Dear Karma,

Two years ago, when I began reporting from a  media desk for municipal council meetings, I discovered that not all who enter politics do so to serve the people they represent. Some get to power owing favours to the private funders who pay for their campaigns. Although donations to municipal candidates are capped, and although financial records must be submitted for public scrutiny, wealthy corporations and individuals find ways around the rules.

Our little Town is only a microcosm of the problem that was exposed in the May 2018 “Public Money, Private Influence” series by the Globe and Mail. This investigation delved into intimidation and corruption of public officials at municipal and provincial levels. It was shocking, but more shocking still was the silence that followed from local press.

We know that the temptation of being seduced by lobbyists exists at all levels of government. But the big action is at the municipal level where developers with deep pockets begin their lobbying. That is why resistance to Schedule 10 was so necessary and why it is important to review and revise the upcoming Bill 108, a thinly veiled attempt to bypass environmental regulations and give developers a carte blanche under the guise of “jobs and affordable housing for the people, my friends.”

Sorry, but a literate society throws up a red flag when they hear the words, “We’re cutting the red tape to get rid of those pesky environmental regulations that slow down projects. Gosh darn it, we can’t let some Environmental Assessment Act stand in the way of economic growth! Ontario is Open for Business!” Bill 108, like Schedule 10 before it, shifts the responsibility to the municipalities, effectively narrowing the focus of influence peddling.

Let’s say Corporation A, or business person B, want candidate C to get elected to further their development agendas. A and B take their multi-thousand dollar donation and spread it out over family, friends, and associates who each contribute their qualifying amount to the candidate’s campaign.

Previously, the limit for municipal campaign contributions to one candidate was $750, but that was increased to $1,200 in 2017, just after union and corporate donations were banned. So now, a wealthy donor seeking influence can take $120,000 and distribute it to 100 people who make 100 legal donations to a candidate. The financial records reflect no wrongdoing, and the lucky candidate C has brochures, signs, and a tech savvy staffed campaign office to die for.  The candidates without those wealthy sponsors are left with the trickle down votes.

Sadly, I discovered that some journalists are also not immune from this circle of influence, slanting articles to create a crisis where there was none, and giving a platform for the loudest candidates to get name recognition. That is a violation of journalistic integrity. That truly is “fake news” for the purpose of distracting us from legitimate issues that will affect our present and future.

Before I became a journalist, I taught for 30 years in the North York School Board, one of the most vibrant and creative school boards in Canada until ravaged by amalgamation. During that time I counseled six teachers out of the profession – people who were either unethical, incompetent, or incapable of giving their students the best personal and professional care they could deliver.

I expect the same from members of my new profession – clarity and truth, I expect the same of my elected officials – integrity and honesty. When I began my reporting career a good friend gave me a coffee mug with a meaningful quote on the front . My friend knew The Count of Monte Cristo was my favourite novel. She said, “Don’t let them get away with lying.” The quotation said, “Dear Karma, I have a list of people you missed …”

The way I see it.

**”

Skid Crease, Caledon

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BUS 38 WHERE ARE YOU?

I had just landed back in Toronto after four inspirational days in Montreal attending the Movin’ On Summit 2019. As a member of an international media team, I was privileged to bear witness to the future of sustainable mobility for our communities. Hosted by Michelin  and friends, this Summit presented a world of decarbonized, autonomous, community friendly, healthy and safe transportation systems to move us from rural through rurban, suburban and into urban environments and back again.

The emphasis, of course, was on a vibrant public hybrid energy transportation system that would make private fossil fuel vehicle dependency a relic of the past.

My bubble was quickly burst when I picked up the local paper at my front door and saw the headlines that our GO bus service, the sacred 38 and 38A upon which all Caledonians in need of public transit relied, to Bolton was about to be cancelled. As a senior without a car, the GO bus was my only connection to services in the urban GTA. Hell hath no fury like a citizen deprived of mobility! Within seconds I called the Mayor’s office for an interview. “Mr. Mayor,” I said, “We are going to buy our own electric ARMA or NAVYA mini-bus and run it between Caledon East and Bolton and the King City GO train station! And I’ll start fundraising now!”

After calming me down, Mayor Allan Thompson scheduled an interview for the next day. And this is what I learned. First, our Mayor was already on the case and way ahead of the game. After the news of the potential cancellation reached the Town, the Mayor immediately had a number of conversations with MPP Sylvia Jones asking for her help  He also had a productive telephone conversation with the Minister of Transportation, Jeff Yurek, where he got a commitment to have Ministry and Metrolinx staff meet with Town staff.

He then asked MPP Jones to delay the cancellation to allow for the meetings with the Town of Caledon. This was all confirmed by our Mayor in a letter to The Minister of Transportation, Jeff Yurek. The Mayor also asked Town staff to meet with riders and impacted residents, date TBA. As well, at the last Town Council meeting, he moved a motion, along with Regional Councillor Groves, asking the Region of Peel to help with the advocacy.

He assured me the Town will continue lobbying at every opportunity to ensure that our residents have access to a public transportation link from Caledon into the urban core. Why do I believe him? Allan is a beef farming man who has seen the light test driving around in an all electric pick-up truck. He knows the future is here. And he has networked with other Mayors nationally and internationally who are facing the same sustainable mobility concerns.

One way or another, we will have our public tranist propane bus, or hybrid bus, or ARMA/NAVYA e-bus, or light rail, or MagLev high speed train, or hovercraft, or … does anyone remember the Jetsons?

The way I see it.

 

***

Skid Crease, Caledon

 

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Climate Catastrophe Will Cost Us More

The Ford Regime of Regressive Conservatives is trying to dumb down Ontarians with their campaign of propaganda and misinformation about the “job-killing carbon tax” by mandating that all gas stations in Ontario carry a sticker on their gas pumps that claim to show the increased costs in fossil fuel for the average family. They fail to show the rebates that come back from the federal government to the average family. They also fail to show the costs of climate catastrophe for the average family.

Enter the Green Party of Ontario with their own gas pump stickers that tell the truth: CLIMATE CHANGE will cost us more! Thank you Mike Schreiner. These magnets, as illustrated in the lead image, can be ordered from the Party’s website. I wish they also had flags we could fly from our cars, and lawn signs we could place in front of every gas station, and billboards that would clear the smog of Boss Ford regime’s polluting propaganda.

Our taxpayer dollars are being used against us by this government. Every TV ad we see, every broadcast we hear, every Ontario News Not sham reality TV fake breaking news special is another pile of El-Toro-Pooh Pooh from Dougie’s dumbing us down team. It is time to say a loud and passionate NO to big and powerful and environmentally illiterate politicians! Get your BS off our gas pumps!

Let our MPPs know that this is a violation of our intelligence, of our energy that should be going into mitigation efforts, of the health of our children, and of the biodiversity of our ecosystems. Doug Ford is driving the Ontario bus into the future at high speed looking in the pre-paleolithic rear view mirror. And any supporter of the Regressive Conservative Party who is supporting him is complicit.

So, all of you good, hopefully thoughtful and intelligent people who are Ontario Conservative Party members, as scientist Bill Nye said on John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight Show recently:

“Grow the f–k up. You’re not children anymore. I didn’t mind explaining photosynthesis to you when you were 12. But you’re adults now.”

Ah, and of course, adults who are right wing conservative politicians always act in the best interests of their local and global communities, right? No. They only do the right thing if their communities demand that they do so, and if they don’t it is time for a ride out of town on a rail and covered in tar sand oil and feathers.

If you are an Ontario Conservative supporter at this point in 2019, you are for deregulation and cutting red tape solely for the economic benefit of wealthy developers and corporations AND you are against social justice, environmental security, public education, and sustainable development. In my riding of Dufferin-Caledon, Sylvia Jones is the Conservative MPP. She does not speak for me and I regard her as an enemy of the people as long as she sycophantically claps for every Doug Ford pronouncement.

We fixed Ford’s gas pump sticker. Now it’s time to fix Ontario. It’s time to open up our windows and collectively scream,

“We’re mad as hell, and we’re not going to take it anymore!”

The way I see it.

***

Skid Crease, Caledon

*image from the Green Party of Ontario

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Climate Change Primer

What you are about to read is not a fairy tale or a love story. I am a cynical optimist, and I will not lie to our children. It is time to stop telling them that our environmental efforts are going to, as one local eco-organization states, “reverse Global Warming for a brighter world for our kids.”

Today, April 1, 2019, is officially dubbed “Fossil Fool’s Day” in honour of Premier Doug Ford’s cancellation of our international Cap and Trade program for carbon pricing. As a result of his government’s environmental illiteracy, all Ontarian’s will have to pay more for carbon based fuels. The planet will have to pay more in the long run.

The premier is not worried. The fuel for his new pimped-up SUV, dubbed “Car Farce One”, is taxpayer subsidized. But Dirty Doug is really only an extreme example of our failure to deal with a planet under stress. The real issue is our inability to understand the scope of the issues and to address them realistically.

First, we are dealing with accelerating climate change, of which global warming is only one component. Secondly, nothing we as humans can do now will reverse accelerating climate change. If we had seriously wanted to do that, we should have started decades ago when the World Meteorological Association announced in 1988: “Humanity is conducting an unintended, uncontrolled, globally pervasive experiment, whose ultimate consequences are second only to global nuclear war.

The most we can do now is mitigate the impacts of that experiment.

The total sum of our environmental efforts right now will be to set a good example for surviving future generations, to leave a legacy that at least we tried to be intelligent beings on Earth. In the cosmic scale of things, the tiny flicker of time that is our human existence means nothing to the planet. Earth has gone through global cycles of freeze and thaw for millennia before humans appeared. The only difference now is that we did this one to ourselves.

This current state of climate change has not been caused by meteoric impact or volcanic eruption, but by one species consumption of stored solar energy from fossilized plants. A species whose population soared from 7 million to 7 billion in the blink of a cosmic eye – in my lifetime alone from 1946, the world’s population of humans has almost quadrupled. We are a species whose consumptive habits may have bankrupted the resources of life for future generations of all living things. Then again, Earth has kicked back from previous pre-human Extinction Events. The planet will correct our abuses all on its own.

We need to stop telling our children that it’s going to get better. Thanks to the Internet they know we are lying. It’s not going to get better if we continue consuming like 1%er trophy hunters. Start teaching them how to live elegantly with less. All the Prius drivers in the world won’t reverse global warming but at least we’ll look honourable trying. The planet will go into the next cooling phase regardless of our meagre efforts. In the interim, the goals of teaching our children to seek a brighter future should be about living happily in a caring conserver society in whatever time we have left. Period.

The pot of gold isn’t at the end of the rainbow – it is the rainbow.

The way I see it.

***

Skid Crease, Caledon

***

*image from, ironically, axethecarbontax.ca

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Aggravating Aggregates

Well, just when you thought it was safe to go back on the Oak Ridges Moraine and hike in Ontario’s Protected Greenbelt … the day was Friday, March 29, a sunny cool morning …

There I was riding my trusty old bike in for a spring tune-up at the North Hub Bike Shop on Healey Road when I came across a quiet meeting being held at Bolton’s Hampton Inn.  A small group of environmentally concerned citizens were out in front protesting a meeting going on behind closed doors between politicians and industry representatives, apparently with the goal of opening up the Moraine and Greenbelt to unfettered aggregate extraction. Rumours ran wild.

Those pesky “red tape” items like the Endangered Species Act, and the Clean Water Act, and any Act that might interfere with Doug Ford’s “Open For Business” mantra were said to be on the “exemptions for extractors” list.

In attendance were Caledon’s Mayor Allan Thompson, and Susan Foxton, Mayor of North Dumfries, and Sylvia Jones Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services (MPP for Dufferin-Caledon), , and John Yakabuski Minister of Natural Resources (MPP for Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke), and his Parliamentary Assistant Toby Barrett (MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk), and Steve Clark Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MPP for Leeds-Grenville-Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes), and Dave Smith (MPP for Peterborough-Kawartha), and a couple of aggregate industry representatives, a few government and corporate staffers, and some police. There was no public admission to these discussions.

That’s 2 Municipal Mayors, 5 Conservative MPPs, 4 Ministers, and aggregate industry lobbyists/representatives behind closed doors in a private meeting in little old Bolton. My spidey senses were tingling, but not having my Press Pass with me, I only talked briefly with the very well behaved “protesters”, let the hotel staff know that I was passing on a hello to our Mayor, and left. On foot. My bike won’t be ready until Tuesday. That I know for sure. What I may never know for sure are the details of that meeting.

Those details should be made public. That is the best way to avoid the ridiculous rumours that back room handshake deals were being concocted at secret meetings. I mean, seriously, what idiots would compromise the integrity of the Greenbelt Act and the sanctity of the Oak Ridges Moraine. Seriously.

But just in case, keep an eye on this one, Caledon. When Schedule 10 was exorcised from Bill 66, I predicted the end runs would begin. At this point, no one knows what was discussed behind closed doors at the Hampton Inn in Bolton, so follow the money. Regardless, the citizens of Caledon need to make crystal clear to government and industry: you can develop and extract all you want … within the strictest of environmental guidelines, honouring that “red tape” that prevents rape and pillage, and protects our waters and land and all species for seven generations to come.

Caledon is Open for Environmentally Literate and Ethical Sustainable Development. Period.

The way I see it.

***

Skid Crease, Caledon

  • image from inthehills.ca
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