Peter Munk, you saved my life

Today marks the passing of a true Canadian icon. Peter Munk 1927 – 2018, nine meaningful decades of a life well lived. Little did I know at the time that the beautiful wooden cabinet Clairtone Hi Fidelity record player that sat in our living room as I was growing up was the product of Peter Munk’s first serious endeavour with his partner David Gilmour.

After the devastating loss of Clairtone in 1967 came the unprecedented success of Barrick Gold in 1983. And with that fortune, Munk began to give back. From the Peter and Melanie Munk Cardiac Centre to his School of Global Affairs at University of Toronto to his million dollar donation to the families who lost everything in the Fort McMurray fires, Peter Munk gave back to his chosen country.

Most selfishly for me, Peter Munk saved my life. Through his generous funding of cardiac research and training, the skilled team at Toronto General Hospital University Health Network brought me back to life, and continue to keep my big, fast paced heart in good health. I promise to earn it.

Peter Newman , in his book Titans, is quoted as saying that Munk, a refugee who lost everything to Nazi persecution in Europe, was driven by “restitution, redemption, revenge.” Restitution: restoring hope for those suffering from war, disaster and illness; Redemption: bringing balance to the dark and light forces in our lives;  Revenge:  holding the monsters to account.

Much like the mythical Count of Monte Cristo, Peter Munk escaped from the dungeons of war ravaged Europe to rise to a position of fame and fortune and use that fortune for good – with the greatest gifts, he said, to come after his death.

Well, Mr. Munk, I never met you, but my heart beats now because of your philanthropy. And by some fateful coincidence those three R’s of yours are  the three forces that have driven my journalism since my recovery. Thank you.

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Skid Crease, Caledon

*image from mcleans.ca

An Open Letter to Sylvia Jones, MPP

First, Sylvia, I think you are doing a wonderful job representing our riding in Caledon. And it was a pleasure meeting your enthusiastic constituents at your past Open House, many of whom are good friends and trusted confidents.

As a result, I was all set to join the provincial partying until the leadership fiasco – I fully expected Christine Elliot to win. Unfortunately, I have studied the Ford family for a long time now, and have been investigating politics for decades. Bill Davis was my idol and the Education Minister who gave me my teaching certificate, and he still is the epitome of a true Progressive Conservative.

Doug Ford is to the Ontario Conservative Party what Donald Trump is to the Republicans and he will be a lightning rod for the alt-right in Ontario, the old Mike Harris Reformatories. I have met them, groups of grumpy old white men in the coffee shops in Bolton, spouting misogyny and racism and blind condemnation for anything left of centre.

As an environmental science writer, I can assure you that we need a carbon tax of some kind and an immediate shift to a renewable energy economy, I have already chastised the federal Liberals for missing the boat on this one. Also, as an internationally respected educator, I can assure you the new Ontario Health and Physical Education Curriculum didn’t go far enough in delivering modern sex education to our school children. Besides the basic plumbing and issues of gender identity, we also need to make our children street smart when it comes to predators and pornography.

The only people truly opposed to this well-vetted and publically discussed curriculum are religious zealots and those who stoke their fires and fears. The idea that their values are being challenged is ridiculous considering that the curriculum is not mandatory. And it is certainly not being opposed by the young people who are about to inherit an abusive twenty-first century world. Especially if it ends up being run by Lingerie League loving “leaders” like Doug Ford.

Sorry, Sylvia, but we get known by the company we keep, and Doug Ford is not on any of my guest lists. Your online and print support for Mr. Ford as “leader” is admirable from a loyal Party member.  But, as our voice for Ontario in the twenty-first century, he doesn’t deserve a second glance, or a first chance.

If, as befell the United States, we elect a populist wealthy white male to office, I hope you will hold him to account the way John McCain has tried to keep the ideals of honourable centered conservatism alive in America.

Courage, Integrity, Truth … the way I see it.

Sincerely,

Skid Crease,  Caledon, Ontario.

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Image and T-shirts from threadsquad.com

Caledon Deserves Better

On March 22, 2018. In their Letter and Commentary section, the Caledon Enterprise published a letter by Derek Clark titled “Caledon deserves better”. Mr. Clark forgot to mention that he declared himself to be a candidate for the position of Regional Councillor Wards 3 and 4. A significant oversight since his letter was a direct assault on the sitting Council member in the Wards.

In his letter, Mr. Clark proceeded to take strips off current Regional Councillor Jennifer Innis for being a good councillor. Ms. Innis had spoken out on a radio talk show where she is a regular guest. She had commented on a case where the previous Caledon Mayor and her family had been threatened and bullied by development interests who were not happy with the Town’s planning.

Well, yes, Mr. Clark, the bullying and threats and assaults actually happened and were reported to the OPP. And yes, Mr. Clark, one of the accomplices served a three-year jail sentence for his role in the abuse. And yes Mr. Clark, the current Mayor had a rock thrown through his front window during another disagreement over the Town’s planning. This was also reported to the OPP. Time to be afraid.

This bullying and threatening is physical and psychological and intimidating, whether it is having someone beat up your husband or slur you on social media. Imagine Mr. Clark, if someone in Palgrave attacked you on social media with the #heknew just because you had hosted a reception at your home for Patrick Brown, allegations against whom have not yet been proven. And this kind of intimidation is already happening in Caledon months before the municipal election.

So, I couldn’t agree more with Ward 3/4 Candidate Derek Clark when he concludes that “Caledon deserves better.” Certainly much better than the pre-election self-interested slant contained in his letter. Before attacking Ms. Innis, Mr. Clark was an enthusiastic volunteer on Ms. Innis’ campaign team in the last municipal election. It was only when Ms. Innis decided not to run federally and vacate her Ward for a very eager Mr. Clark, that the collegial atmosphere dissipated. The mantra that Mr. Clark espouses in his letter seems to come straight out of the playbook of the two politicians in Caledon who continually oppose the Town.

Before going to print, I asked Mr. Clark and Ms. Innis the same questions by email. Only Ms. Innis had responded by Press time. These are her answers:

  1. Was Mr. Clark a member of your volunteer election committee?
  2. Did Mr. Clark encourage you to run for a federal nomination?
  3. Are you, like Mr. Clark, a member of the Conservative Party of Canada?

“Yes, Mr. Clark was an avid and dedicated volunteer and friend. He was a supporter until his decision to run for Council in the fall of 2017.

Yes, Mr. Clark encouraged me to seek the federal nomination for the Conservative party for the 2019 general election so that he may either run for Regional Councillor or Area Councillor in Wards 3&4.  After much consideration, I clearly conveyed both to Mr. Clark and the current Area Councilor, Mr. DeBoer my intention and wish to continue to serve as a Regional Councillor. While I was humbled by the encouragement and support received by many, I have committed fully to the good people of Caledon and will be seeking re-election as the Regional Councillor for Wards 3&4.

Yes, While partisan politics has no place at the municipal level, I am a proud Conservative Member.  And further, I am also proud of my employment history and the opportunity to have learned from some our finest Conservatives, like Hon. Ernie Eves, late Hon. Jim Flaherty, late Hon. Chris Stockwell and MP David Tilson.  In my role as a Regional Councillor, I work collaboratively with members from all political parties as it serves in the best interest of Caledon and Peel.”

Clearly and honestly answered, Regional Councillor Jennifer Innis. There is nothing more satisfying in political reporting than getting a straight “Yes” or “No” answer to your question, along with factual truth in the details. No spin or fake news here.

As to Mr. Clark’s letter, there is nothing more despicable than seeing the desire for power corrupt the vocation to serve.  Sorry, Mr. Clark, Ms. Innis is absolutely correct. If your letter is any indication, the good politicians of Caledon have every reason to be afraid. And the citizens of Caledon have every reason to vote very carefully in the upcoming election. I am very afraid, Mr. Clark, that you have already lost all credibility.

The way I see it.

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Skid Crease, Caledon Journalist

image from Twitter

Defamation and Libel Primer

In November of 2017, I published a piece titled “Defamation and Libel and Smears, oh my! In it, the meanings of defamation and libel were clearly covered. However, one of my readers asked me to re-clarify for him the differences in relation to another article, so here is the simpler primer.

In the Province of Ontario and across most of the civilized literate world, if you say something about someone that is true, it is NOT defamation. If you say something about someone that is false, but does not damage their character or reputation, it is NOT defamation.

The main difference between defamation and libel is that the former is in speech and the latter is in print. Print it in a newspaper or magazine or blog, and it’s libel.

So for example, if you write in a blog that a certain journalist does not have professional credentials and smear his reputation, and it turns out that the accusation is not true and you were using misinformation, that is libel. If you say those same false things in public or private, that is defamation. Now, if when discovering your error, you withdraw the offending accusation, and make a full and sincere apology for your error in print, you’re a decent human being. If not, there’s a rock waiting for you to crawl back under.

In a recent blog, I commented that a colleague of mine, a well-respected local reporter and editor, had written an insightful commentary about gun violence and bullying. In that editorial he asked for answers, to which I responded last week with an article titled “An Easy Answer for Bill.” Bill also published my shorter Letter to the Editor response in his paper last week.

In his original article, Bill confessed to having been part of a group in school that had bullied other students. One day one of the targets of his taunts threatened to kill Bill. The situation was resolved without violence, but being a man of good conscience, it made Bill reflect on, as he put it so eloquently, “trying to navigate through adolescence while crashing into people trying to do the same.”

When I concluded my editorial on how differently that could have ended in a high school in Florida, I commented, “Just be grateful, Bill, that the boy you bullied in school didn’t carry an AR-15.”

Now, for my challenged reader, although this gave a fine opportunity to clarify the difference between defamation and libel (and compliment Bill on his eloquence) there is nothing even remotely associated with either defamation or libel in my editorial. Learning to read and comprehend is such a valuable skill.  These editorials are written for graduate level readers. According to the good old Flesch-Kincaid analyzer, the Star and Globe & Mail and National Post all come in at upper high school levels. On the other hand, the Sun is at a Middle School level and may be easier to understand for some – it uses a lot of pictures.

In summary, it is defamation if spoken, libel if printed, and neither if the words are true.

And, dear reader, I’m still waiting for that full and sincere apology.

***

Skid Crease, Caledon,

Member in good standing with the Canadian Association of Journalists

* image from azblackpeek.com

Canada’s Greenwash

 On March 15, 2018 the government of Canada declared that it was going to dedicate $500 million to projects aimed at reducing greenhouse gases. Brilliant. The year is 2018. It is thirty years since the alarm was sounded in Toronto by the World Meteorological Society. In this case, better late than never doesn’t quite cut it.

 

But, if there is any good day to celebrate Canada’s Greenwashing, it surely is on St. Patrick’s Day. I’m sure most of our politicians are kissing the blarney stone right now.

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna says the government’s Low Carbon Economy Challenge will hand out the $500 million over the next four years to fund projects aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, while also saving energy and creating green jobs.

I have a couple of suggestions. First, put the $500 million into a Precautionary Principles Fund for mitigating the coming flood, drought, fire, ice storm, Arctic thaw, and coastal erosion insurance claims. Secondly, if you really want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, suspend all developments in the tar sands, thirdly close all coal fired electricity plants,  fourthly stop extracting oil and fracking gas, and finally convert fossil fuel company dinosaurs into twenty-first century renewable energy corporations.

It is making me gag to hear our government offer $500 million to explore solutions that were proposed thirty years ago. It’s like gun violence – the solution is easy. Control the guns! You want to significantly reduce greenhouse gases? Then shut down the industries that produce excessive greenhouse gases and don’t approve projects like Trans Mountain Pipeline that encourage more fossil fuel use! You want to stop violence against women? Expose and #MeToo the heck out of stupid, abusive men!

This is the KISS principle, consensual of course, for environmental literacy.

Your community wants clean water? Don’t dump toxic chemicals or sewage into the watershed. I’m sure Grassy Narrows would have appreciated that private corporation requirement with stringent government oversight and enforcement instead of a lazy blind eye.. Don’t reward people with a $500 million taxpayer bailout when they are so environmentally illiterate that they don’t  realize it’s not a good idea to defecate in the community well. “Doctor, it hurts when I do this.” “Well then, stop doing that!”

Canada stands tall on the world stage, represented by wonderful and well-meaning people, lauded in the myth of our green environmental standing by dint of our tiny global population. But per capita, we are major players in contributing to greenhouse gas emissions.

This is not my opinion alone. Try this from a November 2017 news report by Bob Weber of the Canadian Press for CBC:

“To an international diplomat, the irony is painful — the country that promised action on climate change is falling behind while the country that has spurned a major treaty on the issue is making progress.

That’s Canada and the United States, Angel Gurria, secretary-general of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, said Wednesday.

“It’s a bit of a paradox, here,” Gurria told The Canadian Press. “In Canada, you have a situation where you have a very strong political will to reduce, but effectively it has not gone on the planned road.

“In the United States, you have a government that has pulled out of the (Paris) agreement, but in the United States you are having a reduction in emissions.”

Gurria has high praise for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Liberal government’s strong vocal support for climate change. Gurria said Trudeau made a real contribution to reaching the Paris deal in 2015 in which 169 countries promised to reduce their emissions enough to keep global warming under two degrees Celsius.

But when the signatories get together next year to take a look at each other’s progress, Canada may not be so much in evidence.

“You have here a very proactive and decisive leadership moving in the direction of reduction of emissions, and a very active participant in the Paris agreement and a very active participant in the whole of the world’s move,” said Gurria, who was in Toronto to speak at the Munk School at the University of Toronto.

“While at the same time, the local situation is showing that speed of reduction is not as fast as one would have wanted.”

Yes, Bob. Yes, Canada. Yes, Catherine. Not what we wanted by March 2018. And not worth $500 million to start now. The train has already left the station. Either shut down the big emitters or stop proselytizing. Our children are the first recognize a greenwash and. like the students in Parkland, they want action, not a greenwash stuck in the spin cycle.

The way I see it.

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 Skid Crease, Caledon

 *image from climatenadcapitalism.com