Caledon’s Integrity and Conduct

originally written for: Just Sayin’ Caledon, 7:00 p.m.


There is a very good reason why we have an Integrity Commissioner in Caledon. It is mandated by the Province of Ontario. No choice, no discussion, no debate – we now have our own Integrity Commissioner. And it is no easy job being tasked with the wisdom of Solomon, especially when political aspirations get in the way of reasonable judgements. “Here, you take the sword and cut the baby in half,” are not words sweet to the ears of politicians in the #metoo age.

The Province mandated Integrity Commissioner roles and Codes of Conduct for Municipal Council because of so much bad behaviour, usually from developer interests interfering with fair play, but often just from inappropriate human bickering. Thus a Code of Conduct was mandated for all Municipal Councils – this is NOT a discussion item.

What is a valid discussion item is the detail behind each Municipal Code of Conduct. As is included in tonight’s Town of Caledon agenda, are there ambiguities that need to be addressed? What would make it easier for an Integrity Commissioner to do her or his job?

For example, if a local politician told the CAO of a Town to “F__k Off” would that be a violation of a “workplace free from harassment and degrading language” policy? And what would be the consequences – mouth washed out with Sunlight soap?

Some may argue that the cost of an Integrity Commissioner and the cases she or he has to hear are a burden to the taxpayer. Well, welcome to the world of Donald Trump. A megalomaniac dictator is cheap. An ignorant aggressive narcissistic personality is a lot costlier in the long run. Besides, the Integrity Commissioner’s salary is already worked out in the local budget. If there are no complaints to address, that salary still gets paid, So if local politicians mind their Ps and Qs, there is no additional charge to the taxpayer.

It would be interesting for the residents of Caledon to find out how many complaints have been filed with the Integrity Commissioner and by which complainants against which respondents, and how many have resulted in cases being carried forward by the Integrity Commissioner. And how those found guilty of violations of the Code, as ambiguous as it may be at this point in time, have improved their behaviour or not.

Refer, for example, to the York Region Board of Education’s policy on Respectful Workplace and Learning Environment (apologies for the spacing – it is an educational document):

. “All staff, students, trustees and community members of the York Region District School Board are responsible for:

●  creating and maintaining an inclusive learning and working environment that is free from harassment and discrimination and respectful of human rights;

●  being aware of their rights and responsibilities under the Respectful Workplace and Learning Environment policy and related procedure;

●  discussing and/or reporting alleged or suspected harassment, discrimination and human rights situations and concerns with a superintendent, principal, manager or supervisor, where appropriate;

●  understanding and adhering to the human rights complaint process as outlined in the Respectful Workplace and Learning Environment procedure;

●  where appropriate, discussing concerns with the other party/parties prior to filing a formal complaint in an effort to address and resolve concerns at the earliest possible stage;

●  participating in a Ministry of Labour Visit and/or Investigation related to workplace harassment, as required;

●  being aware of and sensitive to issues of discrimination and harassment and taking proactive steps to ensure the human rights of all individuals are respected and maintained;

●  demonstrating professional and respectful behaviour;

●  cultivating and maintaining inclusive learning and working Environment and services; and

●  conducting themselves in an appropriate and respectful manner that meets all applicable codes of
ethics, codes of conduct and standards of practice of the Board.”

Yes, if we expect this for our children and teachers, It might not be a bad ethic to pass on to our politicians. Imagine – professional and respectful behaviour.

It would be interesting for the residents of Caledon to find out how many complaints have been filed with the Integrity Commissioner over he past four year term and by which complainants against which respondents, and how many have resulted in cases being carried forward by the Integrity Commissioner. And how those found guilty of violations of the Code, as ambiguous as it may be at this point in time, have improved their behaviour or not.
.In other words, everything we need to know, we learned in kindergarten. Play respectfully and responsibly Councillors, or take a time out from the Municipal playground. Yes, democracy and justice are expensive, as any dictator will tell you. We are fortunate to have an Integrity Commissioner of the quality of John Fleming – we just need to live up to the Code, and tighten it up.
. The way I see it.
. ***
. Skid Crease, Caledon

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Beyond the Belly Button

Well, it appears that the “pepek swiat” story touched quite a few hearts and minds. I have been inundated with emails full of other expressions passed down by grandmothers and grandfathers for generations. Some of these are on the same theme of how to describe self-absorbed arrogant people who think they are the “belly button of the world” and others are just life lessons.

Related to the “pepek” theme, if you’ve ever heard someone say, “Well doesn’t she just think she’s the cat’s ass,” or in Britain, “Now, don’t he just think he’s the dog’s bollocks,” you get the idea. I heard both of these from my French-English-Scottish-Irish grandparents and knew immediately what they meant. What I didn’t know was their origins.

Both the cat’s ass and the dog’s bollocks get cleaned frequently by their respective owners, thereby being body parts that require a lot of attention. So, someone who demands a lot of attention gets the appropriate label. Apparently the phrase “in the moonlight” is added at the end, perhaps to make the well-licked body part seem more ethereally beautiful.

Similarly, if you say someone thinks she “is the cat’s pajamas”, that is also about someone who thinks highly of herself. However, the reference seems to be about the “cool cat” jazz players of the 20’s and the flappers fashion craze of high style silk PJ’s. This one fits right in there with “the cat’s whiskers” and “the bee’s knees” for people who think they are pretty special.

Continuing on the cat’s theme, we have my Grandad’s favourite, “All cats are grey in the dark.” This one, although attributed to Benjamin Franklin’s advice for young men to date older, wiser women, apparently originated in France. There it appeared as “by night all cats are grey” in a line from Cervantes novel Don Quixote, indicating that, when the candles are out, the thin veneer of class and perceived quality disappear.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have “colder than a witch’s tit” – an expression used equally to describe both this winter’s Arctic Weather Bombs and someone who is emotionally cold and devoid of human warmth. In the same vein are phrases like “uglier than a dead monkey in the moonlight.” Now, while the moonlight may have made the cat’s ass more attractive, it definitely makes the dead monkey downright creepy. This is a phrase that could be used today to describe Harvey Weinstein’s root chakra.

And then there are expressions that will be needed to describe the speed of the spin coming from the Ontario PC Party to move away from news about the shocking loss of their leader, Patrick Brown. The former leader was abandoned by his Party faster than rats leave a sinking ship, with the further ignominy of having his name quickly removed from his office door. To add insult to injury there is a rumour that the “at” in Patrick was erased first, leaving “P- – rick Brown” on the door for a cruel photo op.

There is also the whirling dervish spin surrounding the PC’s new Interim Leader Vic Fedeli, who became unusually humble after the Party declared they wanted a real leadership race – one month before the Ontario Provincial Election. Really?! And then there is the spin wrapping around Lisa MacLeod, Dimitri Soudas, and Eric Lindros regarding who knew what when about the sexual assault allegations that tossed out Patrick Brown with the bathwater.

Not to mention the sexual assault allegations that just caused PC Party President Rick Dykstra to step down, or the recent computer hacking of the PCOP voter data base. What the Party does not need right now is for some loudmouthed big white male, alleged former drug dealer, addict enabler, and “sports fan” of the Lingerie Football League to run for the leadership of the Ontario Regressive Conservatives. That would be hard to spin as any kind of good news story.

The expressions that cover all of this came from one of my Dad’s old fishing buddies. How fast will the PCPO try to shut down these stories? “Faster than a whippoorwill’s butt with shutters,” or the even more colourful “faster than a goose shitting in the moonlight.” Now, I have no idea about the origin of these phrases, having seen neither a whippoorwill’s butt nor a goose defecating in the moonlight, but I just know it means something really fast and nasty is happening, and not even the moonlight can make it pretty to watch.

Whatever happens next, you know there will be an expression in someone’s family heritage that will cover the situation. After all, if we can’t trust politicians who speak with a forked tongue, at least we can trust Grandma and Grandpa to be as honest as the day is long.

After this crazy week, those long days of the Summer Solstice can’t come any time too soon!

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Caledon and “the Belly Button of the World”

“Belly button, belly button, Oh my belly button! Belly button, belly button, I love you!  Oh how sad and unhappy I would be, if I looked down, and my belly button I couldn’t see…”              

Heather Bishop, children’s performer, The Belly Button Song


Everybody’s got one, unless, like the mythical Adam, you were simply created out of some universal chemistry set’s test tube. Even Macbeth, who was “not of woman born,” still came out of that Caesarian with an umbilical cord attached, and thus … a bellybutton.

If we “belly button gaze” once in a while like the child in Heather Bishop’s song, we are celebrating the wonder of our birth. However, if it becomes an all-consuming love affair gazing at our own belly button, we become Donald Trump. People who think everything is about them are suffering from omphaloskepsis or navel-gazing. The Ancient Greeks had a word for everything! People afflicted with omphaloskepsis are self-absorbed to the point of being narcissistic.

If you meet people who think every compliment should be about them, every success in the world is directly related to them, every slight is directed toward them, every conspiracy theory is meant to dethrone them, and only people who agree with them are right-minded, they can be categorized, politely, as navel gazers.

Now this did not originate with individuals – this is a cultural phenomenon. Every emerging society on Earth thought it was the “belly-button of the world” and the centre of the universe. The Greeks had their omphalos, meaning “navel”, a sacred stone artifact that represented their centre of the world and a conduit to their gods.

The ancient Incas had Cusco, the sacred city that in the Quechua language translated to “the centre of the world.” The Spanish Roman Catholic invaders later translated this to “el Ombligo del Mundo” shortly before they raped, looted and violated Cusco, shattering the Inca culture.

Even in modern science we find the “Golden X“, the geographical “belly button of the world” located in the middle of the Gulf of New Guinea, just south of Ghana and west of Equatorial Guinea.  Sailors who “cross the line” into those equatorial waters must pay homage to the gods of the sea or forever be known as “slimy pollywogs” – not cool, especially if you are a pirate.

But my favourite is an expression learned from a wise Polish babcha, who called someone who was too full of themselves a “pepek swiat”. At the time, I had no idea what the translation was but the meaning was clear. Some loud-mouthed, bullying know-it-all would be dominating a social gathering’s conversation, and Babcha would simply look at the person and mutter, “What a pepek swiat!”  At first, I thought it must mean “arrogant, ignorant ass” in Polish.

Only later did I learn that pepek swiat translated into “belly button of the world”, a term of derision given to a domineering, self-absorbed narcissist. Babcha had another term for “arrogant ignorant ass.”

So, from Babcha, I learned that the Polish, too, have word for everything: A pepek swiat who is also a “dupa wolowa” [you’ll have to look that one up] can be a real drag on intelligent, respectful communication .

The good news is we don’t have to leave Caledon and travel to Greece or Cusco or Equatorial New Guinea to see a pepek swiat in action. Just visit your local Town Council meetings for prime time viewing. Or watch the upcoming provincial Conservative leadership race in Ontario. Or marvel at federal antics during Question Period. In the midst of meaningful and productive civil discourse, the pepek swiat won’t be hard to miss.  Especially when acting like a dupa wolowa.


Skid Crease, Caledon


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Why I Love My Wife

I am blessed with being married to an exceptional woman. Not only does she put up with my eccentricities in the normal ebb and flow realities of Men are From Mars and Women are From Venus, she also happens to be a really fine Principal running a wonderful public elementary school. I have very high standards of excellence in education and I can tell you quite honestly that I would be honoured to work for this particular Principal 24/7. Not only is she the epitome of a lifelong learner, a consummate professional, and a mindful arbitrator, she has a sense of humour.

Here is a classic example. As she was getting ready to leave for work at 6:30 am, she asked, “Can I borrow your Dad’s old coat?” She knew this coat was special – my Dad had left it to me to use in my outdoor education storytelling. It was a knee length deep brown Orlon fake-fur jacket that looked just like sheared beaver. When I wore it, I felt like a 17th century coureur de bois. “Sure,” I said, “Special  dress-up day?”

“I have to be a bear,” she replied as she kissed me goodbye. “Oh,” I said to the closing door. I got the full story that evening.

It turns out that one of the kindergarten classes doing an Inquiry Learning Project on habitats had built a cave in their classroom. Not only a cave, but a pond complete with frogs and fish, and Canada geese flying in a ecosystem that only primary imaginations could create. The children had just gone out for recess. My wife, the Principal, put on my Dad’s coat, tiptoed into the classroom, and curled up in the cave.

The children came back from recess. It took a few minutes, but finally one of the children whispered, “There’s something sleeping in our cave!” They gathered around. One of the braver children gingerly poked the sleeping creature. “I think it’s a bear.” The bear got another poke. This time the bear stirred and growled a little. “Maybe it’s hungry. Give it a fish!” So one of the fish from the pond was placed in the cave with the bear. The bear must have smelled the fish because it rolled over and opened its eyes.

“Principal!,” the children yelled, “We thought you were a bear!”

“Oh my, no,” said the Principal, “it was cold out on yard duty and and your cave is so nice and warm that I came inside and I suppose I fell asleep.” The Principal bear stretched and yawned and lumbered back to her office. The children put the fish back in the pond … you just never know when another hungry bear might show up

Now keep in mind that in previous incarnations this particular Principal has been a Doctor, a WWF Champion, and a Pirate to mention only a few. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be a child in a school where imagination and inquiry learning are nurtured and your administrator can not only run the ship, she can inspire the crew and the passengers to love the journey.

As soon as she told me that story tonight, I had to come and write it down to share with you. The world is full of so much bad news right now that this story made me reflect on all the good. Thank you Principal Bear.

Yes there are people out there who threaten the sanity of our social fabric; but there are far more  great people out there working their hearts out for the children and the adults in our communities. So, why do I love my wife? Because she is a constant reminder of all that is good and intelligent and caring in this world.

Thank you.


Skid Crease, Caledon


*stock image from media.gettyimages

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Fire and Fury at Caledon Town Council

“Never retract, never explain, never apologize; get things done and let them howl.”

Nellie L. McClung


The following quotes clarify this journalist’s reaction, and lack of apology, to the impassioned indignation of “them”, as referenced above in Nellie’s quote. On Tuesday, January 16, 2018, in the afternoon Town of Caledon Council Meeting, a recent Integrity Commissioner’s Report that looked into possible violations of the Council Code of Conduct by two Regional Councillors, found they were not guilty of violating their Council Code of Conduct:

“Look honey, I ain’t buying what you’re selling so get out!”  S.L.J. Shortt

“It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” William Shakespeare

“I’m not a crook.” Richard Nixon

“I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” Bill Clinton

“My two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart …. not smart, but genius, and a very stable genius at that!” Donald J. Trump


So, let me ask my readers to judge how all of that fire and sound and fury signifying nothing could have been avoided.  The fire was ignited by the misinformation and confusion that flowed from a public meeting hosted by a regional municipal councillor, with another regional municipal councillor in attendance. That misinformation concerned a false accusation that the Town was providing free taxpayer funded transportation from outside of Town to a local workplace. The second bonfire was set, again falsely, because the Town was allegedly slowing down the availability of medical facilities to be built on a “gift” of land, the fine details of which were being negotiated privately in-camera. That led to the Mayor and a “member of the public” invoking their democratic rights, and civic responsibilities, to file a Complaint with the Town’s Integrity Commissioner.

Prior to the Complaint being filed it should be noted that the “member of the public” had asked for an apology, a retraction, and a clarification of the information from the parties concerned. The Complaint was filed when that request was not fully honoured.

Imagine we had attended that local meeting public meeting. Imagine that two Regional politicians were in attendance. Imagine that the regional politician directing the conversations of the evening had simply said, “There is a private shuttle funded totally by the company to our local workplace with no cost to taxpayers.” Period. And that the location and lands, like our possible land “gift”, required for specific types of medical care facilities are sized and approved for use depending on population and transportation, and are Provincial responsibilities. Or imagine that the other regional politician, had misinformation been discussed, clarified with correct facts immediately.

I can only imagine. And because that did not happen, I applaud the Mayor and the “member of the public” for raising their concerns. Now, the Town’s Integrity Commissioner did not find that the Council Code of Conduct had been violated. That was very good news for one regional politician who had previously been found guilty of two previous violations for using racial slurs and bullying colleagues.

But the “poor me” histrionics were way over the top. Sorry, regional politicians, you may not have been guilty of violating the Code of Conduct, but you were guilty of allowing your constituents to leave your meeting with enough misinformation that they attacked the Mayor and integrity of Town Council on social media and in a local newspaper.

So, as far as this journalist is concerned, “I’m not buying what you’re selling.”

Your crocodile tears may have been appreciated by the tiny base of supporters that was present at Town Council that afternoon, but a political lie for survival is still a lie. Idiots, crooks, liars, and megalomaniac geniuses – you are in good company. Just make sure that the next time you hold a public meeting, the cameras are running.

Note to self: if you are that challenged and irresponsible that you can’t get a simple piece of factual information across to your audience, get off the stage … and out of public office.


Skid Crease, Caledon

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