Ontario Nature IS Nature!

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The Ninth Annual Ontario Nature Youth Summit for Biodiversity and Environmental Leadership took place this past weekend – September 21 – 23, 2018 – at the beautiful Geneva Park YMCA Centre on Lake Couchiching near Rama. The event was attended by over one hundred Ontario senior high school students from Kaministiquia in the far north west of Ontario to Amherstburg in the deep south, to Vankleek Hill in the east – a network of enthusiastic, informed, engaged youth who are about to speak truth to power.

It has been my honour, since the inception of this event at the YMCA Cedar Glen in York Region in 2010, to guide workshops and mentor young minds at this inspirational Ontario Nature event. This year’s participants represented the cultural and social diversity of youth in Ontario and they were treated to a full weekend of experiential education.

Renowned outdoor educators, naturalists, Ontario Nature science technicians, Conservation Authority educators, Youth Council members and alumni, Wild Ontario volunteers, Students on Ice polar alumni, and First Nations Elders took the participants on journeys from freshwater ecosystems to climate change to community action. We journeyed from the secret life of salamanders to survival skills, from protecting pollinators with legislation to protecting people with the healing medicine found in wild plants.

The first evening, the Scales Nature Park staff hooked the participants with an interactive presentation of Ontario’s reptiles featuring unique species like the wood turtle and the hog-nose snake. The audience very quickly showed that they wanted to get up close and personal with this fascinating wildlife. Word for the week: ectotherm!

There is nothing more satisfying in education that to walk in the wild with a group of passionate young teens and watch them become children in the woods once again, watching them discover snakes and salamanders, wildflowers and fungus, scat and burrows and woodpecker holes. Watching the look of wonder grow in their eyes as they realize the intricacies of life simply by exchanging a breath of air with a tree leaf. As Sarah McLachlan sings, “It’s just another ordinary miracle today.”

When we stopped at a limestone outcrop and gazed over Lake Couchiching, one young person summed it up with these simple words: “This is beautiful.” That is the beginning of environmental literacy. The awareness of the beauty and mystery in the world around us is what creates love and respect for the natural world. And what we love we protect and nurture. A mentor in my life once told me, “We never save anything by moaning and groaning about it once it’s gone. We save things by celebrating the beauty of their existence while we still have them.” From awareness grows wonder, wonder feeds knowledge, and from knowledge flows action.

Over the past nine years, Ontario Nature has now guided close to a thousand students through this learning cycle. The Summit not only inspires the greening of personal lifestyles, it also achieved provincial success when the Youth Council lobbied for provincial policy that protects pollinators through the banning of neonicotinoid pesticides.

It further connects children to the history of our land, with opening greetings by Glenda Snache from the Chippewas of Rama First Nations on whose ancestral lands Geneva Park now stands. Theresa Harrigan of Rama and Kerry-Ann Charles from the Chippewas of Georgina Island guided participants through an understanding of the traditional clan systems of our First Nations. Then there were stories around the campfire told by Elder Garry Sault from the Mississaugas of the New Credit – the youth will never again look at a turkey vulture or the west wind the same way!

The wonderful closing keynote by Chloe Dragon Smith, a young Métis woman from Yellowknife, NWT summed up the weekend perfectly when she reminded us all that there is no separation between us and the environment, “You ARE nature.”

Next year, 2019, will mark the Tenth Anniversary of the Ontario Nature Youth Summit for Biodiversity and Environmental Leadership – that will carry the next group of youth leaders into the tipping point year of 2020. If you aren’t already a supporter of Ontario Nature and its programs, this is the time to join the team. Over the next four years, we will need all the support we can get!

The way I see it

Caledon’s Election Commandments

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After the War of 2018, Calerin (or Duffedon as those north of 9 like to imagine it) had separated from the Region of Peel, and the cities of Brampton and Mississauga had merged to become the Kingdom of Bramauga


At the dawn of the 2020’s, the peoples of Calerin were enslaved by the rulers of Bramauga, and by wealthy overlords who owned the rulers. Even their own delegates had been bought by the overlords and were about to turn the Town of Calerin over to the highest bidder.

Then, just as hope for democracy was fading, She appeared on the horizon, shafts of the morning sun illuminating her flowing hair like a Beyoncé video! She had gone to Caledon Mountain to hear the words of the Great Spirit That Loves Life to receive the prophecy that would guide a just society.

She stood tall before the Oracle and asked, “Stone tablets?” “No.” replied the Oracle in a Sarah McLachlan-like voice. “They didn’t work well the last time the men did this. Let’s go with Skid’s blog.” And so it came to be that the “Ten Commandments for an Intelligent Electorate” were handed down from Caledon Mountain (well, actually a hill, especially if you come from Kananaskis country in Alberta) and she spoke in her best Yul Brunner impression,

“Let it be texted, let it be done!”

1. Thou shall not elect a person who has violated the Municipal Code of Conduct and been found guilty.

2. Thou shall not elect a person who has been found guilty of racist slurs.

3. Thou shall not elect a person who has used social media to smear another candidate.

4. Thou shall not elect a person who has either ignorantly or maliciously misinformed and mislead their constituents.

5. Thou shall not elect a person who is in the pocket of private interests.

6. Thou shall not elect a person who pads his or her resumés.

7. Thou shall not elect a person who creates a crisis where there is none.

8. Thou shall not elect a person who has brought false witness to bear against a sitting candidate.

9. Thou shall not elect a coven, or a single member thereof.

10. Thou SHALL elect good, honest, respectful, intelligent, empathetic persons.

And the Oracle was quiet. She came down the mountain with the words of wisdom, but it was too late. The people who had been so eager to receive her words only hours ago were now drinking corporate coffee from a drive-through and watching American Real Housewives and the Trump Reality Presidency Show.

“Oh well,” she sighed. “We’ll save these for the survivors of the Apocalypse.”


The way I see it.

Doug Carrick is having a ball …

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Many years ago, when conducting a survey with outdoor educators about the place where they got their first contact with wildlife. I was surprised by the number of respondents that said, “Golf courses.”

I was expecting fishing trips with family, or blueberry picking in the days when you shared the patch with black bears, or canoe trips in the wilderness. But no, it was more often than not in the landscaped setting of a golf course. Cognitive dissonance is good.

Research into the background of a local politician led me to the history of the Greystones Golf Course and Tudor-style Clubhouse, where I became aware of the philosophy and influence of Doug Carrick in golf course design. Here was a man who believed in designing courses for all levels of players, and that fit in with the natural flow of the landscape where possible. One of those was Greystones, which follows the edge of the Niagara Escarpment near Milton, Ontario.

More familiar to Caledon golfers will be Osprey Valley, another Carrick design.  The Caledon Council Community Golf Tournament returned there on Wednesday, September 5, 2018. More familiar still to truly avid golfers will be one of the most photographed holes in Canada, the sixth hole at Greywolf in Invermere, B.C. known as “The Cliffhanger.” But only the most committed to the joys of chasing little dimpled golf balls through the trees and grass and over sand traps and water hazards will know the story of Scotland’s “The Carrick” … I’ll save that one until the end.

I had the opportunity this summer to sit down with Doug Carrick at his office in Don Mills and discuss his history in golf and his philosophy of course design. That history goes back to the influence of legendary course designers like Robbie Robinson and Stanley Thompson (who between them have overseen the development of over 300 courses). Carrick’s history also includes an early practical introduction to golf as a caddy and a brief amateur competitive period as a club pro before turning his full time attention to golf course design and construction.

The glory days of big project golf courses were at their peak during the early 20’s and for 20 years following WW2. The second wave of new course development was 10 years away when Doug began his career. The hundreds of courses that Robinson and Thompson designed were in the days of the “Roaring Twenties” and the post war affluence of Mad Men business deals. Clubs proliferated and memberships soared until the economic downturns tightened the belt on golf course extravagance.

Still, Doug Carrick had the opportunity to make his mark with some unique and acclaimed courses locally including Osprey Hoot & Toot and Osprey Heathlands, King Valley, Copper Creek, and Bigwin Island on The Lake of Bays. When asked to name the favourites of his designs, Doug turned to a picture on the wall of Predator Ridge. “Well, there’s one,” he smiled. Then he added Humber Valley in Newfoundland, Muskoka Bay, Eagles Nest, Cobble Beach, Legends on the Niagara, and Greywolf in British Colombia.

Not one to rest on his laurels, Carrick Design’s Lebovic Golf Course in Aurora opened this summer, and The Nest just made its debut in Innisfil at Friday Harbour Resort. That project presented Carrick with quite a challenge as local planning changes forced the golf course to relocate to a flat agricultural area. Fortunately, all of the material dredged out to make the Friday Harbour Marina was put on the golf course area and Carrick basically had sculpting material to terraform the agricultural land.

As well, being adjacent to protected conservation lands, the golf course was required to plant over 14,000 trees that paid back the carbon capture potential. This addition of native species of flowers, shrubs and trees on previously monoculture land had a tremendous impact in attracting wildlife to the area as well as beautifying the course.

But the course that fascinated me the most was “The Carrick” in Scotland. How, I wondered does a young Canadian designer get to design a golf course in Loch Lomond and get it named after him? Doug admitted humbly that Carrick or “carraig” in Scottish Gaelic translates to rock – the “The Carrick”.

This one was a challenge for many reasons. Loch Lomond is sacred ground in Scottish tradition and a National Park. Many locals saw golf as a “blight on the landscape”. “a game for the privileged” that would destroy the natural beauty of the Loch Lomond landscape. For that reason, Carrick and team had to drive miles away from the site to look back and ensure that the course design would not impact the sight line of approaching visitors to Loch Lomond. Today The Carrick is an honoured part of the Loch Lomond community. The Kennedy Clan would be proud.

Doug says those big jobs for new courses are far and few between now. The biggest work is in remodelling old courses – sort of like taking that beautiful century home and retrofitting it for another century. Regardless, Carrick’s philosophy remains the same – work with the flow of the land, and design courses that are playable for golfers of every level. When I asked how he intends to pass on the legacy that has travelled from Thompson to Robinson to him, he introduced me to Steve Vanderploeg who has been with him for twenty years.

Doug Carrick looks much too young to pass the torch yet, but mentorship has its rewards. It looks like a long tradition of great golf course design is alive and well at Carrick Designs.

Now, I have to go and practice my chipping – thanks for the inspiration, Doug.


p.s. Just as I was finishing this article, a good friend sent me a picture of a stag that had stopped to watch the golf game on Bigwin Island last weekend. “Played my favorite Doug Carrick course (Bigwin Island) last week. Attached is a picture of one of the best parts of the day.  We had seen several doe and their babies but it wasn’t until the back 9 that we saw this stag.  He literally just walked up to our tee block. A couple of holes later we also saw 2 young bucks as well. This is one of the reasons that makes golf at Bigwin so great.”


Skid Crease is a member of the Canadian Association of Journalists, an author, an internationally renowned speaker, and a lifelong educator currently living in Caledon.

Doug Ford’s Revenge

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Many political pundits have asked the question, “Why is Premier Doug Ford in such a hurry to pass Bill 5 / Bill 31 to reduce the size of Toronto City Council?” Few seem honest enough to provide the simple answer: Revenge and Ambition.

Consider that Ford calculated that he was not going to beat John Tory in the next municipal election. Consider the possibility that the smear campaign against Patrick Brown was an inside job orchestrated by a far right team who calculated Ford had a better chance going into the Provincial leadership cauldron. Consider that Ford did not win the majority of votes in either the Progressive Conservative leadership debacle, nor in the provincial election. Yet, he is now PCPO Leader and Ontario’s Premier.

Further consider that one of his first acts, after denying climate change and axing Ontario’s international carbon pricing agreement along with the green initiatives rebate plan, was to suspend the elections of Municipal Chairs in two Regions. Which two? Why that would be Peel Region, thus thwarting enemy Patrick Brown’s dreams of a comeback, and York Region, where former Liberal MPP rival Steven Del Duca was poised for victory. Not only are these two Regions among the GTA’s most populous and powerful, they are now under Ford’s baleful eye.

The current scramble to cut Toronto City Council from 47 to 25 seats is a blatant move to allow Doug Ford to become Mayor of Toronto. If his cohort of lackeys led by Giorgio Mammolitti (who once compared Ford’s campaign to “religion”), Jim Karygiannis, and Stephen Holyday take the majority of the proposed 25 seats, the City of Toronto will be firmly under the management of Ford’s far right. With Boss Ford in control of Toronto, York Region and Peel Region, there is no telling what his regime could deconstruct.

The solution to this problem, if Bill 5 or 31 become law and Toronto City Council is reduced to 25 seats, is not to vote for a single Ford acolyte. That may be the only way to stop this pompous populist from waging four years of war on social justice and environmental literacy. There are other ways, but we would need a Canadian hero like Louis Riel to lead the return to sanity.

We could look south of our border for a cautionary tale if we need incentive. Both leaders are cut from the same playbook and both play to the lowest common denominator of the human condition. Ontario and Toronto deserve better.

The way I see it.


Skid Crease, from North York to Caledon

Skid is a member of the Canadian Association of Journalists, an author, an internationally renowned speaker, and a lifelong educator currently living in Caledon, Ontario, CANADA


Caledon Candidates’ Candor

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On September 17, 2018 this questionnaire is being emailed personally to every candidate running for Town Council in the 2018 Municipal Election in Caledon, Ontario. All responses, or lack thereof, will be reported in the first week of October.


Dear Mayoralty, Regional and Area Municipal Candidates,

This Questionnaire is being sent out to all municipal candidates running for Town Council for the Region of Peel, Town of Caledon. The responses to this Q & A will be published online in early October, after summer holidays wind down, the “return to school” rush is over, and citizens again begin to tune in to local politics. Unanswered email questionnaires will be indicated with a “Did Not Respond” beside the candidate’s name.


1. Your Council will see new politicians taking office to fill the gaps left by retirement on the one hand and ambition on the other. In order to build a forward thinking, respectful and consensus building Council for the next four years, what would be the qualities you would look for in your 2018 – 2022 colleagues and your Mayor?

2. Since literally anyone who is breathing, of age, and a Canadian citizen living or working in the area can run for Council, what are the credible professional and life skills you would bring to this position?

3. In an era where politicians are accused of and found guilty of violating their Code of Conduct, Integrity Standards, and respectful social mores, yet do not change their behaviours, what are the positive character traits that you would bring to Council?

4. The catch phrases “I speak for the people” and “I seek honesty and transparency” and “I do this for the hard working taxpaying citizens” have become meaningless porridge spin clips from politicians. If elected, what do you truly desire for Caledon?

5. As a newly elected Council member, how do you intend to deal with litigious private interests who lobby, bully, and intimidate local politicians?

Please email your responses to <skid.crease@gmail.com> by September 31/18

Yours in media literacy,


  • Originally written for Just Sayin’ Caledon


Note: On Monday September 24, 2018 at 8:30 p.m. there will be an all candidates’ debate  at the Inglewood Community Centre, and another all candidates’ debate at the Alton Public School on Thursday September 27 at 7:00 p.m.

For a more casual encounter with your candidates there is a Lunch and Learn on Tuesday, September 25th beginning at 11:00 a.m. at the Rotary Place Senior’s Centre – lunch is $4.00 – call 905-951-6114 to register for the event.


Skid Crease is a member of the Canadian Association of Journalists, an author, an internationally renowned speaker, and a lifelong educator currently living in Caledon.