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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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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Caledon Can Take Vision Zero to Hero

Two years into the GTA’s goal of eliminating pedestrian and cyclist deaths, project Vision Zero has failed to accomplish its goals. 2018 is on its way to becoming another banner year for fatal collisions in our proposed “safe cities” for our car-free citizens.

I live in the beautiful rurban community of Caledon. We have similar lofty goals for those who travel by foot and bike. Having given up my car two years ago and gone footloose , I have discovered the thrill of victory by catching the GO bus on time, and the agony of the feet walking around Bolton,

I have also discovered that Caledon is anything but a pedestrian or cyclist friendly Town. The lords of the road are the large bully boy pick-up trucks and the souped up little Honda Civics. Both frequently have muffler systems that make the start of a Formula One race sound like a lullaby. It seems that very few drivers these days (whether in the family van or muscle car) have any regard for the flesh and bone creatures in their headlights.

That driver need to speed everywhere combined with distracted pedestrians staring at their cell phone screens and cyclists who think they are going for the yellow jersey in the Tour de France creates a recipe for disaster. Add into the mix children, seniors, an archaic sidewalk system and no green bike lanes marked at busy intersections, and it’s only a matter of time before we are watching another tragedy unfold.

In the  last two weeks alone, crossing with the lights at major Bolton intersections, I have witnessed dozens of drivers racing through yellow lights and straight out running red lights, and that is with pedestrians clearly visible at the crossing.  So, if we truly want to create a safe community for our citizens, here’s how to take Vision Zero to Hero.

  1. Lower the speed limits through the Town. Toronto is now recommending 40 kph MAX.
  2. Install red light cameras at all busy intersections, raise the fines to $500 for running a red light, and take away the car for a week.
  3. Educate drivers that a light turning yellow does not signal the start of the Indy 500 – like the yellow flag in that same car race, it means slow down, caution! There could be a child about to enter that intersection
  4. Educate pedestrians and cyclists to wear highly visible clothing, wear LED flashers at night, and use extreme caution when encountering traffic.
  5. Complete the painting of bike lanes in bright green at all busy intersections, and in community safety zones.
  6. Ensure that the police enforce the traffic laws to the maximum – the ticket revenues can go towards fixing our sidewalk system with rolling curbs and proper ramps. The revenues from Stop Sign and red light violations alone would be like winning the lottery. (And stop the dirty X-Coppers from getting these dangerous drivers out of their ticket fines!)
  7. Complete the downtown core traffic calming by FIRST getting the commuter traffic to use the Emil Kolb Parkway. Proper signage on #50 indicating local  traffic only. If you’re not a resident or shopping, we don’t need you speeding through Caledon on the way to Toronto or Brampton in the morning or to Dufferin or New Tecumseh at night.
  8. Install BIG Flashing signs at Major Mac in the south and Castlederg in the north indicating that Travel Time is 59 minutes on Queen St. through Bolton, but only 10 minutes using the Emil Kolb by-pass. If a driver’s IQ is at leeast approaching the price per litre of gasoline they should be able to figure that one out.

There, eight simple steps to making Vision Zero a reality, reducing pedestrian and cyclist fatalities, and creating a safer, cleaner, quieter community.

The way I see it.

***

Skid Crease, Caledon

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