A Farewell to the Chains of Office

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I had the honour of sitting down with Caledon’s Mayor Allan Thompson a few days ago to reflect on his time in office now that he has announced he will not be seeking another term. The first question I asked him was, “What was the most significant moment of your time as Mayor?” He thoughtfully reflected and then said, “The Wampum Belt, the restoration of the Wampum Belt which reaffirmed our commitment to working with our First Nations Treaty people.”

His answer completely took me by surprise, but it also defined the man. It wasn’t some photo opportunity moment for political aggrandisement that mattered most to Allan Thompson. It was the heartfelt acknowledgement of the stewardship we bear to the lands upon which we now live and conduct our business.

The restoration of the Wampum Belt, originally exchanged at the signing of the Ajentace Treaty of 1818, was more than a symbolic gesture. It was a renewal of the terms of Treaty 19, and a commitment to honour the promise of stewardship we had made to care for the lands that would eventually become most of Peel Region. The homeland of the Mississaugas of Credit First Nation (MCFN) was given in exchange for our promise to be good stewards of the land. 

Thompson was the first Mayor and Caledon was the first municipality to recreate the Wampum Belt exchange on Caledon Day in 2018 with Chief Stacey Laforme of the MCFN, The exchange took place in an historic ceremony, almost two hundred years to the day that the original Ajentace Treaty had been signed. It was a genuine act of reconciliation. When Thompson reads the Land Acknowledgement at Council meetings, it comes from the heart.

It also explains his answer when I asked him why he had wanted to be Mayor in the first place. When asked why he ran for Mayor of Caledon, he did not hesitate in his reply, “I wanted to make it a better place, make a positive difference.”

“When I went knocking on doors during that first campaign, I kept hearing the same request, especially from seniors. They all wanted high speed Internet. That’s why we worked so hard with the provincial and federal governments to get the funding to bring Broadband to everyone in Caledon by 2025.” Although some cautioned against it, Allan pushed hard to get the local Broadband Tax portion included on citizens’ tax bills. “I wanted it to be as transparent as possible in showing that the Town was committed to the funding.” His hope is that he can have the last federal signature on the final funding before he leaves office.  Promise kept.

Under Allan’s leadership, the Town planned the community smart development in Mayfield West, the revitalization of Bolton, including the much needed traffic calming at the Four Corners, and the recent passing of all-day parking. He felt  the completion of Caledon’s Official Plan based on the Places to Grow Act of 2005 was one of the most important accomplishments of his final term. This includes the ongoing planning of an innovative forward looking GTA West Corridor for sustainable mobility. “We must be the architects of our own future,” he said.

In the continuing work dealing with burgeoning growth and public frustration with ever changing health guidelines and restrictions during a global pandemic, Thompson had nothing but praise for the Town staff. “They are all so very good at what they do. I felt our working relationship was healthy and respectful.” He noted the toll that social media attacks from a frustrated public put on the Town staff. “There were a lot of personal and angry comments directed to our staff. It’s OK to criticize the role, but not the person,” 

In his role as Mayor, Thompson built a positive relationship with Regional and Provincial colleagues. Allan Thompson is not a “Look at me, look at me!” kind of person. No grandstanding, He and his team just quietly got the job done. He said that when he wears the Chain of Office as Mayor, it is a humbling reminder that he is representing and speaking for the Town, not as an individual.

He felt that getting the job done is going to be challenging for the next Council considering Caledon’s reduced representation at Peel Region, development pressures coming from Brampton and Mississauga, and the change of rules for the selection of the Region of Peel Chair and new Vice-Chair. “Caledon must have autonomy for its own planning.”

Allan Thompson has served on Caledon Council for over nineteen years moving from Area Councillor to Regional Councillor to Mayor. When I asked him what comes next he got a big smile on his face and answered “More time with my grandchildren and my family. They are over the moon that I am coming home.”

 Allan Thompson was well known for walking into a Council of Mayors meeting or an international conference with a big smile on his face, sharing sincere admiration for the Town of Caledon, and wearing his trademark cowboy boots. He was a country boy and proud of it. Whoever becomes the next Mayor of Caledon is going to have big boots to fill.

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Top Five Accomplishments of Mayor Allan Thompson as determined by his staff:

  1. Wampum Belt Commitment with the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation – Indigenous Engagement
  2. Connecting Caledon – Town wide access to reliable high speed internet by 2025
  3. Modernizing Town Services with a focus on Customer Service Excellence (live streaming Council meeting – online portal for recreation services)
  4. Community focused capital projects (Caledon East Community Centre Expansion – Southfields Village Community Centre – Seniors Community Centre (Rotary)
  5. Caledon Planning Caledon Mindset – the Official Plan, a roadmap for the future!

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Skid Crease, Caledon

2022 – From Local Chaos to Global Crisis

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We were hoping it would get better.In Ontario, We seemed to be turning the corner on the COVID-19 pandemic and things were about to get back to “normal” this year. Then came the temper-tantrum truckers who terrorized Ottawa for three weeks because they couldn’t handle the mask or the needle. We had Conservative members of Parliament cheering them on from the bridges of Ottawa. We had to bring in the Emergencies Act to get them out of town because the local police felt helpless to stop the honking diesel fume spewing trucks, and the harassment of local citizens.

They blocked borders, disrupted trade and commerce, sickened a city and forced our democratically elected government to invoke the Emergencies Act for the first time in history. Some of the terrorists got arrested but the rest of them all just went home. The border crossing mask mandate they were protesting still held, and it looks like the legitimate government they were trying to overthrow is sitting pretty until 2025.

The estimated cost to the City of Ottawa, Canada’s capital city, for the so-called “Freedom” Convoy’s selfish stupidity is an estimated $36 million and counting.  We thought that we had it bad.

Then Russia invaded Ukraine and all of our troubles faded in comparison. President Vladimir Putin claimed he was defending Russia’s borders. The UN knew otherwise and condemned his actions. The Kremlin was angry that international leaders were calling Putin a “war criminal” but what do you call a man who shells maternity hospitals and cluster bombs residential neighbourhoods? The UN called it a humanitarian crisis as four  million people fled Ukraine with more than half of those refugees entering neighbouring Poland. More than 10 million people, a quarter of the population, have been forced to leave their homes and belongings. NATO leaders talked about help but refused to call for a “no fly” zone over Ukraine. So much for diplomacy.

Meanwhile, as I write this, Ukraine continues to be pulverized by the Russian war machine. What’s stopping NATO? The very real fear that Putin may retaliate with nuclear weapons leading to a cataclysmic World War Three. While we delay, Ukraine is paying the price for our cowardly failure to admit them to the European Union and NATO. We have colleagues at the Kyiv Osokorky Elementary School currently under siege and begging for European and western assistance. Sometimes there is only one way to stop a bully.

Meanwhile in Ontario, the “Scientific and Chamber of Commerce Advisory Panel” has lifted the mask mandate and begun to Open Ontario for Business once again. Boss Ford faces a provincial election in June, Asphalt Annie wants to run for Mayor of Caledon in our October municipal election, and the weather, after a brief fling with spring, is turning back to cold and snow again. The least of our worries.

2022 is going to be a very interesting year. The way I see it.

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Skid Crease, Caledon

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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Skid Crease, Caledon