Get Back


In the midst of the all consuming vortex that was The Inauguration, Tom Mulcair went to Hamilton to visit with some retired steelworkers in their union hall. People tend to always call it The Hammer now but those of us of a certain vintage know the place as Steeltown and remember the particulate haze of its glory days. The federal NDP seems to be trying to get back to where it once belonged but it might be a bit late for Tom himself. It’s uncertain as to whether this trip was his initiative or something the party brass decided would be a good mission to rediscover it’s raison d’etre. It would be a welcome homecoming for those holding out for a political hero or two. 

The workers seem happy enough that someone is finally paying political attention to them. Thousands of pensioners at the once mighty Stelco are still left to wonder in the fallout of US Steel’s predatory assault on the business as to whether they will have a pension to survive on. U.S. Steel bought Stelco in 2007 and after years of asset stripping and beating it to within an inch of its life, it has been turned back over to a private equity investment firm called Bedrock, who have brought back the Stelco name. Fred Flinstone was not at the ribbon cutting. It is unlikely that Stelco 2 will become the powerhouse it once was but the legacy issue of the pensioners still needs sorting, among other things.

There is a striking difference in tone between the Liberals and NDP on the matter. Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Singh Bains has said he “hopes” the workers and pensioners are treated fairly. The NDP is saying that they must be. The signals would suggest that Mulcair and Co. have got their backs. They are hinting at the rebirth of the party of old that some of us remember you could always count on to represent the workers both current and retired in the political realm. But will it translate into action? 

As a young politicized punk kid light years ago, I dared to venture into the old Rubberworkers hall in Etobicoke to watch the travelling NDP leadership debate that eventually led to the election of Audrey McLaughlin, who replaced Ed Broadbent. This would not happen there now. New Toronto was brimming with industry then but as the ink was drying on the Free Trade Agreement that eventually became NAFTA, it was clear the trashing of the factories was looming large. The area once had the highest value of manufacturing per square mile in North America, now it’s vying for the most condos. If you squint you can see the ghosts of the workers. 

Many of these spirits are still living breathing people, trying to piece a life together in the fallout of the great industrial cave in. These are the folks that Trump so cleverly rallied in the USA, caught between the rubble of their old workplaces and a wifi driven world of artisanal cupcakes and overpriced coffee. There is plenty of spare real estate capacity on main street where the old-timers once bought vacuum bags and typewriter ribbons. Developers salivate at the thought of this languishing square footage, as every budding mogul aspires to be a baby Trump. Will the slide continue or will we see thee rise to challenge the wholesale neo liberal thrashing of the place? Hopefully somebody reliable will have our backs. The clock ticks on.


Roll Up The Sleeves To Win


There used to be a commercial for easy bake something or other, in which a woman knocks  together some goodies and serves them up after throwing some flour on her face to make it look like she has been hard at work in the kitchen. Justin Trudeau’s Timbit Nation Tour 2017 brings to mind this easy baker. With the sleeves rolled up, a splash of flour and a well placed tear of axle grease, the PM has morphed into One Of Us. We won’t see him up our way though, this Liberal riding is safe.

Countless middle class aspirants are willingly taking time off from their three jobs in the hope of touching the hem of his garment. There will be no trip to the canapé laden comforts of Davos for Justin this year; he is determined to circulate among The People to get a sense of just what the ordinary Canadians are up to. Genuine tears and fears are being met with the obtuse platitudes we are so used to hearing; a patented circular manoeuvre that sounds like a compliment but is actually a non answer. No charge for selfies either guys, that would be crass. 

WHATEVER YOU DO Timbit Nation, don’t ask him about his holiday. Our non fake media are doing a pretty good job of handling that so far. In case you missed it, while you were heading back from Maryam Monsef’s riding of Peterborough-Kawartha in last century’s Corolla in a torrent of unseasonable rain, the Trudeaus were sunning it in outright luxury, having alighted stress free from a private chopper into the arms of the Aga Khan, one of the planet’s nicer billionaires. At least Papa Khan is spreading it around, eh? 

Ethics of the chopper trip aside, an improperly vetted journey could lead to doom if the RCMP haven’t checked the baggage compartment for explosives. All billionaires have stepped on someone to get where they are, even if they are perceived to be “nice”. Our Liberal entourage of family and friends could have very easily been collateral damage for someone else’s vendetta. You can bet The Help got there in a boat that parks around the back well out of view, a far safer journey than those notoriously crashy choppers.

No doubt Matt Damon, Shakira and Jamie Oliver, safely ensconced in the Grandhotel Belvédère in Davos, will be wondering where their pal Justin is this year. He’s going to miss out on imparting his Bono approved banter to this year’s theme, which happens to be “rising inequality”. General admission to that gig is $88,000 CDN, double this for the all access pass. Did Justin cover the cost of his ticket last year or is this considered part of the cost of leading the nation? Either way, the savings will spring for a helluva lot of Timbits.



Hidden In The Dust


It’s extremely common if you work in the trades to stumble upon a stack of random garbage created by an anonymous sub contractor. The photo above might not look like much but I took it on the morning that the Canadian government announced a plan to “ban asbestos”. If it wasn’t marked with a little non-official sticker that says “COVER MATERIAL IS ASBESTOS“, one might not even know it was transite, an asbestos containing material used in countless building products up until their use was severely curtailed in the 1980s. Attempts were made by forward thinking workplaces to identify and label any hazards back then, which is fine until someone paints over the original label, as is the case here. If the paint was still wet or they couldn’t find the label maker, a contractor might walk away and forget about it. These sheets were sort of relabelled but that didn’t stop a 21st century worker from tossing them into an open air pile for us to find at the precise moment the Prime Minister made his statement about the “ban”.   

You’ll notice the tile on top managed to break somehow, revealing the tell tale grey colour that positively ID’s this as a transite sheet. I’m not too concerned about snapping a photo of it but the questions mount. Who pulled them out? Whoever broke it has had a guaranteed exposure. Why were they painted over? If I return sometime in the future, will they still be lying here or will they have found their way into a dumpster to be someone else’s problem? There is no chain of ownership for this unassuming yet extremely hazardous junk but everyone from the original installer, the person who painted them, whoever left them here and the person who will eventually remove them either correctly or not will have been exposed. I didn’t touch them but I do wonder what lurks in the dust of this particular place. The much lauded ban does nothing to help this situation, one of many playing out across the nation daily.

The previous Conservative government’s climate change skeptic approach to most things extended to asbestos. They would make ridiculous declarations such as “asbestos is perfectly safe if handled correctly”, the logic being If we ship it somewhere else and they don’t take the proper precautions handling it, it’s not our problem. It’s similar to Tobacco Baron explanation that the cigarettes are only dangerous when you smoke them. In their view, it was your choice to go on the death march. It’s blame the smoker, blame the worker. There’s only a slight difference if a boss is ordering you to your potential doom. Sadly, the end result is usually the same. 


Asbestos was once considered such a wonderful all-purpose material that the company who formerly made Kent cigarettes decided to use it in it’s “micronite” filter in the 1950s. They then advertised that their scientific design would protect people from the harmful effects of smoking. It was touted as “the greatest health protection in cigarette history.” Consuming them meant that dying from them was a statistical certainty. In on-going litigation, the parent company’s lawyers have previously argued that the filters were well made, so the plaintiffs must have gotten mesothelioma (asbestos cancer) some other way. Nearly everyone who worked in the plant where they produced the well made filters has allegedly succumbed to the disease. Asbestos cigarettes were an exception but this legacy issue shows just how ubiquitous it was at one point. Everyone needs to be vigilant about it because it hasn’t just disappeared overnight.


The list of asbestos cancer casualties is a long one and you’d be surprised by some of the famous names on it. Actor Steve McQueen. Musician Warren Zevon. Scientist Stephen Jay Gould. Former Conservative politician now lobbyist Chuck Strahl is still alive but was diagnosed with it in 2005. None of these people spent their entire workaday lives in an industrial setting yet they somehow managed to come in contact with this material somewhere. Is it possible that the discovery of massive quantities of asbestos on Parliament Hill during the never ending renovations prompted the change of heart from the top? Until quite recently, Canada was showering the globe with the stuff, contributing in no small part to the 90,000 reported casualties a year worldwide. The death toll doesn’t seem to be getting any smaller.


So before you start bashing into the walls when you are renovating the old house, or sweeping up that unsightly crap that fell off the radiator pipe, or ripping into the kitchen floor to lay down a new one, or hanging out in the hip old recording studio with the crumbling acoustic tiles – find out everything you can about asbestos and DO NOT tangle with it or try to remediate it yourself. The price might be too great. The Feds may have “banned” it but they have banned it before. It means very little if the threat remains unmarked and hidden in the dust.

This is a personal blog. Any views or opinions represented in this blog are personal and belong solely to the blog owner and do not represent those of people, institutions or organizations that the owner may or may not be associated with in professional or personal capacity, unless explicitly stated. Any views or opinions are not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, or individual.

All content provided on this blog is for informational purposes only. The owner of this blog makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this site or found by following any link on this site. The owner will not be liable for any errors or omissions in this information nor for the availability of this information. The owner will not be liable for any losses, injuries, or damages from the display or use of this information.

The Parable of the Rough Sleeper

Come all ye faithful, joyful on liquor store delights, triumphant in your shopping victories. Come take a closer, virtual walk with me not to the banks of the Jordan but to the Eramosa, where a young man has taken up residence in a tarpaulin hut this Christmas Eve. He has found ingenuity enough to build a solid little shelter in the scrub but his troubles are obvious and heartbreaking. Everyone is too busy shopping today to help him out but we’re going to at least try. He’s not very communicative and that’s ok. Most of those that have the bona fide skills to do this are enjoying two stat holidays in a row so it will be days from now until somebody official could pay a visit. We aren’t calling the police as there has been a crackdown on the rough sleepers lately. No one owns the slope by the river but it is his for now, let’s leave him be. He is harming no one.


Thankfully the next few days are to be mild. Within sight of here there are countless new condo dwellings, any one of which is well out of the price range of many in this town, especially the rough sleepers. Those that live in there would not want this guy as a neighbour. They are preoccupied with their tax bills and resent anyone who might make it larger. “We don’t get the services, why should we pay for them” is their well worn defensive phrase. With a set of good binoculars they might be able to see the young man’s toque peaking out from under the tarps. He might not live in the building but technically he is a neighbour. Maybe they will get around to loving him as they do themselves (Mark 12:31) when the holiday mayhem is over but since he pays no property tax, he will automatically end  up on the naughty list. God help him if he goes into the new condo cafe for something hot and the toilet. The cops are a block away so the response will be swift.

Next let’s visit a place where the virtue signals are strong year round, the newish Eco Bio Market on the corner. You will notice that no one is particularly happy here, they are likely mulling over their reportedly high taxes, which eat into the organic banana budget. If your eyes start to water, it’s probably due to the whiff of smugness emanating from all surfaces. The powers that be point to this place and say “your neighbourhood isn’t a food desert anymore” but a Cliff Bar however affordable is not a meal. Homeopathy will not cure a grinding deep cough, or anything at all for that matter. Our neighbour by the river could only browse or shoplift in this place. The death stares alone would probably make him run away. We’ll need to club together to get him a bag of overpriced things. Give me your wallet. And yes, we will need to get a plastic bag and suffer some tut tutting from the line. Our virtue signals are on the wrong frequency. You’ll get the same reaction when expressing uncertainty about the sizes of Starbucks cups. Let’s get out of here.

We need to take the sketchy path behind the strip mall to get to the tarp hut by the river. By chance the rough sleeper has emerged but he’s still in his own world. Gentle questions are probably the way to go; Are you ok? yup. Are you hungry? yup. Here you go. yup. And then he disappears quick as a wink. That should keep him going for a bit. I wish I had the skills and capacity to do more for him, don’t you? Somebody in this town must but everyone is a bit distracted at the moment. It might be time to all sides to stand down in the Christmas War and jointly restart the War on Poverty, which actually holds the possibility of victory. The Bible gives plenty of instruction on how to permanently assist “the poor” yet much more time is spent hashing away on manger placement in the mall or whether the choir can sing there or not. If someone in this town has to root through the dumpster around the back just to survive then your sacred holiday needs a bit of revamping. You’ll need to step outside to find that True Meaning you might be seeking.

Carte Blanche


The first headline to finally cut through the President Trump news tsunami on my feeds was “Mosul battle: IS hangs bodies of 40 civilians from poles in Iraqi city, UN says” on November 11th. The Daesh are feeling the heat and are reacting as classic fascists do; killing civilians, getting teenagers and children to suit up and do their dirty work, sending out the suicide bombers into the markets of the unarmed and defenceless as only cowards can do. Are they finished? It’s very difficult to wipe out an ideology. You can beat it back but the latent period will end eventually. An entrenched idea will inevitably regain traction in the greater consciousness. Sometimes it’s a slow burn and other times it’s as if a switch has been flicked. Trump is insistent he is going to take care of ISIS but he seems to have unleashed a taste of an American version called MAGA. The Make America Great Again goons are on the loose and feel that they have free reign until at least 2020. Those that remember America prior to the Civil Rights era will recognize MAGAland instantly. 

Locally, somebody got their head cuffed in our own University Centre for wearing a MAGA hat. They took to Facebook to whine a bit about “freedom of expression” and caused a fairly heated on line debate. It sounds like this MAGA person wasn’t trying to be an ironic type. Bass Pro Shop hats are plentiful but if you are in a quest for a rarer hat to score hipster points then a MAGA hat might not be the one to wear.  The only similarity between the two is that they are both made in China. Up here and especially at a university, MAGA gear acts as a signalling device to say “I hope some SJW takes a shot at me so I can complain about them”. I prefer to approach these things verbally but completely understand should a more visceral reaction be delivered from one young person to another. These days, wearing a MAGA hat in Canada is a not so subtle way of telling a certain subset of the population to fuck off. You can’t deny that is the intention. You might as well put a swastika on your sleeve.  Thankfully we are in Canada and no one died in the altercation. The trolls beat on each other for days though. 

Down south the crappy spelling previously seen on Tea Party protest signs is freely being painted on cars and mosques: “Die Faget! Muslams out!” They seem to be able to spell Trump when they sign their work though. The president elect has given them carte blanche (!) to be bad, as if a (white) frat party spiralled out of control and the cops are standing on the margins chuckling at the “fun”. Pop the Tic Tacs and go for it, they wont touch you. In an elevator at Canisius College just across the border in Buffalo, someone took a black toy baby doll and lashed it to the railing to simulate a lynching. How would anyone feel walking into that? How long until the hanging of a doll morphs into something a little more “IS hangs bodies of 40 civilians from poles in Iraqi city”? In a nation with 300 million guns under the beds, it might not be long. Thankfully, it can’t happen here. Or can it?

The best deal in town

It’s a constant, valiant and mostly thankless struggle to keep a city’s infrastructure working properly. The only time people notice it is when it fails or is getting replaced. York Road looks like a war zone these days but when it’s finished, it will be a showpiece. In about a month, everyone will marvel at the freshly paved tree lined street with a bike lane that will score a perfect 10 on the Guelph Factor scale. What they won’t see are the tons of new water pipes for both supply and waste below the surface. The only visible change for the sewers will be that each cast iron drain lid has a fish stamped into it. This will hopefully prevent those who are tempted to dump liquid waste down a street grate from doing so, keeping it out of our various bodies of water. If caught, you will immediately be lectured by the first cyclist passing by. This is much more of a deterrent than any ticket the by law can issue after the fact. Be warned.

sewer pipe 1962

( The new (now the old) sanitary sewer being installed in Royal City Park, 1962 )

During the recent dig, plenty of old garbage surfaced but thankfully there were no mystery barrels of toxic goo this time around. Old benign glass bottles are a common find, many have surfaced still in tact. You could clean them up and use them again all these years later. It’s an antique pickers dream. When and if the construction team of 50 years from now needs to repair these repairs, the only things they will find from our day are tons of crushed plastic water bottles that the workers have been staying hydrated with throughout the project. All of the potable water supply lines for the street are currently above ground and several well placed valves could very easily supply the crews with thousands of litres of perfectly drinkable water. Municipal water was good enough for the team in 1962. Times change though and it’s far more modern for everyone to get a hit of water in 500ml individual doses that have been marked up of 260,000 percent. No more drinking from the hosepipe like the old timers. Smoking is still perfectly acceptable on the job though, construction is possibly the last career in the nation that allows it.


There are a ton of plastic bottles on the surface of city streets at all times. Several years ago, I saw a pure and natural Nestle bottle in a drain in front of the Trader Joes on East Ontario Street in downtown Chicago. Nestle water bottles are branded differently across North America and in the midwest the equivalent to Pure Life is called Ice Mountain. In New York, it’s called Poland Spring. The bottle I found was definitely Wellington county issue, probably dropped by an errant tourist who took the time to lug it 800 km to the Windy City. They may not have been aware that regional overpriced water is available from coast to coast. It’s all about the branding. Nestle describes their Tuscan sourced Acqua Panna as having a “smooth and velvety taste” as if it was a can of Guinness. Gerber water is “specially developed for babies”. Levissima water comes from “protected and untouched Alpine mountain peaks”. They can craft all the lovely poetic descriptions they like but one thing is clear. It’s water in a bottle. Unless you have the pallet of a sommelier or a nose like a bloodhound, it doesn’t matter. At all.  

It does matter if your groundwater fed city is in a drought situation though. How is it possible that this town could be Code Red for water use, that every lawn looks like a Shreddie and nearly all plant life is sad and wilting yet the skid loads of water keep on shipping? You can get a twelve pack of Pure Life Natural Spring Water for 99 cents at Food Basics this week until Wednesday if you are so inclined. What a deal! Keep your head up though; if you drop an empty plastic bottle into the road there is an army of bike riding pinkos on standby who will find you and give you a gentle reminder about bottled vs tap. Save yourself the trouble and get a nice half litre stainless steel traveller instead. Even with the recent rate increase, it will cost you 0.0795 of a cent to fill it at home. Without question, that is the best deal in town.

This is a personal blog. Any views or opinions represented in this blog are personal and belong solely to the blog owner and do not represent those of people, institutions or organizations that the owner may or may not be associated with in professional or personal capacity, unless explicitly stated. Any views or opinions are not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, or individual.

All content provided on this blog is for informational purposes only. The owner of this blog makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this site or found by following any link on this site. The owner will not be liable for any errors or omissions in this information nor for the availability of this information. The owner will not be liable for any losses, injuries, or damages from the display or use of this information.


A Home Which May Have Never Existed

It’s a completely Canadian thing to possess a perfectly formed alternative national identity that surfaces on occasion. It tends to emerge when there is a soccer tournament or some other international event happening that precipitates putting a small flag of another nation on your vehicle. It’s always a bit more complicated for those of us from the UK because the soccer teams of each nation within the kingdom united compete separately, except in the Olympics. The 2012 Great Britain olympic men’s soccer squad had no Scots or Northern Irish on it. It was pretty much a foreshadowing of the Brexit vote. They got clobbered as well. 

I am continually pressed into service to explain the finer points of the UK and always get the feeling when I’m finished that whoever asked still doesn’t get it or their eyes glaze over when I say things like “…after the Act of Union of 1707…” . I’m never pissed off when somebody inevitably says “Scotland / Ireland, same thing” because in many ways they are the same thing. As a Scot I have always felt an affinity to Irish people in both the North and South. I wasn’t particularly surprised to find that according to my National Geographic DNA test result, which happened to arrive on Brexit referendum day, it seems I am genetically “Irish”. But I wont be flying the flags of either Ireland on my car though, I want little Iceland to win the Euro Cup. Watching them beat England this week was very satisfying somehow. Im not sure if that stems from something genetically based or simply my tendency to always root for the underdog.  

iceland car flag

A new level of complexity has been added to the dynamic now that the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland have decided to leave the European Union by a margin of 2%, which is the same amount of my gene pool that is Finnish/Siberian. The evolving political story is going to keep Open Sources busy for the next few years. I can appreciate everyone has reached total Brexit saturation at this point but here’s a link to a great article about the situation by Laurie Penny of The New Statesman called “I Want My Country Back”. If you’ve had enough yet still have room for one more article, make it this one:

According to her wiki, Penny is “an English columnist and author…of Irish, Jewish, and Maltese descent”.  These descriptions are always without context because if I had a wiki and my genetic test results were part of the descriptor it would say “Scotty Hertz is a Canadian ne’er do well of Great Britain/Irish, Southern/Eastern European and Finnish/Siberian descent”. Granted this covers a range of 5-10 thousand years but Scotland and Canada are not mentioned. Every idiot racist who has surfaced from the Brexit morass should submit to a genetic test. Your DNA conclusively proves 100% of the time that nationalism is a completely artificial construct and racial purity is total nonsense. 

In her article, Penny talks about the Welsh concept of “hiraeth” and how it played into how people voted in the Brexit referendum. This short word is used to describe a larger idea that many people possess a longing for a home they may never return to. It may be a place that never has actually existed; it’s more of a conceptual homeland. If it does exist, you will likely put their wee flag on your car. A slim majority of people are longing for a Britain that may have only existed in their minds, which seems to be a version Coronation Street minus all of the brown and black residents. No one over there believes me when I tell them that The Street is Canada’s top TV show. If it wasn’t for the advocacy of Toronto born Harry Elton, Coronation Street would never have happened. 

outlander shortbread

A friend of mine refers to the Scottish version of hiraeth as Shortbread Tin culture. You see it in full view at any of the numerous Highland Games across the province all summer long in Ontario, where the image on a deluxe shortbread tin comes to life. The only place where that version is part of Scottish daily reality is on the Royal Mile tourist trap in Edinburgh. Highland games are for the most part a carnival size rendition of a souvenir shop. They are hiraeth come to life. I would love to start a Canadian Games and take it to Scotland. Events would include axe throwing, poutine eating and who can make the fastest Tim Hortons order. Everyone would wear their Joe Fresh lumberjack plaid or Hudson’s Bay blankets. It would never fly these days though; with the mighty pound sterling becoming ever worthless by the day, no one could afford the overpriced mountie dolls or moose slippers on offer. A day at the Canadian Games would be like being stranded at a Pearson Airport gift shop, minus the axe throwing of course. 

scotts oats

People ask me all of the time what my tartan is and truth be told I don’t really have one. My family picked “Lindsay” as it’s a family name but it’s not my last name. It has no deep ethnic significance to me. I don’t cry at the sight of it nor am I willing to kill somebody that may have disparaged it or my people. For £70, anyone can apply to have a tartan deemed “official” that they have created. I’d be just as content wearing the Guelph tartan, or the Scott’s Porage Oats tartan, or Singh, or the newly registered one for Scottish Jews. MSP Humza Yousaf of the Scottish National Party said his oath of allegiance in English and in Urdu at his Scottish Parliament swearing in, while wearing a snazzy kilt made of the Islamic Tartan. That moment is a microcosm of how I see Scotland as a nation, the exact opposite of how a Britain First member sees it. It could also pass for a Canadian story if the locale was different. 

huzma yosef

I’m looking forward to being a citizen of an independent Scotland but not so I can dress up like a Braveheart extra, running around all gassed up on Tennents with a painted face and a random kilt yelling about freedom for the hell of it. Hopefully, a peaceful attempt at a united Ireland may occur and that’s not such a bad by-product of the fallout either, in my view. My hope is I will get to keep my European Passport and continue to move freely across the nations that are my genetic and ancestral homes. What hasn’t been addressed post Brexit is how Canada’s relationship with the “British” Monarchy will be affected. Perhaps Canada will end up footing an even larger share of Elizabeth Regina’s bill or providing exile for the Windsors if they do get run out of town. Keep some tea and biscuits on hand just in case. It’s going to get even messier.