t defend approval of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline with the current flawed process. Nor can you trust a  company that has accumulated over $160,000,000 million in environmental violation fines over the last decade alone with the responsibility of protecting the ecological integrity of the planet’s north west Pacific coastline.

How can we do business with a company that states, on the record, oil spills “can have both positive and negative effects on local and regional economies,” because of the economic benefits related to clean-up efforts. “Spill response and clean-up creates business and employment opportunities for affected communities, regions, and clean-up service providers.” Really? That’s sort of like trusting Dick Cheney and his Halliburton Corporation with rebuilding Iraq after the U.S.A. destroyed it while looking for non-existent weapons of mass destruction. War, like an oil spill, is good for business; it’s not personal.

However, dear bickering and back-sliding politicians, it’s personal for those of us not on the next Elon Musk trip to a space colony.  For 99.9% of us, there is no Planet B. Either make the Green Shift and Leap into a new energy paradigm, or get off the pulpit of false prophets. Either begin the smooth transition to a renewable energy economy, or planet Earth will make the decision for us.

Canada cannot stand on the world stage and pretend to be a productive part of the Paris Accord at the same time it is defending the construction of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline under the current skewed National Energy Board review and approval process.

Our children and our communities are asking that same old question of commitment just like the woman in the Meatloaf song, Paradise by the Dashboard Lights, asked,

“What’s it gonna be boy? I gotta know right now! Before we go any further,                          Do you love me? Will you love me forever?”

Yes, or No – we need to know right now.


Skid Crease, Caledon

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Mittens in the Snow 2018

Once again the Simcoe County District School Board (SCDSB) hit a home run .. with a snowball in a snowstorm! It was hard to miss the invitation this year:

But if you did miss it, just stick a Mitten on your 2019 calendar and get ready for next February!

This is only one of the Outdoor Education workshops the SCDSB has staged  for its teachers since the initiative began in 2014. Under the guidance of Superintendent Paula Murphy and program leaders Sandy Clee and Julie Fisher, an incredible team of staff and volunteers including Becky, Cathern, Crystal, Jessica, and Marsha put together a full day event three times a year. Teachers losing hope for the future of outdoor education Professional Development opportunities in Ontario, take heart – it is alive and well in Simcoe County.

Picture over a hundred educators enthusiastically and voluntarily coming together on a Saturday in the fall, winter, and spring to learn how to engage their students in that natural world outside of those four classroom walls. The events are appropriately named Hands in the Dirt, Mittens in the Snow, and Singing in the Rain.

Over the years, the conference has taken place at different venues, including the grounds of the Board Office. But a partnership with the Beausoleil First Nation, the Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority (NVCA) and the Ministry of Natural Resources has given them access to Springwater Provincial Park and the Tiffin Centre for Conservation. Mittens was held at Tiffin this year and it was magical.

Besides the hundred plus educators from various Boards who attended, there were also dignitaries from the Ministry of Education and the Simcoe Board who dropped by to visit, including Director Steve Blake. And for those of us used to the local trustee stopping by for a quick handshake, the Chair of the Board, Trustee Peter Beacock spent the entire day with his teachers.

Talented facilitators like the unsinkable Bonnie Anderson who started us off with a rousing rendition of the song “Hibernation” (with full apologies to the original lyrics from “Alouette”). The highly skilled NVCA staff like Grant Wilson and his incredible quinzee (now of Twitter fame), and Maegan McConnell, who introduced us to the Tiffin porcupines, made the day all the more memorable.

With workshops on everything from winter survival shelter construction to bird feeder building, to kick-sledding, to snowshoeing, to math and science and geography and natural history and the just plain joy of being outdoors, Mittens has it all. Not to mention literacy as author Jacob Rotenburg introduced the award winning book he co-authored with naturalist Drew Monkman called, “The Big Book of Nature Activities”

And then there was that outrageous moment at l;unch when Grant Wilson and I were trying to identify the age and sex of a porcupine by its scat, and Bonnie came by and ate the “scat”  much to the shock of the packed lunchroom. More on that at the next conference.

See you in the spring when we’ll be “Singing in the Rain”, and where I’ll be doing a workshop on “scat” identification, and sharing some trade secrets …

;>) Yours outdoors,




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YENYR and the Ecohacks

NO, this is NOT an Icelandic alternative rock group! YENRY is the acronym for the Youth Environmental Network of York Region, and Ecohacks was their most recent conference held at the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University.

I had the honour to be asked to be their keynote speaker, but best of all, to tour the classrooms where the Ecohackers were hard at work prior to the keynote. The participants were all highly intelligent young high school students taking on the challenge of designing apps that would help our black mirror society become more environmentally literate.

Here are just a few examples: an app on your phone so you could take a picture of a product and it would give you its entire ecological footprint. Or another that could analyze the air quality of your specific GPS location and produce a time lapse video of your air quality history. Or another that let you know how far your produce had to travel to your store so you could make better “shop local” choices. Or, how about one that would alert you if you left an appliance on – like the proverbial halfway to Florida, “Dear, did you unplug the iron?” Yes, no more turning the car around thanks to Ecohacks!

Of course, being a bit of a rabble rouser, I would walk into each pod of hard working, app designing students and ask, “So, is this the room where you’re designing the dating app?”  It always got a laugh, until one group looked up and said, “That’s a good idea!”

“No, no,” I tried to explain, “I was joking.”

“Yes, yes,” they replied, “Still, a good idea!”

Their idea was to put together an app that would identify all the members of SEN in the GTA – if you wanted to get together for a brainstorming session to make the world more sustainable, you just had to go to the SEN “dating app” and find a group of like-minded, intelligent, respectful students near you and invite them over. Parents would love it!

“Hey, those SEN kids are coming over tonight. Again.”

“That’s fine, dear, Maybe we can go out to the movies then. You know those kids take such good care of the house when we’re away. I wonder if they’ll design an app for my next recipe ingredients – I do want to make sure they are sustainable and ecologically wise.”

So, from a joke about a dating app for environmentally literate students getting together to an app about sustainable development, we’ve come a long way baby. Gro Harlem Brundtland would be proud.

“The children of today are wiser than the children of light,” as my wise old Dad used to say about any gem that I verbalized, I never knew who the “children of light were, but I think I met some of them today at SENYR Ecohacks.

Now, I just need an app to help me find my glasses .. and my keys! “Honey, where are my … ? However, the app that won the day was “Littervision” winning The People’s Choice and Best Hack Award. They had the program that allowed users to take pictures of trash and identify the materials. Also, “Locomotion” won “Best Pitch” – they created the website that allowed people to easily buy local foods.

And all this from the mouths of babes, albeit very bright, very engaged babes The wisdom of the Elders is not a chronological reference point. And although I was their “Elder” keynote speaker, they had to guide me in and out of the building. A senior’s moment, and I trusted their guidance absolutely.

Our future will be safe in their hands if we just let them guide us there.


Skid Crease, Caledon


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Seriously, that is the handle on a non-existent email address from an ANONYMOUS reply to my last entry on Truth and the Press. We actually had a productive conversation going until I my “peeps” alerted me to who it was, and the ANONYMOUS replier bailed into cyber space.

As one literate friend cautioned me, “If they’re anonymous with a fake e-mail don’t even respond.” And yet, the initial back and forth was a good discussion. We do believe in a diversity of opinions as long as they are well informed opinions. “Well informed” means that the facts do not come from Fox News or Breitbart or Chicken Little, but from an authentic source,. I still go with the 3P’s – practicing, published, and peer reviewed .

It was when I asked the anonymous replier for whom she or he was speaking, that it all broke down. “The people,” was the reply.

Now that set off all of my “El -Toro Pooh Pooh” detectors. There is no phrase so odious as “I speak for the people” other than “I do this for the good hard working taxpayers of Canada”, or “Trust me, I’m an Olympic gymnastics doctor,”

Someone who hides behind a fake email address and anonymous identity is a TROLL – and a bad one at that. Ugly and hiding under a bridge. The way I see it.


Skid Crease, Caledon

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Truth and the Press, a series

On Friday, January 5, 2018, a staff member at Metroland Media’s Caledon Enterprise began to badger me by email with a series of intrusive questions involving a private matter before the Integrity Commissioner (IC) for the Town of Caledon. Not wishing to break the public trust and confidentiality regarding investigations by the IC, I did not answer the questions.

Several more emails followed pressuring me to respond by his editor’s deadline prior to the public release of the IC Report. I informed the “reporter” that I would be happy to consider his requests when the Report of the Integrity Commissioner was released publicly in Council. However, by now I was beginning to feel like I was being pursued by the paparazzi and less cordial about sitting down to a Q & A.

What came to mind immediately was a quote from the inimitable character Howard Prince in the closing lines of the 1976 movie, The Front. Howard had been placed in front of a McCarthy era team of aggressive lawyers to answer questions about his liberal left leanings and writings. Finally having had enough of their badgering, Howard ended the interrogation with the memorable words:

Fellas. . .I don’t recognize the right of this committee to ask me these kinds of questions. And furthermore, you can all go f-ck yourselves.

However, to answer more completely, The Report of the Integrity Commissioner regarding the complaint in question has now been addressed fully in Council. It was the decision of the Town of Caledon’s IC not to pursue this complaint against Regional Councillor Annette Groves. He also decided not to pursue this most recent complaint against the conduct of Regional Councillor Barb Shaughnessy, who has previously had to apologize in Peel Region for racial slurs delivered at an Ontario Heritage Board meeting, and been charged with violating the Code of Conduct at her own Caledon Town Council.

The complainants in this current case were the Mayor of Caledon, and an unnamed member of the public. The report of the Integrity Commissioner found that there was not enough evidence to prove that private in-camera negotiations had been inappropriately discussed at a public meeting. He also determined that misinformation about taxpayer funded transportation discussed at that same meeting had been later clarified. The IC concluded his investigation. And that should have been the end of the story.

But humble pie is not a dish found on many politicians’ plates. Following the Trump mantra of lie, scream and attack until you win, the games began. Either one or both of the Regional Councillors released the name of the “member of the public” from their private Integrity Commissioner Report to the same reporter who had been hounding me.

Now, in the preservation of public confidence, the Integrity Commissioner chose to release the names of the elected officials involved in the complaint. He also chose to keep the name of the member of the public confidential and had it redacted from all of the official documents. The reason for this is simple. By keeping the name confidential, a member of the public can bring forward a complaint against a politician without fear of reprisal.

Members of the general public do not have the stage of the Council chamber from which to address complaints. As witnessed in the histrionic claims of innocence that followed the release of the Report, some politicians take full advantage of that platform by which to perform for their base and the next election.

Therefore, by publishing the suspected name of the “member of the public” in a local newspaper, the reporter in question violated a public trust. If I were the redacted member of the public, it would make no difference to me. I am quite confident in the truth as I see it in my investigative journalism. And my blog entries have made it quite clear about how I feel about grandstanding elected officials who deliberately mislead their constituents. But some quieter, less confident member of the public might now think twice before bringing forward a complaint against an aggressive, abusive, and bullying politician. Not to mention an aggressive, bullying, and abusive member of the paparazzi.

Lastly, to clarify for the relentlessly annoying “reporter”, I will now answer his questions as if I were the member of the public whose name had been redacted for privacy reasons as determined by the wisdom of the Town of Caledon’s Integrity Commissioner.

For my full answer to the Metroland Media Caledon Enterprise staff, see the opening quote by Howard Prince.

Skid Crease, Caledon

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