"Cowardice asks the question...is it safe? Expediency asks the question...is it politic? Vanity asks the question...is it popular? But conscience asks the question...is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but one must take it because it is right." ~Dr. Martin Luther King

Thursday 16 July 2020


There's a little contretemps going on with the current Mayor of our town that reminds me of a story about the immediately previous Mayor. 

The town had a night for presenting awards for excellence in variety of endeavours. Everyone and their favourite auntie was welcome to attend. Organizations, individuals, and kids' sports teams were the stars of the evening.

The Council Chamber was filled with happy faces of all ages, and kid's in their team jerseys and tousled hair. The medals and certificates were inexpensive affairs. They were presented by Councillors. The Grande Finale was naming the Citizen of the Year and was presented by the Mayor. 

Afterwards, everyone trooped upstairs to the second floor where a bar was created and here and there tall round tables with stools dotted the space. Wine was served to adults and suitable drinks for the young ones. There were snacks. It was a bright and cheerful evening. Maybe the closest we ever came to using the Council Chamber and reception areas for the dual purpose intended. 

The only other occasion that ever came close was a jazz concert held in the Council Chamber on a Sunday night soon after the Town Hall opened. It was very nice...and never repeated. 

John West was Mayor then. So...we move forward to Mayor Dawe's first year in office. 

The date came up for awards night. We received notice, but not of the awards we would be presenting. Thought nothing of it. I arrived at the Town Hall expecting to be directed by staff. No such thing. Noticed Councillor Humfreys at the door of the Council Chamber in formal attire, obviously greeting guests. I joined a group of Councillors and asked what the procedure was going to be. They didn't know either. 

I went behind the Chamber to try to discover. Found a staff member busy with chairs and stuff. He went off and made an inquiry. He came back with the direction for me to find a seat in the audience. So I did that. The program had changed significantly. 

The audience was sparse and already seated. Award recipients were seated on the floor of the chamber. Nominators were at hand in the centre of the floor and a video screen was prepared to display the excellence of the candidates. 

At a precise moment, the Mayor came tripping down the stairs wearing a long tailed tuxedo in dove grey. He went to the front, cards in hand, and the ceremony began. I stayed for the nominations, the videos and presentation of the awards. My presence otherwise would neither have been noticed or missed. I took some satisfaction in the discomfort of the Mayor and Councillor Humfreys standing with their heads tilted back to watch the videos ensuring suitable expressions of awe throughout. They had not been provided with chairs.

I did not join the social that followed. A welcome was not evident. I could not be sure I would be civil either. He was the Mayor for one reason, to be certain the previous Mayor would not occupy the chair a second time. On that occasion, I might have found it necessary to remind him of the fact. It would not have been appropriate.

Saturday 27 June 2020


I told a story. Had to resist a number of tangents. Edited it and re-edited and finally stopped. I asked my grand-daughter to do a final edit and it was finished. The product of many days work. I am typing with one finger with the ipad on my arm. I have a keyboard and could be using it but it takes new co-ordination. I’m inclined to resist.

After the final edit of the post, I thought I would add a last sentence a single word appeared with two s’s instead of one. I tapped the word to remove one “s”. The whole blog turned blue. I tapped again to remove the redundant “s”. The whole post vanished. It’s happened before. But Stephanie has managed to retrieve it. Not this time. It has vanished forever. 

I once heard Mordecai Rischler say in an interview, once he had finished working a story, he never read it again. The obsession is obviously such, it will not let you go. You keep re-writing improvements. So, you have to cut yourself off. So, now I have to start all over and re-write the story. 

I was only weeks a Councillor. It was my first big battle. The town owned fourteen acres of land abutting the railroad, north of Wellington off Industry Street. It had been acquired by non-payment of taxes; a process that takes no less than three years. Provincial policy directs municipalities to dispose of properties redundant to their needs. Being a landlord is not a municipal role. 

So, the property was for sale but had not been advertised in a competition to obtain the best price.

Somehow a party, in the person of Dodie Hershkovitz, approached a councillor with a proposal. She had half a dozen small industries ready to locate in Aurora if she could buy the Petlavaney property. Eager for new tax revenue and employment, council were ready to sell. They’d done it before. When the arena burned down, they advertised the site to whoever would establish the best retail business. Sold it for a pittance. That would be sixty years ago. Several remediations of the site have been accomplished. The creek crosses Yonge Street at that point. Still it has never been developed. 

I did not agree with the proposal to sell the Petlavaney property. There were no guarantees the town’s interests would be protected. In an extraordinary move, councillors were invited to speak to the town solicitor, Tom Macpherson, on the phone during a meeting to be assured the town would in fact be protected. I declined the invitation.

Councillor Illingworth was my main protagonist in the debate. He muttered darkly about my socialist thinking. My support of the NDP was no secret. Bob Buchanan, the Banner editor, also an NDP supporter, took no editorial position. Buchanan took a year to familiarize himself with Aurora politics before using his influence. He was extremely helpful in how to conduct myself in debate. He was a veteran journalist in municipal politics and thoroughly conversant with rules and practices. 

The Town made an agreement of sale to Ms Hershkovitz of $35,000. They advertised a contract for a road and services that cost $35,000. On the day the contract was awarded, Hershkovitz sold the property for $75,000. It was sold to the owner/operator of the school bus service. It would be used for parked buses. No jobs would ensue and tax revenue would be minimum. It was not met with approval. It never happened, the land would remain idle.

Years passed. Elections happened, Dick Illingworth was the Mayor. I was out of office that term. A decision had to be made to re-locate the town works yard. It was situated on Wellington Street. It accommodated two rusty old Qaunset huts, a pile of dirty sand collected from the streets in the spring clean up. Vehicles in various stages of deterioration. Scrap metal collected by the work force and sold to provide Town employees’ children with a Christmas party. 

Town vehicles were used until no longer reliable. No capital levy funds were available to replace them whether or not they need to be replaced. If the need was dire, we borrowed from the water reserve. In short, the work yard was the biggest blight in town. It had to be re-located.

Guess the new location of the new Town of Aurora works yard....right...Scanlon Court, the former Petlavaney property disposed of by the town for effectively no advantage whatsoever. 

I was Mayor when the new works yard was built and presided over the opening. I never inquired how much the town paid for the site, I didn't have the stomach, and nothing could be gained. 

But I did have the personal satisfaction of knowing I was right and the advantage of that was to bolster confidence in my own judgement.

The second writing of this story is shorter and less elaborate. It may be less interesting but has no less clarity. I shall ask my trusty editor, Stephanie to edit once more and publish it without letting me at it again.

Wednesday 17 June 2020


Being defeated from political office is possibly the most unimaginably painful experience...until you’ve been through it a few times. Then you take nothing for granted and it only hurts for as long as you let it. But, it’s a unique experience. I’ve studied losers. They seldom repeat the exercise. Sometimes they leave town and go as far away as possible. The humiliation is too great to bear.

One Aurora incumbent, Earl Stewart went to Australia for six months, sold his house in Aurora and went to live in Barrie. It’s not the same if you’re a first-time candidate. You can’t lose something you never had. When you’ve served a term and did the best you could, then it’s tough.

I came to think of losing as an end to a chapter and a new one beginning. I quite looked forward to discovering what lay ahead. Somewhere along the way, I picked up an impression of life being like a jig-saw puzzle scattered in front of me on a card table with a pair of invisible hands hovering above my head waiting to shift the next piece into place. I stopped believing in coincidence. I started believing in me.

It wasn’t my plan but I think letters to editors and other scribbles were a large part of my success and longevity in politics. My willingness to share my views were also. At one point I wondered if I’d rather be the story teller than the story. I never planned to be a politician. I was a candidate three times before being elected. Afterwards, the Banner editor indicated letters would no longer be welcome. He felt it gave an unfair advantage over other councillors. I didn’t argue though I didn’t see how it was an advantage when anyone had access but I had no option. Things evolved. In my bid for re-election, I heard two incumbents were campaigning against me in my own neighbourhood. Both were candidates for the County Council seats of Reeve and Deputy Reeve.

I decided, in my exuberance, if they were my opposition, I would compete against them for the Reeve’s office. I won....with more votes than the two of them combined. I was Aurora’s last Reeve in the last York County Council. I ran for Office of Mayor in the next election and lost. I really wanted to be a member of the first Regional Council.

During the interval, between terms, the Battle of Arnheim was commemorated in Canada. A disastrous paratroop drop caused the loss of thousands of young men in Holland not long before war ended. German mothers asked if they could be part of the commemoration. The Canadian mothers said no.

I did not agree and said so...in writing....to the Banner editor. My brother had been killed not long before the war ended. I claimed the right to speak for all the young sons, brothers and sweethearts whose lives were so wantonly sacrificed.

I received a call from Newmarket Era editor. I had not said my brother was killed. He asked and I acknowledged. We chatted for a while. Then I asked if he would be interested in a weekly column from Aurora. The two newspapers were separately owned at the time and competition was real and ferocious. Both editors were previously colleagues active in the Toronto area before being appointed editors to the two small locals.

While still in office, I was challenged once by an officer of Queen’s York Rangers militia. His wife was active in the company of cadets. We were making our way across the town park to the Armouries. They asked why I no longer wrote letters to the editor since being elected. Said straight out; “they must have served their purpose”. It wasn’t true but my attempt to explain sounded hollow even as I made it. I later realized the exchange was not intended as friendly.

When I asked the Newmarket editor if he would be interested in a weekly column, it never occurred to me until this minute, something like it might have been the purpose of his call. He said he would be interested. We should talk.

I took the conversation back to the editor of The Banner. He was concerned. As I thought he might be. I reminded him he had cut me off from writing letters to the editor. I told him of the exchange with the QY Ranger officer. I said I needed to protect my interest. My interest was a weekly column in The Banner. The editor was in a corner.

Dick Illingworth was a popular Mayor. Buchanan was his best supporter. He knew a weekly column from moi might not be to the Mayor’s absolute advantage. He resolved his problem by convincing Richard he should write a Mayor’s weekly column. So he did. He discovered he had a facility and continued as a contributor to the Banner and then the Auroran almost until he died. The day before, from his hospital bed, he discussed getting his weekly Bricks and Bouquets list in on time for the next edition. He was in his nineties.

So that’s the story of how I came to learn to write a weekly column. It could not be about politics and I had to learn on the job because quite frankly, I had no idea.

So that became the next paragraph in the book I was living.

Sunday 14 June 2020


I’ve been a prodigious reader for as long as I remember. Reading was the best teacher I found. I learned other things too; like a professional author writes a single story and all the rest being but variations on a theme.

Initially, I found Letters to the Editor were a satisfying outlet for strong opinions on anything and everything. I submitted to all 3 Toronto newspapers, The Telegram, Star, and Globe and Mail and published often enough to convince me writing had a place in my life.

My reading became selective. If the point of the story was not made in the first page, if it didn’t catch my interest immediately, it wasn’t likely to do so. Some successful novels were just a bunch of research strung together with a cast of unlikely characters. Many of them became movies.

Once, when I was nine, I wrote an essay about a movie I’d seen during the summer. The assignment was an essay about a vacation. We never went on vacation. A family picnic or a day at Largs was the closest we got. Sister Eugenius could hardly hide her disdain. The movie was The Four Feathers and I ended my essay, as taught, with a line from a poem.

“For men may come and men may go, but I go on forever” from a Mountain Brook. I was nine years old for Goodness Sake.

My choice was not appropriate, she sniffed. I was already feeling self-conscious about not being able to afford a family vacation. I was not pleased with the negative review.

Later in life, last thing at night, after the lights were out and I was in bed, at ten minutes to eleven, I listened to a Book at Bedtime on BBC radio. A reader read for ten minutes from a successful novel. That was before television and I thought it was better than television. I could imagine it better than television could produce it.

Later still, I watched a program on Arts and Entertainment, an hour long interview of successful writers responding to questions from university students, about their daily writing routine

I knew I had a facility. I’d been doing it a long time; Letters mostly. For family members in the beginning. Except for reading, nothing gave me greater satisfaction than writing. Had there been further guidance or encouragement and without WW2, my path might have been charted along different lines.

Huge tomes, like Michener and Leon Uris were favourites. Then I discovered the deeper the tome, the more pages were filled with minute descriptive details. If I turned over several at a time, the tale continued without skipping a beat. Some books kept me reading all night, to creep into bed before daylight, so no-one would know I hadn’t slept. Then I’d be sorry it was finished and wished there was more.

After buying a home in Aurora, the Banner Editor called to ask why I didn’t write letters to the local newspaper. I didn’t need to be asked twice. More water flowed under the bridge and more years of life experience, I did some news reporting. I learned the value of brevity and that a news item is not like a school composition or essay. It has to fit into a space left over from advertising which is the real business of newspapers.

Over a period of eleven years, I wrote a weekly column for two different newspapers, acquired a few more skills and discovered humour in writing. Then, after more years, along came social media. Now, I write to my heart’s content. But most of what I write has a narrow interest. I’ve written a few tales of my childhood and been asked for more. But my childhood was difficult. I’m the last survivor of my family. I can’t write fiction, and I don’t want to delve too deeply. “Don’t go where the guilt lies” advises comedian George Carlin.

I suspect much written by professional authors as fiction, is reality with real characters given fictional aliases. Students are advised to write about what they know.

Mordecai Reischler is successful. Many of his books have become movies. His stories are peopled with characters from life. He describes them with accurate, cruel detail. So much so, that relatives, friends and other associates recognize themselves in his stories and hate him for doing it. It’s a terrible temptation and he obviously doesn’t try to overcome. He’s remorseless.

It’s taken a long time to acknowledge I can’t write fiction. I can only write reality. For a while, I thought maybe the short story might be my genre. I bought a couple of anthologies of award-winning short stories to see what I might learn. But they’ve failed to catch my interest. Since I started this post, I’ve compelled myself to read a couple of dozen from a Canadian anthology compiled by Jane Urquhart.

They are short because they have no beginning or end. Almost all are written by librarians and teachers and journalists. Judging by the vocabulary, some seem to be written to impress other librarians and teachers and journalists of the author’s erudition. Maybe judges of the competitions are from the same sector.

I like words. I hear melody in phrases and sentences. But I don’t hear any lilt in the short stories I’ve read so far. If it were not for this post, I would have put the book aside without finishing a single one. They are dull, they are dreary and they end without ever catching my interest. If it’s the reality of the authors life, it’s a dull, uninteresting, pedantic existence.

So my search continues. In the meantime, I write a blog, I comment on Facebook, I get an argument going wherever I can and probably infuriate a few people along the way.

I believe I may have concluded my search. I may have been writing my life story since I bought the computer. In bits and pieces, scattered here and there...in comments and replies and memories stirred by post cards and photos of the ancient pre-medieval town where I was born and lived my childhood, my mother’s childhood and glimpses, through my mother’s eyes, of my grandmothers and great grandmothers lives.

I have been in the attic room where my great-grandfather spent his last years until the age of a hundred, more than a hundred years ago, reading letters and assisting with government forms and discussing political headlines with members of the Irish Catholic community who had not had the benefit of learning to read and write. My mother’s last memory was of him sitting up in bed, with a long white beard wearing a red stocking cap providing the service that was his responsibility.

Saturday 30 May 2020


Anonymous entices me to talk about amalgamations  and  why voters tolerate political behaviour. Political conduct is not tolerated ,it’s dictated by voters. But nobody ,it seems,  wants to talk about function of a  fire department as exposed by a  fire fought in Aurora last week.

Fire Chief Laing is a sensible straightforward director. He doesn’t play games. When he stated to the media that the building was a “teardown“ after three  days of  three fire departments working triple strength to extinguish it, he wasn’t being coy. He was stating a fact, and the fact is ,all that effort and expenditure was for nought. The same result would have been  achieved with no effort at all.

A  single incident cannot  of course be used to argue fire  protection is not needed. Another fire
might involve a town house complex or condominium  building and lives  more likely to  be at risk. But  this one is  enough to give us pause . When it costs more to extinguish a fire in an uninhabited building than  the building is worth , the question must be asked: Where is the logic?

It reminds of a fire in Etobicoke that  obsessed me for months. A full fire crew died. A  funeral parade was held to honour  their courage. They should not have died. The parade was a cruel farce; to obscure colossal error  in judgement, for which no-one was called to account.

The fire was in a warehouse. The second in days. Contents of said warehouse were massive rolls off absorbent  paper stacked to the ceiling. No lives were involved. An individual wearing firefighting gear did try to inform the process. His efforts were dismissed. He was just some meddling guy running around wearing a firefighters helmet.

Firefighters had no need  to be inside the building. Only property was involved. The community does not expect firefighters to risk their lives to save property.  But they were in the building and the crew leader did order a ladder propped against the stacks to take the hose deeper into the fire. They obeyed The absorbent tissue  was  already fully absorbed and  collapsed. The guy in the helmet was doing his job. He tried to warn them. There was no escape for the crew . They  suffocated in  a mass of soaking wet tissue.

 I lost sleep over such senseless horrifying loss of life and the farce that followed.I couldn't  stop talking about it.

Fire Services was the first committee I  chaired during my first term of office. Ours  was a Volunteer  Brigade with a full-time Chief elected by the brigade and appointed by Council. Only one committee was lower on the totem pole... Bylaws . .. Pete Miller and myself were the greenhorns.Volunteers ran their own show. Bylaws were the business of the Clerk/treasurer. I did not understand  how little
influence  the chair of the Fire Committee was expected to have.,

It occurred to me  a fire department should have up-to-date records  of all manufacturing processes in industrial buildings . That was years before firefighters lost their lives  in Etobicoke.

I also thought  it was not sensible  for men over forty-five to be hauling hoses with high water
pressure around  the site  of a fire.A volunteer who returned to work at the works  department after a fire call, had a heart attack and died. He was forty-five years old.

Aurora bought a second-hand ladder truck from Etobicoke fire department.. Periodically  substantial sums were spent on maintenance but the first time it was used was on a Mutual Aid call in Newmarket. Just  think about being up in the air, out at the end of one of those things waving about over the flames of a building on fire. It would surely have felt like  a marshmallow stuck at the end of a pointy stick.

No wonder Etobicoke sold the sucker.

Friday 29 May 2020


I’m encouraged by response to my last blog. Anna’s was first responder.  She provided  the link to my blog , in her blog. An anonymous friend found  the idea of selling municipal firdepartment.lock,stock and barrel interesting. He hadn't read about it  anywhere. He understood why it would account for my not being elected if the story got out. He  advised me to check my facts before making statements like

I don’t have to check my facts. If I’m wrong I will be corrected . Of that I’m sure..  I’m certain  my readers are now better informed about the sale of the 407 Ontario Toll Road than before. It wasn’t a sale.It was a long-term  lease. Premier at the time of lease was not Bob Rae. It was Mike Harris who signed the deal.

I don't mind if a person wants to be anonymous but I don't think he’s in a great position to criticize politicians for being short on courage.  I was not a candidate for election. I was an incumbent who was defeated. While I was a Councillor, I was a member of the Joint Fire Services Committee . It puts me in a very good position to know it was proposed.  It was my idea. I put it forward. It would not be recorded because it was not a resolution. It was not a resolution because there was no  seconder.No-one on that committee likely to second such a proposal.  I put it forward alright.More than once. I liked knowing the effect it undoubtedly had on everyone sitting at that table

I’ve never heard anyone in support of amalgamation either ,who expects to lose his job. Logic dictates amalgamation reduces expenditure.Practice  proves it doesn’t .

Reducing administrative costs by the number of Chiefs presiding should reduce over all expenditure. But management positions  increase in number, costs more and government  loses control  altogether.

Government is a clumsy tool at best. Politicians do tend to be skittery  and obsequious. Full-time firefighters inherit status from Volunteer Brigades. They are our local heroes.

There are no more or less courageous people in government than anywhere else in society.

But I really do believe Fire Chief Lang’s comment that what was left of the multi-million mansion
is a “tear down “ should give everyone pause for thought.

If , after two days of fighting the fire, three fire departments involved, three million plus dollar
pumpers ,custom-built in the U.S. , twenty one firefighters, twelve police cars and officers, Fire Marshall of Ontario and sundry other department  vehicles, all cost more than the building was worth to put the fire out , an argument certainly could have been made to let the building burn to the ground.

Think about it. If it’s going to cost more to put  the fire out than to let it burn ...why bother?

While I wrote that last sentence, a picture  of my grandfather came into my head. he was a coal  miner. The first labour member ever elected  to the UK Parliament went from our riding in Ayrshire.

Grampa was in his  rocking chair by the fire, having just heard  an item on the 6 p.m. news.
Coal miners had taken a vote to strike. The rom was full...grannie and aunts and likely my mother and one sister at least. I was a teen-ager but it seemed his eyes met mine as he shook his head in disapproval of the union vote .

It didn’t happen for decades yet but when it cost more money to bring coal  out of the ground than the value of coal , mines were nationalized  by  a Labour government, Iron Lady Margaret Thatcher was able to close  down the industry without a revolution of the French Variety.

Sunday 24 May 2020


A magnificent mansion ...under construction ...atop a hill ....in Aurora burned this week. Three fire departments attended, three pumpers filled with thousands of gallons of treated water, three crews of firefighters (21), various other fire department vehicles, including on from the Ontario Fire Marshall’s office, and 12 police cruisers. I’m not sure if that still means two men cruisers. The photo Anna Lozyk Romeo posted showed pumpers hooked up to hydrants, meaning pumpers needed re-filling to fight the fire or to return to the fire station full.

Anna's photo was not what reminded me of a proposal I made as a member of the joint fire committee. I suggested municipal fire departments should be sold, lock, stock and barrel to the insurance industry. The rest of the committee and fire officers looked at me as if I had horns on my head and quickly changed the subject. It may have been the reason I lost  in the next election.

No...the reminder came from the newspaper story Anna copied in her blog. The story was lengthy. At the end came a quote from the Fire Chief. “It’s a tear down” he said.

That stunned me. If the object had been to spend the greatest amount, they could not have done better. If the object was to save the building, they could not have done worse. If no department had responded to the call, the fire would have burned out and not needed to be torn down.

The response should have been...burn baby burn...exorbitant as it is, the cost of fighting that fires must be staggering. Three multi-million dollar pumpers. Twenty-one firefighters, hundreds of thousands of gallons of treated water at exorbitant regional rates. Fire halls equipped with sleeping, recreation and cooking facilities to save a residential unit five times bigger than an ordinary family might need.

Since I made that proposal, there’s even more reason to give it serious consideration. Is any building worth the cost of dousing the flames?

The Region has contracted out care for the elderly to the private sector where  costs by employees to less than twenty hours, so that, they have to work at two jobs to make a poor living. The Premier who changed welfare to workfare for single mothers to compel them to take minimum wage jobs is now Chairman of the Board of Chartwell , the for-profit company, who have had to be subsidized by the Ontario government to the amount of $4.00 an hour.

Municipalities contract out parks maintenance. Those employees work side-by-side with unionized workers and receive none of the benefits. While elected officials , who are not employees, work away quietly, reducing their numbers, so that they can h all the benefits of unionized employees.

NDP Premier sold the 407 into the private sector after a previous government spent  horrendously to construct it.

And Ontario toys endlessly with the idea of selling Liquor Control shops into the private sector so as not to have to deal with a most powerful organization......Ontario Public Services Union...and they mantain silence, in the face of it, to protect existing members.

Thursday 21 May 2020



 Given all your years in politics, why is it that people are less engaged with politics and their representatives? Voter turn outs are always astonishing low during an election. Which means during the 4 yr term, nobody besides interest groups are engaged to what's happening in their riding or municipalities. I could be wrong, but I don't believe that was the case 30+ yrs ago”.

Despite many changes, municipal voter turnout doesn’t appear to have changed much since I was a first time candidate. An acclamation for Mayor’s usually means voter turnout will be as low as 20%. Without a mayoralty contest, it seldom reaches 50%.

There was a time, before my time, only property owners were allowed to vote. Several eligibility changes since then have had little impact on percentages. 

Women had been given the vote. Adult children living at home were added to the list. They didn’t own property, nor pay municipal taxes. They had no stake in local business affairs. They paid taxes to both senior levels of government if employed or drove a car. 

Since they didn’t own property and services to property were charged to owners, logically non-owners had little interest in municipal elections. Percentage of turn-out would be deflated by the addition to the list. The municipal voters list was compiled at the local level. Two people knocked on doors and recorded names and numbers.

My interest in municipal politics started with the purchase of a home. I’m living in it still. Local school boards and the Hydro Commission were also on the ballot. Water rates were collected by the Hydro Commission. Hydro rates were separate from taxes. Water was a flat rate less than $10 monthly. 

Recreation was organized by volunteers. Recreation Commission was composed of representation from sports organizations, a member of Council and a Director of Recreation whose main job was arena manager. His role in recreation was to advise, help volunteers find space for activities and suss out whatever grants might be available from senior levels of government. A non-elected Board managed the arena to ensure operation was self-sufficient Property Owners had a right to vote on money bills. There were no lot levies. Capital projects were financed, part by fund-raising, mostly by debenture borrowing. It was a big deal.

If residents of a particular street wanted a sidewalk or other improvements, they paid for it. It was a Local Improvement Tax and I believe the legislation is still on the books. 75% support of the property owners on the street is required for approval. 

During my first term, voting age was reduced from 21 to 18 years old. Reeve Jimmy Murray. argued if young people were old enough to fight for the country, they were old enough to vote. They didn’t ask for it. I don’t believe they used it. The impact grew the voters’ list but not the votes.18 to 21year olds are unlikely to own property or pay property taxes or have an appreciation of their impact. 

Other changes have contributed to loss of interest in municipal politics. The four year term didn’t help. Before my first term, municipal elections were held every twelve months...then two in 1967....then three...then in 2006, four year term was introduced and the voters list taken from the national census. The census has a record of all residents, including immigrants not entitled to vote.

I asked the clerk, who is also elections officer, about the risk of including people not entitled to vote. He didn’t think it was much of a risk since people who were not citizens knew they were not entitled to vote. I did not agree. But if he was right, it was another group on the list that had no right to be there. It meant % voter turnout would be further skewed by numbers, for one reason or another, unlikely to vote.

Growth of high density rental housing deflates turnout percentages. A person who owns a home, sells it and moves into an apartment is likely to continue to vote. A new resident with a one year lease is unlikely to have the same interest. A job change can easily mean a change of address...right out of town.

Delegation status and advisory committees are useless entities....or nonentities...in my opinion. Only elected members are accountable for decisions made and they can’t share blame.

In my opinion, committees and delegate status were created for illusion of purpose. An accessible Mayor or Councillor can far more easily convey public opinion and it’s their job to do so. 

Councillor Gaertner firmly believes Council must do what the people want. Despite different
positions taken at the Council table, it somehow escapes the Councillor’s attention there is no way of knowing what all of the people want all of the time. That’s why we elect a council. But her belief allows her to be on whatever side is making the greatest clamour or both sides and as we have seen, guarantees re-election. The same applies to Councillor Humfreys. 

Another significant change in my time was media coverage. The Aurora Banner and Newmarket Era were privately owned when we came to live in Aurora. The Toronto Telegram was owned by a man called Basset. A printers strike against the paper lasted several years. Basset folded the paper. He didn’t sell it. He bought the Aurora Banner. The Era changed hands as well. For several years, both newspapers had editors who were former municipal journalists...Bob Buchanan and Dave Haskell. Buchanan was editor of The Banner for a year before taking an editorial position on town affairs. He felt it took that long to be sufficiently informed. He attended all council meetings, reported on them and eventually wrote editorials.

He lived at 100 Wells Street and walked to the office every morning...in his element...playing the role of  small town editor in a Norman Rockwell illustration. He had found his pot of gold. 

The first time I rose to speak in a council meeting, I read from prepared notes. He diplomatically informed me that prepared notes did not have a place in debate. The object was to persuade by response to the motion and comments made by others in the debate. It requires homework in preparation, skill and practice, quick wits and agility. One has it or one doesn’t. It’s not the be all and end all.

Good sense, consistency, equity and integrity are key principles. All the rest follow.

This post is no doubt tedious for some to read but I was asked and I am delighted to respond.

I was asked earlier to write more stories about my childhood. I do that regularly on a blog of
memories on my birthplace.  One of these days I may gather a few.

Thursday 14 May 2020


We learned something new from a comment. Condo buyers pay $10.20.30 thousand dollars extra for a parking space. If they discover they don’t want it, they can’t sell it because nobody else wants it. I can see that. I can see how a single mother might not be a car owner and shelter without parking would be less expensive to build and more affordable to rent.

Councillor Gaertner must know of neighbours in her social housing project who do not have cars. I know they’re there.

I can see how public transit use would grow and not be trundling around town like a phantom, in the evening hours. Especially if government made funds they didn’t spend on highways available to put public transit fares within reach of every pocket.

When we came to Canada, TTC fares were 25 cents adult and ten cents a child. Every day in summer we went on two street cars to Kew Beach at Waverly Road and spent the day. We were there before the locals in the morning and didn’t leave until the last rays of the sun left the beach in the. evening. Street car fare was all it cost to enjoy the summers there or the Island or the beach at the end of the Queen Street line, at the beginning of Scarborough bluffs.

Life was good. And it wasn’t costly. Which was also good because we were a one income family. We came to Aurora and of course had to have a car. Because subdivisions were built with the car in mind. A good part of the post war economy was built around the automobile. The other, as it still is, around the homebuilding industry.

Commuter transit was non-existent. As were the 400 series of highways. Car pools were the transit mode of necessity. A man with a van provided a shopping delivery service. The baker called and milk was delivered. We picked up the mail at the post office. People got to know each other in the line-up.

Aurora was dry. Richmond Hill had the nearest liquor store. The Beer Store was equally distant.

Things have changed. And changed again. Councils were elected every twelve months...then two years then three ... and now a Council term is four years.

Zoning became the rule rather than the exception. It’s typical of government. Clumsy. In constant need of amendment to suit particular circumstance.

Aurora population was 7500 after Regency Acres was completed. Council was composed of a Mayor, Reeve, a Deputy Reeve, and five councillors.

The volunteer community was alive and well and augmented the town’s budget. They provided social, cultural and recreational activities. Funds were raised to help build the Community Centre, the library, and to keep fees down for minor hockey so that every boy in Aurora could afford to play. The town had a Volunteer Fire Brigade and a thirteen man police force. All of whom lived in the town. Their kids went to school with everybody else’s kids. It mattered.

1967, Canada’s Centennial was the first year the town’s budget reached a million.

Everyone understood the connection between debt and taxes. Every effort was made to raise funds to keep town debt manageable.

Water was a flat rate at $7.50. The only reserve fund the town had was the Water Reserve Fund. We borrowed from it occasionally. We built an additional bay to the fire hall with a loan from the Water Reserve. I think the fund was $18,000 most of the time.

We had a Recreation Commission, an Arena Management Board, Planning Board, Library Board and Hydro Commission and local school boards. Hydro Commission members and school board trustees were elected. Other boards were appointed with specific authority under Provincial Law.

Library board members were appointed by school boards.

Millions were not extorted from developers to be used for specific purposes and no other and to swell the cost of housing.

Yes sir, things were very different. Councillors were hands on and accountable. Nobody had ever heard the expression “micro- management”.

It means only the Mayor gets to decide how and what advice Council receives.

Councillors received copies of all bills paid during the month.

There were other changes which in my view were not beneficial but appeared to be so for political

Wednesday 13 May 2020


I just had a thought. What if...zoning was changed from a requirement of X number of parking spaces per unit of residential housing units to O parking spaces, starting with Wellington Towers and the condominiums already built at Yonge and Centre and those the on the west side of Yonge.

What would be the result? Well....for a start, only people who choose not to own a car would buy a unit. Would that be a good thing? Bear with me. I’m thinking this out as we go. I can’t see it as a bad thing. Maybe some units don’t use parking spaces now.

People buy condominiums in the city centre and rent apartments in the heart of things because they want to be a part of the new elite. People without cars.

Not having a car would encourage new and thriving retail in the vicinity of the buildings as was the original intent. There’s nothing intrinsically bad about not owning a car. Some might argue no car is better than a hybrid vehicle. There’s nothing uniquely sensible about requiring developers to include space for an owner’s car and a third of a space for a visitor.

Car rentals could become part of the mix in the retail section.

Highways are very expensive to build and maintain. During week days, a thick yellow blanket of pollution is clearly visible hanging over the highway routes from north, west, and east of Toronto. It can’t be good for people living in residential buildings that line the highways.

What if governments encouraged people to live without cars instead of imposing exorbitant taxes to reduce the carbon footprint. It couldn’t damage whats left of the auto industry any more than Brian Mulroney’s free trade deal did already.

What if government were to use the money no longer needed to build highways  to reduce the cost of public transit?

What if people didn't have to worry about buying space for two family cars and space for guests Cars to park when thinking about shelter for their families.

The more I pursue this argument the better I like it. Imagine if not having a car could keep a family out of debt. Allow Mum to stay at home and nurture her children. Allow children to be at home and receive the nurturing necessary for emotional development. Allow government to provide assistance to stay-at-home Mums or Dads at a fraction of the cost of child care centres.

Who knows, considering the short time it takes to raise a family and how precious it is, parents might actually discover it can be quite rewarding.

We might see kids playing in the playgrounds that cost so much to build and parents cheerfully engaging in pleasant chattery about this and that. Maybe about how the town is managed and who’s doing a good job. You know, stuff they don’t have time for when both parents are going out to work.

Now...I know everybody’s circumstances are not the same. I do not suggest a new zoning category reducing or eliminating requirement for parking in every circumstance.

But verily, I do believe it could make a difference. In even more ways than mentioned here.

Monday 11 May 2020


Another story perfectly illustrates a problem with our town’s business operation. It happened during the Dawe administration but was a carry over from before. The town CAO came from the Region during the administration prior to Dawe. I believe he was manager of statistics in the Region’s CAO office. I’m not aware of any experience managing a municipality. $75,000 was included in several budgets for education after appointment. He enrolled in something called Institute for Excellence, aced it, and received certification in excellence.

A 20 year lease for the Hydro Building to Queen‘s York Rangers and eviction of the town parks department was enacted. Parks built a gazebo there. Picnic benches and garbage receptacles, all to our own sturdy design were constructed during the winter months. A dismantled barn was stored in the yard; heritage salvage. The clerk used the office building to store records. The parks department could have handily transferred to the hydro building, leaving the entire site at the end of Scanlon Court to expand the works department. Making the joint parks and works boondoggle completely farcical.

Councillor Gaertner gushed her appreciation of the CAO for accomplishment of the lease to Queen’s York Rangers without specifying why.

Public Works handled renovations to the Hydro building to suit the Rangers’ purpose. Final cost was never public. As landlords, the town is responsible for building upkeep and insurance. Then the town paid half a million to the federal government for a contaminated shed occupying a corner of the town  park for over a hundred years.

Rent was presented as an asset. Forfeited market value of the property, tax revenue and opportunities for employment were not presented as an offset.

During the Dawe administration the lease was extended from 20 to 30 years.

The Municipal Act requires public property, rendered redundant to municipal needs to be so advertised. It must then be offered for sale in competitive bidding. That advice was never conveyed   to Council. The Chief Financial Advisor was not asked to report on merits of leasing the property versus realizing the asset or continuing use for the parks and other needed purpose.

Leasing the Hydro property was never a legitimate option. The Municipal Act requires that a property redundant to needs must be advertised as such and sold to the highest bidder.

You can’t give away an asset worth millions to a pal. Well, they did.

I never believed gifting the Hydro property to the Rangers was the brainchild of the CAO. I have did not believe Aurora property owners had a responsibility to save the Rangers from the oblivion intended by the federal government.

I had no appreciation for the deal. The Town's interest was not well served.

The blog often takes me off on a tangent.

Another story from the Dawe administration was to be the pillar of the post.

Frank Stronach had a parcel of land approved for servicing. ..75 lots...I think. It was to be sold by auction.

The CAO recommended the town acquire the land for recreation purposes. Market value was cited as the cost. Of course the cost was more and the implications far-reaching. Paying the cost of land with all approvals and servicing units available, ready for shovels into the ground was preposterous.

Real estate deals can be discussed out of the public eye. The deal never happened and the discussion never became public. It was never clear where the direction came from to pursue the purchase. In the circumstances, I assume prior discussion in the Mayor’s office for it to get to the council table.

The arguments against it were real and several and terribly obvious. The town would forfeit development of seventy five lots and tax revenue from seventy-five new homes. Changing the designation would move the property from asset to liability....a switch from black to red in the accounts columns.

The CAO had no argument in response. He was in the difficult position of defending a recommendation that probably wasn’t his in the first place.

But that’s not all.

The Planning Act requires the municipality to process an Official Plan and update it every five years.

Master plans, prepared by consultants at an average cost of $100 thousand a piece for various public services are based on needs forecast by the Official Plan.

Firehalls, recreation, schools , equipment, stuff like that are part of the calculation for lot levies which must also be updated every five years. As public planning board, Council is kept busy, talking and talking and talking at public meetings. After listening to developers and their experts talking and talking and talking about their plans, after the planners have read lengthy reports with comments from all and sundry about merits or otherwise of plans and the public are invited to say what they think about the plan.

OMG thousands and thousands of hours of endless talk, round and round it goes into the planning process. Thousands of hours of payroll time go into planning proposals that produce absolutely nothing in the end. The whole exercise is about multiplying the value of a property without any actual physical changes.

Somebody has to pay for it...Guess who my friends?...It’s you, that's who...and future owners.

You can’t take seventy five lots out of the Official Plan forecast without scrambling the whole shebang.

Nothing would be the same. The idea never got off the ground.

For all practical and economic purposes, it should never have been on the table in the first place.

But it was how much of the Council’s time was occupied during the Dawe Administration.

And before.

Saturday 9 May 2020


In the stats, views are down. Obviously because I wasn’t critiquing Council’s zoom meeting.

Y’all know I need no encouragement to be wicked. But you gotta admit, it’s the gift that keeps on giving.

I tuned into the meeting because I understood the Chief Financial Advisor, was to advise on the financial impact of the Library Square Project. That didn’t happen.

Instead the advice was how lockdown would affect the budget. From my perspective, I thought it should save resources.  If suspended service reduced revenue, it followed non-employed employees
would be laid off. That didn’t happen.

Instead, a $2 something million dollar deficit is forecast. To be funded from a reserve created from over - taxation imposed in past decades years to “stabilize” taxes when a new firehall gets built from lot levies but has to be staffed with money raised from property taxes.

Municipal law does not permit budgeting for a deficit. The reserve fund dodge was devised by a previous Chief Financial Advisor to get around the Municipal Act. If you can’t strike a budget to take less money than you need, you can’t strike a budget to take more and for the same reason. People who pay for service must be the people who receive it. You can't return the money if they leave town before the funds were spent. The Chief Financial Advisors of all the municipalities and the Region have meetings, to come up with strategies, and a common front. If a Councillor challenges a recommendation....the Chief Financial Officer can name various municipalities doing it. In Aurora, it’s mostly Richmond Hill that gets cited. The strategy never fails. Councillors are usually assured by what everybody else is doing. Like a flock, right.

We shall pause and ponder the point at this juncture. It’s the kind of thing that got me a reputation for being a bit of a stickler and a fuddy-duddy forby.

For more than a century, town management was under the authority of a Clerk/Treasurer. Initially the same individual. When speaking to money management he was the “Treasurer”. One word.

Now, we have a three word title: Chief Financial Advisor. It takes 3 times as long to say, 3 times as long to type, 3 times as much space on a page, 3 times as much paper to accommodate. 3 times as much energy to copy.

In every sense, it costs 3 times as much and serves no useful purpose.

It indicates more than one advisor. You can’t have a Chief, if there are no underlings. Is that good to know?

Not to worry. Richmond Hill is doing it. They have four times the population. I hesitate to guess how much larger the geographic area with numerous small rural communities contained within. The relatively small town of Aurora has the same number of Chiefs as the sprawling municipality of Richmond Hill. Does that make sense?

When I started this post, I intended to write about the stupidity and hypocrisy of the non-decision on the Wellington Towers Development site plan, led by Councillors Humfreys, and Gaertner with hemming and hawing Councillor Gallo insinuating mud into the waters without really saying anything.

Instead, the financial deficit created by Covid 19 was the topic.  Council was informed of its impact. Other than use of reserves, ill-advisedly collected, advice was neither offered nor sought on how to offset the loss. Not only did the Treasurer forecast a deficit without a cut in costs, in a different area of town business, Council potentially added considerably to the deficit with anticipated cost of hundreds of thousands to defend the indefensible before the OMB.

I have never operated a business. I have raised seven children. At the same time I served as an elected representative and appointed public servant over several decades of my life. My education with two terms as Mayor and nine as Member of a quasi-judicial review board is more than that offered in any university.

I do pay attention to detail needed for accomplishment of any degree of success. Undoubtedly, I did not manage all well, all of the time. But I do know how.

Our Town’s Business is not well managed. It’s no way to run a railroad.


Saturday 2 May 2020


In again. ..out again...on again ...off again. Round and round the mulberry bush....0n and on it went , the non- debate about an imponderable number of parking spots in a development proposal.

The same points repeated over and over and  over again with no attempt to follow procedure and no calls to order. Seven people around the table and not a one sufficiently proficient to get the Councillor off the spot.

It started off with a heartfelt expression of regret because the development was close to her heart being rental n’all and some of it assisted. Then on went the fan dangle about how many spots the bylaw called for,  how many were being provided. After endless  repetition and motions to reconsider which the clerk informed required a two thirds majority, which it did not receive  and eventually a motion to re consider the reconsideration which did not receive the required two-thirds majority ,   the Mayor volunteered that the application would undoubtedly proceed immediately to the formerly known, Ontario Municipal Board, if a decision was not made within the time limit. Which would be, the very next morning.

But oh my , the ladies already knew that and the decision was not difficult. Council had to ensure existing  tenants, they would not be inconvenienced or lose parking spaces by the construction.

Like the town has such unlimited domain .

We’ve  seen it all before.

A few years ago , in a subdivision at Bayview, a new owner of a million dollar  mansion needed his lot graded to lead drainage away from his house. It was the last remaining feature before occupancy permit could be granted.A tree had to be removed.An abutting owner liked that tree. He claimed he bought the neighbouring lot because of it  and objected to its removal. He collected signatures and petitioned council. The right to be able to enjoy that tree with their coffee in the morning was their
earnest contention. I am not making this up. It’s what we have become.

Dear lord, what a moral dilemma for Councillors Gaertner and Humfreys but hthey never doubted the decision. Over and over again  they claimed responsibility to protect the property owners rights . But not the rights of the tree owner.  Oh Dearie me, no. It was the other fella’s rights they had to protect with much  weeping and  wailing and gnashing of teeth and rending of garments.
I did make that last bit up. It’s called poetic licence.

The developer tried every computation possible to meet the concern. The owner  had sold his previous home and despite being owner of a brand new million dollar mansion, he was obliged to move his family of teens and pre-teens into a motel for Christmas. But none of that touched  the hearts of the morally bound Councillors.

The final solution  called for a virtual plantation of mature trees before the neighbour backed down from his  totally selfish and unreasonable demand to retain the tree.  At last the ladies were rescued  from the moral high ground of protecting the interest of “the voters”

Councillor Gaertner and Gallo were the only survivors of the Mormac regime. Replacements for the regime proved just as febrile.

The Mayor of this day stayed apart from the fray.He may have voted for thevtrees remkval but he certainly provided no leadership in the face of the farcical.

Rules of procedures,properly applied would have prevented the three ring circus .And it’s where lack of experience and competence or courage in the chair  always fails the day.

Here we are , several council terms distant  and still haunted by ghosts of our relatively recent ignominious past.

Nothing much changed despite clear intention of the voters.

Friday 1 May 2020


This blog was started more than twenty years ago. At the back of my mind, I always felt lack of comments meant slight interest in the subject matter . I read numbers indicating fantastic success of other blogs. When I left Council last time, I thought I should change the focus.

I tried. Now and then...here and there... but I couldn’t make the switch. My critique ,in parts of Council’s Tuesday  Zoom meeting scored higher numbers than  before. When checking “traffic”  ,I noticed a line indicating “Comments awaiting moderation”.   I’d never seen it before. I had  never clicked on the line that brought it forward. When I did, lo and behold, I discovered numerous unpublished comments going back several years.

There are definite hazards in operating  a computer with a limited understanding . I may have stumbled over most. The first was the worst. I paid thousands of dollars I could ill afford, to create a Web site. Then discovered it wasn’t needed to publish a blog . By then I learned initial outlay was not the last: annual fees of thousands were necessary maintain the domain.

Anyway,  too late now to publish the comments. Some were never relevant. People in other lands with no competence in english saw the chance  to comment as opportunity for a schille.  They would never have been published. For the rest , I can  only offer my apology with explanation as noted.

I promise to do a better job and I am thrilled to see more interest in the town’s affairs than  previously realized .

Thursday 30 April 2020

“”Don’t Pay The Fine, You’ll Only Encourage The Bastards”

The story of a mother, ticketed in the park, was published in the Toronto Sun yesterday. Today, Premier Ford commented, the by-law officer could have used better judgement. It’s not what our doughty leaders in Aurora said.

At Tuesday’s Zoom meeting, Councillor Humfreys brought up the subject in new business at the end of the wrangle.With suitably sad countenance, the Councillor referred to “harsh” and ”really nasty comments” made in social media. Gazing earnestly into the camera, she assured all 29 viewers, Council is trying to protect lives. ”There are two sides to every story” she said, “and you have to know both”.

Next day, the Mayor told a local reporter he could not comment because the matter was before the court. But we already know from the bylaw officer, the town has a ”zero tolerance” policy in effect. 

I made nasty comments on social media about the bylaw. Several. It’s a nasty bylaw, with nasty intent. I plagiarized the title of a book I bought and advised “Don’t pay the fine. You’ll only encourage the bastards”.

I struggle to find titles for blog posts. I bought the book because of its title. I read a few pages. Nothing definitive emerged and I knew it was unlikely. But the title certainly grabbed my attention and apparently Councillor Humfreys’. I was titillated. She was daintily horrified.

Anyway, thanks to the bylaw and zero tolerance application, Aurora has acquired notoriety.
Burlington did the same with a 17 year old shooting a few baskets in an empty park. The same explanation was offered. Kid had a bad attitude... oh yeah... and that merits an $880 fine.

As if we don’t have enough to contend with, Great Tunderin’ Jasus, what will they come up with next to relieve our worries. After watching Councillor Humfreys on Tuesday with a foot firmly planted on each side of a barbed wire fence of awkward height and her own construction over parking spaces in a site plan, I shudder to contemplate. 

I think I like these Zoom-in meetings. Councillor Gilliland was in her basement. A window in the wall behind was a clear indicator. Councillor Gaertner could have been in her late mother’s North York Apartment. She did a lot of swaying back and forth and waving her arms about. Councillors Thompson, Kim and Gallo all had doors in the backdrop and light walls. The Mayor had a suitably studious background of dark wood panelling and bookshelves. His voice was surprisingly light. 

Wednesday 29 April 2020


Alright now...to pick up the thread...there was  little  meaningful exchange with  the treasurer at last night’s meeting.No-one asked how staff were being deployed while the town hall was closed and service suspended. No payroll savings were noted. The library budget would have to be reduced with twenty-eight employees laid  off but it wasn’t mentioned.

Reference was made  to a planned increase in water and sewer rates not being applied. No-one asked why rates 9% higher than last year?  Councillor  Gaertner expressed concern that delaying the increase would make it harder later .

That’s when I become irritated that Councillor  Gaertner may not be a resident or a taxpayer in Aurora . When the Councillor sold her home , the real estate sign on her front lawn proclaimed the fact.Neighbours privately  raised the question of whether or not the family had moved out of town.
The Councillor had cared  for her elderly mother in North York in her last years. At that time , staff had difficulty making contact and once , they were accused of harassment.  

When the family home was sold , Councillor Gaertner claimed to  be  living with former Councillor McEachern. Had she moved with her children out of town, eligibility to serve on Aurora Council was over. A vacancy would have occurred, a by -election held and things might have been different from that point.

The Councillor subsequently provided an address on Murray Drive. I was never able to accept that. I don’t think someone who doesn’t live in the town or pay taxes to the town should have a say in what taxes should be imposed.  Especially  if I am opposed to a particular tax. Like the Culture Centre for example.  That’s another thing the treasurer didn’t reference.There’s  half a million there that should
not be expended.

Apparently only  twenty -six people viewed the “virtual “ meeting last night. Councillors should be glad of that. It was not their finest four hours. At the end of the meeting,Councillor Gaertner in her sixth term of office , asked if she could make an amendment to add something to the Agenda.

The Municipal Act spells out clear and simple the responsibilities of a Council. Every Councillor receives a copy. At least one  business meeting a month must be held.  Public notice must be given of decisions to be decided and Councillors must be in their place,uncovered, at the same time ,the same night of the month ,as determined on the night of the inaugural  meeting of each new Council. Two items are on the agenda of an inaugural. Swearing into office and passage of the Procedural Bylaw. All to ensure the public are informed of the business to be conducted. After twenty-two years , Councillor Gartner has never understood the terms of engagement. She may not be the only one at the table who doesn’t.

Normally, it would have been the Mayor’s responsibility  to provide the guidance. Tom Mrakas is the fourth Mayor Councillor Gaertner has served under.


Try as I might I can’t move far from our town’s business. After  my last post , a request came
to write more stories of my childhood. I’ve been doing it regularly on a web site on my birth town . An old postcard gets published and it’s like turning on a tap: one thing leads to another  and before I know it ,I’ve been writing non stop for thirty minutes. Like the Last of the Mohicans I guess. Of the few left,not that many are using computers and clicking on Facebook. The stories of course go with the postcards. They wouldn't make a lot of sense without them and only then to other Irvinites. I’m not sufficiently computer literate to transfer it to my blog and that would probably not be honest . My contribution is appreciated , my output is prolific and it suits my scattered approach.

I watched a “virtual” Aurora Council  meeting last night. I learned Ontario Emergency Measures suspends parts of the Municipal Act and  allows Council to hold meeting without being physically present.  It’s still tricky though. Depending on how thorough the work done to suspend one Act to allow another Act to supersede, therein lies potential for challenge to whatever decisions were made  by Council at the “virtual “meeting.

It might be difficult however for even the smartest lawyer to figure out what actual decisions were on made.  I watched because the Agenda seemed to indicate the Chief Financial Officer would  report on the financial impact of the $56 million Library Square Complex. That is not what happened. The Report focussed instead on the financial impact of  the  coronovirus emergency measures. It’s grim. The impact is likely to extend into the foreseeable future.

The town has a slush fund of $10 million created by taxing property owners in excess  for the  last several years. The fund was created in anticipation of arbitrated awards to increased firefighters to staff  new fire-halls built with lot levies calculated on the basis of population growth forecast in Master Plans. Fees collected to build new firehalls can only be used for that purpose.Millions of dollars of equipment must be installed. Custom made in the good old US of A. Sleeping, cooking and recreational facilities must be  provided. A fire crew numbers seven. Over a twenty -four hour period and three shifts ,  new hires number twenty-one minimum. The town’s genius financial advisor of a few years ago, recommended taxpayers of the day should pay  forward to meet the financial demands of the future.Now those  funds will be used for a different emergency . And it won’t go far.

No matter: lot levies will still be charged, new firehalls will continue to be built and politicians will argue development does not pay for itself. It increases taxes . The logic is flawed.  But if  money can be extorted from developers, who tack it on to the  price of a home, well, hell, it’s like shooting fish in a barrel, who’s going to argue against it.

Me ...that’s who. But it’s like spitting in the wind.

Aurora Chamber of Commerce argues the town isn’t doing anything to help business owners get through the crisis. While the town itself deals with shortfalls and continues to contemplate spending$56 million on the Library Square Complex to stimulate business activity down town. Like the Armoury project was supposed to. We still don't know how much that cost nor, it seems,  has downtown business noticed any great advances.

I do run on, don’t I. A couple of other things happened, or didn’t, at last night's “virtual” meeting.
But that’s my offering for now.

Saturday 4 April 2020


Having personal support workers visit twice a day provides a whole new insight into other people’s lives and  experience. A number of ladies come to call. Patterns emerge. It’s not an easy job. Not least of the negatives is driving between appointments. And not least of that are various encounters with York Regional Police. Hardly a week goes by that one of the ladies doesn’t get, a ticket for one or other traffic offence. Penalties are in hundreds of dollars but worse still are demerit points on driving records.

Most PSWs are immigrants. I suspect availability of this type of employment is reason for easy admission. An example of a ticket issued with a fine of $600, and 4 demerit points was for having a cell phone on the knee while driving. She had been in the country 7 months. Didn’t have GPS but was using the cell phone to find her way in Richmond Hill. 

Her language skills are good but not so good for complete confidence. Still, my advice was to request a hearing, attend court. Plead guilty with an explanation.

She was not talking on the cell phone. She was not distracted. She was focussed on making the right turn. The officer neither asked nor was apparently interested in an explanation.

She has since received another ticket because she failed to notice a new configuration of lights at an intersection on Yonge Street and made an illegal left turn. Another hefty fine and demerit points. 

Parking tickets are issued by bylaw officers. Town plows fill driveways with massive chunks of ice and frozen snow, blocking entry and exit. Time scheduled for visit with a client is one hour.

Speeding tickets appear to be issued willy nilly and PSWs seem to get more than their share. They do receive a car allowance but they are not paid for driving time. My advice is always the same. Ask for a hearing and throw yourself on the mercy of the court.

 I have represented myself in traffic court, I know a few things and learned a few things.

My time was not wasted.

For the purpose of this discussion, current circumstances in York Region traffic court are particularly relevant. One of my ladies took my advice and reported back. The court room was crowded. Two crown attorneys were on hand for prosecution. Her name was not on the appended list. She approached a Crown to ensure the right location and a deal was proferred. Plead guilty, pay $60, and demerit points will be removed. 

The ticket was for speeding. The fine was $280 with four demerit points. 

She took the deal. The judge was so informed and she asked why the miscreant was speeding. The  schedule was explained. What’s your job? She was asked, and answered. The judge would have made the fine $45, without demerits points and furthermore, insisted on providing a couple of months to pay.

In the meantime, two crown attorneys spent the first couple of hours of that day and likely every day, undoing that which was wrought by York Police on the streets of the Region. Officers attended as witnesses, and being paid in generous terms at municipal expense. The court room was full of those who felt the need to defend themselves; like the catch of the day. 

No doubt, the scene repeats five days a week in every traffic court in Ontario. The cost, public and private cannot begin to be imagined. 

York Region’s Police is an army, thousands strong. Their motto is “TO SERVE AND PROTECT”. Banks are robbed, assaults happen and murders committed. But not to worry my friends, they’re out there in force, issuing tickets with fines and penalties that challenged in court, do not stand up to reality of time and place. 

Now tickets are to be issued with penalties of up to $5,000 for hanging about in the open. New recruitment, new uniforms, new cars, new armaments, will all be required. To be deployed to the extent of a day in court, when all will be pled down to a reasonable penalty in the mind of a judge which may but will likely  not accomplish anything useful.

Government is indeed a blunt and bruising implement careless of a target.

Wednesday 11 March 2020


My daughter and I drove through the new industrial park on Leslie Street on Monday. It was a beautiful day. The sky was high, wide, incredibly blue and the day was beautifully warm. Despite being a construction zone, the area was spectacular with many white, high, well designed buildings.The Holiday Inn facility is close to completion. It can be seen from the 404. The other hotel structure was obvious though no sign identified it.

We were both dumbfounded. “How come we knew nothing about this?” I said. “Wow, this is fantastic.” We echoed each other “I/you will have to write something positive about it.”

I caught the inflection. Theresa thinks I’m negative. She would never say it...may not even allow herself to think it. My family believes it’s great that I continue to participate in the public debate. None would say anything to discourage me. But that may be, because there’s little chance of that happening.

We were even more impressed when we turned onto Wellington Street and noted signs of construction on the site south of Smart Centre. All those new employees mean a new retail market. New homes in the neighbourhood will generate new trade. Highway 404 and the carriage trade will contribute. Tournaments and swim meets at the Stronach Centre will create hotel clientelle. Walmart is already well patronized and provides numerous jobs. Empty stores in the Smart Centre will soon be occupied.

Now we have to wrap our heads around the new focus and determine what it means to the old Town Centre.

We drove along Wellington into the town. New tree planting will make it an impressive avenue. Closer in, old homes have been pleasingly re-tooled to serve new purpose, mostly professional. Just as envisaged fifty years ago when we planned for that to happen.

We turned north on Yonge Street, passed building after building of residential condos. Unleased space at ground level awaits new enterprise. It will follow the walk-in trade as residents re-discover life without cars. Came back south on Yonge Street. It was Monday...mid-day...traditionally a slow day...but last Monday, downtown Aurora was lively and if not exactly a hive of activity...definitely bustling.

There's room still for renewal on Yonge Street. If the town can get a handle on traffic, it could be a great neighbourly place to live, shop, and enjoy life.

It’s easy to imagine, having been around long enough to watch it evolve. Even more satisfying to have had a hand in making it happen.

Susan Seibert, are you reading me? I raise a glass to you, m’dear, m’darlin and to the council and administration that had a heart in the community.

Today, I turned on the video of the Mayor’s speech at The Chamber luncheon. The sound was imperfect. It echoed in the space. I heard less than half of what he said. It was an opportunity missed. He should ask Chris Watts if it can be improved.

Tuesday 10 March 2020


The immediate response to my last post was so slight, I got discouraged. I monopolized Anna Lozyk Romano’s blog instead. I know Anna doesn't mind. Still it doesn’t seem right.Yesterday I re-checked the stats on my blog and discovered on one March day, 69 people had read the post. I realize my blog has a limited audience at the best of times. It would seem sensible not to be overly concerned about immediate stats.

I don’t write with a view to make money though I don’t think that would necessarily be a bad thing.
But I do have this compulsion to spill the beans about what I know to be true. Anna has the same feeling that her blog is not widely read, yet I depend on it to keep me informed. I suspect the spike in my readership on that day in March may have been regional reps. Well that’s a good thing. They may collectively decide what I have to say is not worth noting. But they can’t be sure.

I read of the policy to invoice at-fault drivers for emergency calls to collisions on Anna’s post.
Nowhere else was there any discussion. Not at Aurora Council and apparently not in Newmarket either according to Mayor John Taylor.

Apparently the only question in Aurora was “Why did it take so long?”

My immediate reaction was ....why now?

How much revenue will it generate? How much will it cost to administer? Will it reduce the budget? If not, why not? What are they planning to do with the extra money? Buy more gold braid for the Chief’s uniform? Why is he wearing a uniform? Why are any of them provided with a uniform? They don't fight fires or respond to emergency calls in uniform?

But the most significant question of all: if it’s right and proper to charge an at-fault driver for the emergency call to a collision...why is it not also appropriate to invoice a person responsible for a fire in their home for the fire department to fight the fire?

If a person falls asleep with a lit cigarette in his hand, or leaves a pot of oil over a flame on the stove, or overloads a circuit, or messes with wiring, or if a landlord fails to maintain wiring in a safe condition...are they not all similarly at-fault the cause of fires. Should the person responsible not be similarly invoiced for the cost of fighting the fire?

Why should the taxpayer subsidize the cost?

With all the people sitting around the council table...elected to represent the taxpayers ...were none of these questions asked and answered? What do they think they’re there for? Why do we pay them? Are they just figures in the crowd scene? Backdrop to the play?

If a sewer pipe collapses, the town repairs it. But the property owner pays what it costs for that part of the repair on their property.

If a private property abuts a public property, the town will pay half the cost of a fence but it must be built to the town’s standard.

If I took the time I could probably come up with other examples of non-subsidization. But enough is enough. Towing is a private service. Companies compete. If municipalities invoice the cost of emergency measures, what law gives them a monopoly in the emergency business?

Contracting out public services to avoid providing employees with benefits is now the prevailing method of cost-saving in the public sector. If senior’s housing and senior’s care and child care can be farmed out by the Region to save, why not fire protection and emergency calls.

I’m not just asking.

I want answers.

Saturday 18 January 2020


Less by design than accident , I retrieved the Regional Publication from the re-cycling box at Christmas. It’s the first one I’ve seen. To-day  I want to draw attention to the back page. There
are three rows of photos of members of York Regional Council...twenty-one in total. nine of them are Mayors of  local Councils. The rest are Regional councillors. All,except the chair, serve also on local Councils. All receive  remuneration from both sources. Not all  receive the same benefits. Benefit packages are said to be worth $30 thousand  a year.

Regional  councillors receive termination settlements, if defeated from office. Not sure if they quit .If a Regional Councillor dies while in office, life insurance  is paid.

Taking a wild guess ,I would say, average cost of a regional councillor to  taxpayers might be as much as $200.thousand  a  year . Multiplied by twenty-one , quite a tidy  burden.

York Region was created in 1971. Next year ,it will be half a century old.

Metro Toronto was around that age when the boroughs were amalgamated and Metro
was wiped out. Toronto became a single government unit with forty-four Councillors and a Mayor.  Council meetings lasted several days. Decisions were slow in the making.

One of the first decisions made by Premier Ford  when he took office was to cut the number of Toronto Councillors almost in half to twenty- four members. A mighty clamour ensued. A year has passed. No great catastrophe has occurred.

York Region as noted in the opening sentence  has twenty-one councillors. On top of that,
nine municipal Councils with I don’t know how many, ward and elected at large local councillors. In terms of remuneration and benefits most  have re-classified themselves as employees. They are not hired. They cannot be fired. But somehow they have managed to re-classify  remuneration and benefits to their substantial advantage. Payroll for municipal council undoubtedly  exceeds that of Regional Council. It absorbs millions of dollars.

It would  be a simple matter to discover the tally  to the penny. It may even be part of the report already generated for the Province for changes they intended. We do not know that. The report has not been released. Regional Councillors  asked to receive the report. Whether or not that happened,we are not aware.

We do not know what changes were intended. We do know Aurora and Newmarket expressed
opposition , assuring the Province the current system serves us very well.it certainky serves them well.

Our elected representatives opposed change without disclosure of the change proposed.

It is reasonable to assume ,changes proposed by the Ford government would be aimed at
reducing numbers; bodies and financial cost. It makes equal sense the taxpayers of York Region
 are entitled to know what was proposed in  the shelved  report.

It has not been suggested.

I am suggesting it now.