"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 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.