Going for the Green … Licence Plate

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I beheld it reverently, almost with the awe of an innocent child on a mythical Christmas morning. Yes, Virginia, there is a green licence plate in Ontario. And it was attached, front and rear bumpers, to our new “zero emissions” Plug-in Hybrid vehicle. It was just in time to help Canada honour its lofty promises made at the recent COP26 Environment Conference.

Not only does the green Ontario licence plate indicate that your vehicle is clean and quiet, it also entitles you to drive solo in the designated HOV lanes. It also allows you to take advantage of the many green designated parking spaces and charging stations installed and expanding around Ontario. In my community, Katelyn Tozer with the Town of Caledon has been working on creating the infrastructure and resources needed to encourage and expand the use of electric and electric-hybrid vehicles. The planet loves a family with low emissions!

Canada’s lofty goals aside, it was really my neighbours who inspired me to get a “zero emissions” vehicle, Imagine in your neighbourhood, just upwind, is a family of four with six vehicles – four individual use cars and extra “pet” sports cars. One of the sports cars might be a work in progress, kept in their attached garage/mechanics shop where it would be frequently tuned, loudly belching clouds of petrochemical effluent into our  collective airspace.

Even more inspiring would be their habit of clearing their four cars of frost, ice and snow in the winter by leaving them idling for 20 minutes or so until everything melted off. Of course in the summer, the idling would be used to run the air conditioner to cool the cars down, You would try to set a good example by using a new emissions free invention called the combo snow brush and ice scraper on your family’s one vehicle. Or you would demonstrate the benefits of parking in the shade and leaving the windows open a crack in the summer, You would even put up a sign saying “No Idling Zone” to remind them of Caledon’s two minute limit on idling, but it would all be to no avail.

I slowly came to the realization that Canada could never meet our targets with that level of pollution right next door, so my family decided that the only thing we could do to compensate was to reduce our emissions to zero. Thus our decision to purchase the new Plug-in Hybrid vehicle. We had already signed up with Bullfrog Power when we first bought our home, so we knew we had green electricity going into the grid for every kilowatt hour of juice we used when we “filled the tank” so to speak.

We also considered, with gratitude, the roll of the dice that had placed us in a country with the resources and personal circumstances that allow us to make such a choice. Even in Canada, a majority of our population trying to survive under pandemic pressures have to meet other basic needs first before considering the luxury of a green vehicle choice. Perhaps our politicians should make it a priority to create a clean, green public transportation network to benefit all Canadians. How shortsighted it was for the Ontario government and Metrolinx to cancel the planned GO system expansion to Bolton, let alone all of the green programs and vehicle rebates. Bad Dougie!

Here is the challenge for Canada, for the globe. We tend to blame the large corporate fossil fuel industry for our accelerating climate change woes. We also need to address individual citizens and politicians who continue to engage in fossil fool behaviour. Idling your car for twenty minutes to melt off the snow is like a person infected with the coronavirus walking maskless  through a crowded supermarket screaming “FREEDOM” with spittle filled passion. William Wallace would not be impressed.

Educating the corporation, the politician and the individual as to the seriousness of the accelerating climate change emergency is a survival curriculum for the twenty-first century and beyond. Moving through awareness and knowledge to action is the challenge. In order to get people to change their behaviours, my mom used to advise me, “Sometimes you get more with the honey dipper than the fly swatter.”

More recently one of my mentors, Dr. William Fyfe, bemoaning the lack of progress on dealing with the planet’s most serious environmental issues, passionately told me: “Skid, it’s time to stop being polite to stupid people.” Yes indeed, it’s time for both the honey dipper and a really big fly swatter.

The way I see it.

***

Skid Crease, Caledon

 

 

 

 

Fireworks in Caledon

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How Do Fireworks Work - Inside Pictures How Fireworks WorkAll was quiet in the evening darkness as a neighbour and I walked our dogs, on leash, through Fountainbridge Park to Allen Drive. Suddenly the sky was filled with a series of startling bursts of colour accompanied by  thunderous booms. My companion’s dog was so terrified, he broke his leash and took off through the park. Mine nearly pulled my arm out of its socket as he bolted frantically to get away from the explosions that continued non-stop. He tugged me all the way down Highmore towards our street as the barrage amplified.. There on the corner of our intersection a man was lighting off his fireworks right on the public boulevard beside his house. These were not minor fireworks, these were major light shows – the kind that make crowds “OH” and “AH” on Victoria Day and Canada Day.

The problem was that it was neither of these two days when fireworks can legally be set off in Ontario and Caledon. On these days, people with pets, the elderly in home hospice, the recently arrived from war torn countries, families with very young children, and persons recovering from PTSD can close their doors and windows and keep a modicum of quiet inside their homes until the assault is over. The adult offender in this case  had picked July 4 to celebrate, forgetting perhaps that he lives in Canada.

He was either ignorant of Ontario law and Caledon’s by-laws regarding fireworks, or stupidly selfish.  I suspected the latter as he became aggressively defensive when we exchanged words about stopping the display. He quieted down shortly thereafter when he received a letter I sent him copied to the Town, the Caledon OPP, and the Caledon Fire Department who actually enforce the by-law.  He no longer set off displays after that day.

But the barrages continued over the next two weeks of July, with large displays coming from the North Hill section of Bolton, and the occasional local small burst from a variety of young teens in Fountainbridge Park and the Allan Drive Middle School parking lot. When I informed one of the  teens about the laws of the land, he replied, “But we didn’t get to light them all on Canada Day.” “Gee,” I replied, “I guess you’ll have to keep them dry until July 1st next year.”  

And during the recent  Diwali festival, came another fireworks incident with my wife walking our dog. She quickly brought the terrified dog home and went back to speak with the youths. It soon became apparent that they were not celebrating Diwali when one of them told her that he was lighting fireworks because it was his birthday, She informed them about Ontario law and the Town’s by-laws, but instead of apologizing for setting off an illegal fireworks display, the two young boys proceeded  to tell her to do obscene things to herself, and then quickly scuttled off into the darkness. 

To accommodate diversity, the Town of Caledon is amending its Fireworks By-law to include cultural celebrations that traditionally include fireworks, like the Chinese Lunar New Year and Diwali. However, that By-law, like many things delayed by pandemic priorities, has not come before Council for approval. Unless the organization or person is a licensed pyrotechnic engineer with a permit, like say at Canada’s Wonderland, there are only two days a year that the general public can legally set off fireworks.

Those two days are Victoria Day and Canada Day. Period. You must be eighteen (18) years of age to purchase fireworks.  If you notice any illegal fireworks displays that are disturbing the peace in your neighbourhood, get the location and inform Caledon Fire at this email address: Fire@caledon.ca. Similarly, if you notice vendors selling to underage youth, notify the Caledon OPP and Caledon Fire. And if you are a parent setting off illegal displays, or providing fireworks illegally to youth, learn the laws or face the consequences. Ignorance is not knowing what the offending behaviour is; stupidity is knowing but continuing the offending behaviour anyway. It’s time for some of our neighbours to smarten up.

The way I see it.

***

Skid Crease, Caledon

*image from popularmechanics.com

When Members of Parliament Fail

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Canada just had a federal election. I live in Caledon, a riding so safe for the Conservatives that the locals claim you could run a dead cow as the CPC candidate and it would win. The Conservative MP recently re-elected in my riding of Dufferin-Caledon is Kyle Seeback. This parliamentarian occasionally pens a column in the local paper entitled “Report from Ottawa” which one would suppose would be filled with vital information for the riding’s citizens. Alas, the column would better be titled “Raving Partisan Rants from Ottawa” filled with plenty of wistful speculations and accusations but nothing of substance.

The title of his latest “Report” was “It’s Time to Return to Work, Justin Trudeau” bemoaning the November 22 start of the 44th session of Parliament and complaining that it “is one of the longest delays in recalling Parliament after an election.” Now, Mr. Seeback should be aware that when, as an MP which his byline indicates, he addresses Justin, it should be respectfully as Prime Minister Trudeau. Seeback then boasted that “A Conservative government would’ve recalled parliament much sooner. We’re ready to roll up our sleeves and immediately return to work in the House of Commons to address the priorities of Canadians.”

Whoa there, Kyle. First, the “if we’d won we would have recalled parliament sooner” is analogous to the old saying: “If my aunt had had  testicles, she would’ve been my uncle.” Secondly, thanks to Erin O’Toole’s waffling on mandatory vaccinations, your party isn’t even prepared to re-enter the House because of the Conservative anti-vaxxer MP’s who refuse to either reveal their vaccination status or get vaccinated in the first place. You’ll all have to roll up your sleeves to get a shot before you get to work for Canadians. One of the top priorities for Canadians is for government to do everything possible to get this COVID-19 pandemic under control, so get out and push, or get out.

Please, MP Seeback, tell us how you plan to do that so that we can get back to some sense of normal in both our humanity and our economy. Let us know how your party plans to cooperate with the other parties in Parliament to ensure this happens as efficiently and honestly as possible. All we have heard so far is that the CPC plans to be “The Party of NO” ready to shoot down any Liberal bills intended to get us out of this pandemic and back to life and work.

The recent federal election was intended to give Canadians a chance to clearly indicate the direction of their political compass for the next four years. Alas, the $600 million dollar gamble (taxpayer monies which would have been better spent fulfilling the “to do” list from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission) produced a minority government that looks a lot like the previous one. Minority governments can work beautifully, but only if all the parties involved come to the table ready to work with collaboration towards consensus on the actions that will benefit all Canadians.

“If we had won” is a vain fantasy Mr. Seeback. Your Party lost. You actually had less of the popular vote than in 2019 and are down 2 seats in 2021. Now, let’s make sure Canada doesn’t lose because of your right wing Conservative Party’s obstinate and antagonistic stance toward anything centre left. If Canadians had wanted the CPC to lead the country, you’d be the governing Party right now. You’re not. Quit whining and get back to work Kyle Seeback. On November 22nd we’ll see who has their sleeves rolled up.

The way I see it.

***

Skid Crease, Caledon

Aren’t politics ironic, don’t you think?

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Irony, by common definition, is the expression of one’s meaning by using language that normally signifies the opposite, typically for humorous or emphatic effect. As students of English Literature, we learned that dramatic irony occurs when the reader knows what is going on, but the characters in the poem, novel, play do not.

Political irony is a little different. It occurs when politicians say or print or graphic something that is the total opposite of who they are and/or what they do or have done. The effect is not humourous but it does tend to emphatically highlight their hypocrisy.

Two examples will suffice to illustrate this concept clearly. The WE Charity controversy that dominated the media for much of 2020 was created by the Conservative and NDP parties for the sole purpose of tarnishing Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party of Canada. Although all of the spurious accusations against the government and its leader were found to be groundless by the the federal Ethics watchdog, the WE Charity was destroyed.

This was an international development charity and youth empowerment movement founded in 1995 by human rights advocates Marc and Craig Kielburger. They started it on a dream when they were teenagers, and it brought inspiration, opportunity and global success to youth around the world for over 25 years. In the summer of the pandemic when students desperately needed employment, the Conservative led attack against WE crushed the dream and their program to provide projects and grants to post-secondary students across Canada.

Less than a month after the dust had settled on the WE controversy, we received a full colour brochure in the mail from our local Conservative Party of Canada MP, Kyle Seeback. It had his smiling face on the front cover beside the banner headline “Opportunities for Youth” … too little, too late Kyle.  That’s political irony and hypocrisy in action.

 

The second example is closer to home. On November 26, 2020, Caledon Regional Councillor Annette Groves voted against her own Town of Caledon at the Region of Peel. The subject of the vote was a motion to reduce Caledon’s Regional Councillors by 2 and add 2 seats to Brampton’s delegation. Her colleagues in Caledon were totally blindsided. At a time when Caledon’s population is expected to grow exponentially over the next ten years, losing representation at the Region made absolutely no sense at all.

At a Special Session of Council streamed live on November 30th, Ms. Grove’s actions and the passing of the motion were widely condemned by citizen delegations and Councillors alike. The next day in our Canada Post mailbox, I received a full colour three-page fold out brochure. There on the front page was Ms. Grove’s smiling face beside the banner headline, “Dear Friends and Neighbours.” That’s political irony and hypocrisy at its finest.

With friends like these, we don’t need enemies. But we may need a lesson in media literacy to remind us that all that glitters is not gold. Those happy smiling faces and weasel word headlines are designed to lure us into the lie. Remember carefully the words of warning in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet:

O’ serpent heart hid with flowering face! Dove-feathered raven, wolfish-ravening lamb.Despised substance of divinest show! Just opposite to what thou justly seem’st.

Yes, when political irony is in play, put on your sunglasses, look past the glitter, and pray we don’t get fooled again.

The way I see it.

***

Skid Crease, Caledon

*images from politicalbrochures.com

Don’t be a Larry

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Recently the Mayors of the Region of Peel – Patrick Brown of Brampton, Bonnie Crombie of Mississauga, and Allan Thompson of Caledon – pulled a Larry. Many of us will remember Larry Vaughan, the obdurate mayor of the fictional oceanside town of Amity, the setting for the Steven Spielberg movie Jaws.

To refresh: Larry wanted to keep the beaches open for the money that tourist season would bring to the local businesses, even in the face of well-bitten body parts piling up on the beach and scientific experts letting him know that death was swimming in the waters offshore.

But Larry ignored that evidence and expertise, and more death followed, and the beaches closed completely.

So when business owners came complaining to our Region of Peel Mayors, they naturally turned to the Province. Unfortunately, the Ford government had just appointed an “Expert Panel” of economic advisors who were all too ready to relax the restrictions recommended by the Chief Medical Officers of Canada, Ontario, Toronto, and Peel.

The new system is known as the COVID-19 response framework: keeping Ontario safe and open. More correctly it should be titled “Keeping Ontario Open and Safe” since it tends to be more economic than medical in intent. The levels go from Green, Yellow, Orange, and Red, and finally to LOCKDOWN,

Under the guise of “defending local business”, the government permitted the Region of Peel to move Peel Region to Red–Control level, a more business friendly level than the current modified Stage 2. The next day, The Region of Peel Public Health nixed that idea and imposed the more restrictive measures, specifically:

REGION OF PEEL ENHANCED PUBLIC HEALTH MEASURES 
 
Peel Public Health is strongly urging all residents to: 
Restrict close contact to your household and essential supports
Cease all indoor social gatherings and visits (with exceptions for emergencies, renovations or one-on-teaching / tutoring) 
Limit outside trips to essential activities only, and 
Cancel, postpone or hold virtually any in-person activities.
 

Now, dear Mayors in the Region of Peel, when we are in the middle of a global pandemic with COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths climbing to new records each day, don’t be a Larry. Close the beaches. And business owners, yes, businesses will suffer during a pandemic of this scale. The Bubonic Plague was a real downer on local economics unless you were a casket maker or gravedigger.

I live in Caledon, home to 85,000 souls, only a small percentage of whom are local business owners and their employees. In fact, the five biggest employers in Caledon are Delegant Construction, Mars Foods, Canadian Tire Distribution Centre, Verdi Construction, and Husky Injection Mouldings.

In Caledon, blessed with abundant walking and hiking trails and bubbling springs, surely we don’t need any fitness clubs and bars open as indoor venues to disperse virus laden droplets and aerosols, when we can exercise in the fresh air and drink spring water.

We are in the middle of the health crisis of the decade, perhaps the century. Listen to the medical and scientific expertise intended to protect the health and safety of the entire community. The coronavirus is saying, “You can pay me now or you can pay me later.” Remember that you are the Mayors of all of the citizens of the Region of Peel, not just the business owners. When it comes time to pay the bill, the tab is on you.

The way I see it.

***
Skid Crease, Caledon

*image from Twitter.com