Something is Rotten in Dufferin-Caledon

WARNING: This editorial is long, but worth the read before the next federal election.

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Politics has been a blood sport since its inception, most notably captured in the phrase, “Et tu, Brute?” Yep, Julius didn’t see the dagger in the hand of his buddy Brutus and suddenly lost a lot more than his power.

In Canada, we have many examples in recent history. The long knives were out for leaders Kim Campbell, Stephane Dion, and Thomas Mulcair when the party “insiders” decided it was time for a leadership change.

In Ontario over the past two years we have seen the chaos that ensued when the provincial Progressive Conservative Party pulled the rug out from under its elected leader, Patrick Brown, went through a farce of a leadership convention with accusations of impropriety on all sides, and finally anointed a new “leader” who had won neither the popular vote from convention candidates, nor the majority of votes.

Locally, the Conservative chaos continued the past month at the federal level with the nomination process to replace long standing MP David Tilson in the riding of Dufferin-Caledon. Ever since Liberal Murray Calder lost the seat to Tilson in 2004, this district has been in Conservative hands.

*Backgrounder:

In 2004 our former electoral districts of Dufferin-Peel-Wellington-Grey were rearranged as Dufferin-Caledon. Tilson had been the Conservative provincial representative for Dufferin-Peel under Mike Harris. When it became apparent that the Ontario populace had turned their backs on Harris, he retired to take a victory tour of Europe. The Conservatives selected Ernie Eves as their new leader. Eves had no elected seat in parliament. Tilson gave up his provincial seat for Mr. Eves so that he could slide into parliament as Ontario’s new Premier. Tilson switched from provincial to federal politics. A confused electorate voted, and Tilson won his seat in federal politics.

Back to the future and the confusion now rocking the federal Conservative nomination process in Dufferin-Caledon. On a local level, this is bigger than SNC Lavalin. Consider that if a provincial party, established in 1854 or a federal party established in 1867 can’t have an honest and transparent candidate selection process, they shouldn’t be given the reins of power. Here’s how it should work.

Potential candidates who submit their names for MP positions are put through background checks and financial audits by the National Candidate Selection Committee (NCSC), NOT the local riding association. Approved names are passed on to the local riding association for assistance in vetting. Party membership lists are controlled by the Conservative Party Executive, not the local riding committee.

Now, in order to win a nomination, candidates encourage their supporters to sign up as party members. All candidates for all parties do this. The more supporters you have at a nomination convention, the greater your likelihood of winning. For the Conservative Party of Canada, a $15 entry fee gets you in the door, provided you meet the following criteria:

“In order to join a political party, there are certain requirements to join:

  • You must agree with the general principles of the party (they will often get you to sign or tick a box online stating that you agree)
  • Most parties will not allow you to join if you are a member in another party (there is no way for them to police this, they rely on the honour system)
  • You must be a resident of Canada (no, you don’t even need to be a citizen, just a permanent resident in Canada)
  • You must be a minimum age (this differs between political parties, but it is usually as low as 14 or 16; so if you’re in high school, you can be a member of a political party with all the rights that come with it – which includes voting in a nomination race).
  • You must have been a registered member for 21 days prior to the candidates’ convention.”

This should be easy. The federal Conservative Party was founded in 1867, switched to Progressive Conservatives in 1942, united the right to become the Conservative Reform Alliance Party (CRAP) and when the acronym didn’t quite work, became the Conservative Party of Canada in 2003. Confused? Yes, and that’s the purpose of changing your name every few years. On the other hand, the Liberal Party of Canada has been the Liberal Party since 1861.

On March 15, 2019, Harzadan Singh Khattra, buoyed by an enthusiastic crowd of his community supporters, won an easy victory. It was immediately appealed by the third place finisher, Barb Shaughnessy, apparently out of fear that his nomination would lead to a Liberal victory in Dufferin-Caledon. She did not give any reasons for those fears. When she lost the local riding association appeal, she sent it to the National Council. On April 25, 2019, the removal of Mr. Khattra as the victor was announced by the NCSC and confirmed by the National Council.

Now normally, the second place finisher from March 15, Mr. Kevin Weatherbee, would be declared the candidate. However, remember that politics is a blood sport. Sounding a lot like a squeaky wheel desperately trying to get some grease, third place finisher Shaughnessy quickly declared that she felt she would have the majority of support.

At the same time, she began to circulate email rumours that Jennifer Innis, the local party President, would be jumping ship from her municipal position as Regional Councillor to enter federal politics. In response, Ms. Innis clearly stated that she had made a commitment to remain in municipal politics for this term. Known to be a respectful and ethical local politician, Innis made it absolutely clear that the Shaughnessy rumours were “categorically false.”

Now the party is left with few choices: either the second place finisher wins, or there will be a new nomination process. Or, as happens when time is short and there is a candidate controversy, the Party Leader can bypass democracy and anoint whoever he or she considers to be a winner for that riding.

Dear Conservatives, you’ve had over one hundred and sixty years to practice. Try to get it right this time.

The way I see it.

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Skid Crease, Caledon

*image 1 from redmolotov.com

*image 2 from independentsentinel.com

 

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Bad Bill 66 – Beyond Schedule 10

There were cheers of victory in environmental enclaves across the province when the Ford government withdrew the odious Schedule 10 from its Open for Business Bill 66. Don’t celebrate too soon, fans of the Greenbelt. The government just threw us a crumb off their “cutting red tape” table.

Schedule 10 was the easy victory. Some would say a planned distraction. Get all of the environmentalists worked up about saving the Greenbelt, and maybe the rest of Ontario will ignore what we’re doing to Energy, Education, Employment, and the Economy in the rest of Bad Bill 66. Ah, those same little “cutting red tape” tricks that The Common Nonsense Revolution used in the days of Harris and Giorno.

Let’s take Schedule 3 as an example. Changes to the Education Act will be the next hot-button item. Parents of young children are already up in arms about rumours of increases to kindergarten class sizes and the possible elimination of junior and pre-kindergarten classes. Anyone who has ever taught early primary education will attest to the fact that this is a special calling in teaching. I have often lectured that early years teachers should be retired with Honours on triple pensions after ten years. The last thing needed is an increase in class size.

Or perhaps Schedule 4 featuring changes to the Energy Act with the old metering switch-a-roo, or Schedule 8 might be of interest for those about to enter Long Term Care arrangements, or maybe Schedule 9 if you’re in the construction trades.

No, “my friends”, to intone Doug Ford, there are many reasons to look beyond Schedule 10 and threats to the Greenbelt. Bill 66 is simply a Bad Bill and should have been rejected outright. A good friend and well respected local politician said to me recently, “But Bill 66 is just another planning tool; it gives us a seat at the table.”

I replied to this concept with a quote from an indigenous Elder, “We don’t want a seat at the table. We want our own table.” If your current MPP and municipal polliticians are saying Bill 66 gives municipalities another seat at the table, it’s time to declare that the meal on the table is tainted and the water is contaminated.

Thanks but no thanks.

The way I see it.

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Skid Crease, Caledon

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Naked no more

For years now, my favourite opening gambit for inviting a  prospect to an Interview was, “Meet you, 10:30 A.M., Naked,” It always worked as an intriguing hook.  But soon, there will be Naked no more in Caledon.

Yes, sadly, my favourite meeting place is closing and the wonderful and talented Svetlana is moving on to new chapters in her life.

I have met politicians, journalists, budding authors, neighbours and new friends over the years at Naked Café and loved every minute of it. Whether it be lessons in journalism from Hap, editing sessions with Max, neighbourhood gossip with Bob, ghost writing with Ruth, or meetings with random spirits, it was all wonderful.

One of my favourite memories  was recreating a “Coffee in Cars with Comedians” episode when one of my former students turned up in her Porsche to take me out for a local coffee. Of course we went to the Naked Café, We titled that story, “Coffee in Cars With Canoeists.”

And most recently, I walked in to Naked to protest the closing, and met Bonnie for the first time, She was just picking up her order to go. We started up a conversation over our shock at the closing, and now Bonnie and her long distance twin Clyde are literary confidents. It reminded me of that famous Leo Buscaglia story, where he gets on an elevator with a total stranger, says hello enthusiastically and gives him a big hug, “Do I know you?” asks the other man. “You do now!” answered the always ebullient Leo.

The Naked Café had a loyal following who enjoyed the friendly atmosphere, great fresh food, and specialized baked goods. Svetlana, you and your wonderful staff will truly be missed … but not forgotten.

So this week, I have booked it up – today Bonnie & Clyde, Wednesday Max, Thursday Bob, and Friday for a solo Turmeric latte. Next week, who knows what random intersections and conversations may occur. If you’re looking for a good story, I’ll meet you there … Naked at 10;30 …

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For anyone who may have missed the sign on the door, Friday, January 31 is the last day to go Naked in Bolton.

 

 

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Bill 66 ahead, approach with Caution!

Caledon Open For Business Once upon a time, Ontario had a Greenbelt Act, and a Clean Water Act,  and a Planning Act, and a Lake Simcoe Protection Act.

Then the good citizens of Ontario, tired of the governments that had protected all this, voted in a new government. The Premier, who promised in his campaign to protect our Greenbelt, then declared: “Ontario is OPEN FOR BUSINESS!”

In a pointed Tweet recently, the comparison was made that, “Bill 66 is to wealthy developers in the Greenbelt like horse tranquilizer was for Bill Cosby.” In a gentler form, we are reminded of Aldo Leopold’s Sand County Almanac, where he wrote: “There is yet no ethic dealing with man’s relation to the land and to the animals and plants which grow upon it. Land, like the Odysseus’ slave girls, is still property. The land relation is still strictly economic, entailing privileges but not obligations.

Leopold wrote this in 1949 and The Sand County Almanac remains to this day a cornerstone of environmental studies and a poignant reminder of what it takes to truly become a conserver society. We have a white colonial masters’ attitude to the land, and the rape and pillage we have inflicted over five centuries in North America has not abated. We have yet to realize that we and the environment are one.

In an attempt at reconciliation, these days our municipal Councils give lip service thanks to the First Peoples whose lands we stole, breaking every treaty that we signed along the way west. Upon those lands this year in the Golden Horseshoe of Ontario, our elected officials will sit in Town Halls debating the pros and cons of Bill 66. The year is 2019. There should be NO DEBATE. You either fully protect the rights of the land and its beings with seven generation decisions, or you don’t.

In a recent interview Tim Gray, Executive Director of Environmental Defence, stated, “The Ontario government is lying to its constituents about protecting the Greenbelt when Bill 66 clearly gives a secret process allowing municipalities to negotiate deals with developers without hope of appeal.”

You either fully protect the Greenbelt, the Oak Ridges Moraine, the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere, and all watersheds originating therein or you don’t.

Recognize our history. When the colonial victors opened Upper Canada to immigration after the War of 1812, it took less than forty years for European settlers to deforest 80% of southern and eastern Ontario. 10.000 years of Great-Lakes St. Lawrence forest enriched  topsoil were depleted and eroded. The Great Lakes, the world’s largest source of fresh water, the gift of our last Ice Age, were polluted in less than 200 years because of deforestation, agricultural run-off and industrial waste.

We should learn from our history and try not to make the same mistakes. But we don’t, and the cost is always paid by the survivors. Our sacred protected spaces are not open for business.

Ronald Wright concluded in his brilliant A Short History of Progress, “If civilization is to survive, it must live on the interest, not the capital, of nature….Each time history repeats itself, the price goes up.

The Way I see it,

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Skid Crease, Caledon

  • a full analysis of Bill 66 will follow. In the meantime, interested readers can go to the environmentaldefence.ca or ontarionature.org sites for a natural perspective on how to Stop Bill 66.

 

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