Facts, Opinion and the Great Slate Debate

At Open Sources we endeavour to present you with facts, devoid of spin and the plague of fake news. Since our show is an hour long generally (and much longer on any election night), our personal opinions and viewpoint are going to surface in our discussion. When we present our personal point of view, it will always be made clear without question. You may need to listen for it but any sentence that contains the words “in my opinion”, “I think”, “in my view” or “I believe” is ours and ours alone. We are actually covered by some very strict radio regulations that say you can’t just present your thoughts as a fact. Many talk radio stations use the “views expressed in this program” ass coverage disclaimer you’ve heard countless times, so that if you happen to take the advice of someone on a show and it doesn’t work out, you can’t sue the station for any misfortune that may befall you. These same regs also prevent us from overuse of words like “ass”, spouting other foul language or slander and hearsay. You bet your ass I’m going to follow the rules. If you make it to the very bottom of this post, you’ll see my very own disclaimer. Please read it before sicking The Blog Police on me. 


Some people (in my opinion) are bothered by the fact that we don’t steamroll, railroad or corner people when they are on the show. That’s not our modus operandi in the slightest. We’re not out to “get” anyone. This perception in certain circles that we have a specific political agenda has led to a few people not wanting to have anything to do with Adam’s Guelph Politico or our beloved CFRU and that’s fine. It’s unfortunate though, considering we have a significant following of a good cross section of town and we extend the same open offer to ALL ward and mayoral candidates. The Free Time Paid Political Announcements at the provincial and federal level do not apply municipally but we maintain the spirit of it and with that hopefully keep several ounces of integrity. We have been providing ten free minutes of no strings attached airtime that will be broadcast more than once leading up to election day.  The mayoral candidates are offered an hour each and both have committed to stopping by. You will find that no other broadcaster is doing this because there isn’t one locally to do it. It is our mandate as a campus/community radio operation to provide this service and our team receives zero remuneration for our efforts. We occasionally get some pizza left over from a meeting though.

Adam Donaldson is a well established freelance journalist who puts in countless hours of his own time covering city hall, live tweeting the action at endless, epic meetings and living out of the vending machine. There is probably no better person in town to glean local, non biased political information and data from to formulate your own opinion in my view, and I’m not just saying that because he is a mate. He is this city’s top authority on local government and that is an indisputable 100% fact. I always jokingly refer to myself as “the B unit” of the OS team and there is truth to that in our arrangement. I’m officially the show’s board controller but I’m also called upon to hit the field at times as I’ve done for the past 15 years for the station. There is labour involved beyond just sitting in my robe this morning banging this out. It’s our mission and we have chosen to accept it. 

the team

Compared to older, more conventional media, the rules in the blogosphere and across the device driven spectrum are a different world. There is oftentimes no filter other than that which is self imposed and self regulating. This leads to a massive blurring of the line between fact and opinion. The overarching Criminal Code rules apply to all but it can be difficult to hunt down angry anonymous trolls in their underwear, intent on spreading a smear job, hate or two scoops of bullshit. There are times when the hammer does come down though, such as when a CAO at City Hall filed a lawsuit against Guelph Speaks blogger Gerry Barker. This hasn’t dampened Gerry’s propensity to claim to speak for Guelph’s grassroots but at least he isn’t anonymous. I’ll never understand why so much weight is put on what this single blogger says every election. There is no movement or organization behind Barker whatsoever, unlike the Chamber of Commerce or the Labour Council who have members (plural) and it’s up to you to assign how much weight you put on their picks should they offer them. And if you place any value on the cesspool that is the comments section of anything, my advice to you is just don’t do it.  

Which leads us to this week’s “slate” flap, where blogger Alan Pickersgill’s postings and Facebook speculation has turned into a battle royale of the kind that makes an election far more interesting than it was until now. Nowhere has it been mentioned in any media platform that there is absolutely nothing preventing people running as a group or a slate, according to the election rules put down by Municipal Affairs. The only thing that can’t happen is that your campaign finances cannot intertwine and there is zero evidence to suggest that has occurred in the slightest. The mayor’s decision to campaign with like minded council hopefuls and tacitly endorse certain people for the job isn’t evidence of a bona fide slate but it is a new arrangement in recent history. If you head back in time and had enough hours to slug it out with the microfiche at the GPL, I would guarantee that the mayors of the past have always had their favoured candidates, especially when the business and religious communities ran the place outright in the 19th century. Some of those old arrangements are still with us today, in the form of Ontario insisting on maintaining four separate school boards where in reality we only realistically need a single, unified, secular and bilingual school system. But that’s just one bike riding pinko’s opinion.









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.

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A Bridge Too Near

I’ve always loved the electric atmosphere generated at a contentious City Hall meeting, no matter the issue. Due to other more pressing duties in my life, I can’t commit massive chunks of time to the civic beat these days but I did pop in last week for long enough to hear the engineering department’s dissertation regarding the upgrade of the one lane bridge on Niska Road. A seven hour juggernaut is a high endurance test but to their credit, plenty of people stuck it out for the duration. The only time I have spoken on the record at City Hall was in defence of the environment, regarding the lack of respect shown toward it by a well known slumlord in town. I’ve never become one of The Usual Suspects in the crowd though, those same people that show up with a sheaf of notes and make identical arguments time and again. If everyone gets to say their piece that wants to, that’s a good sign of a working healthy democracy, even if you have heard it all before. Most cities of this size wouldn’t commit seven hours to a discussion about a bridge. You’d be lucky to get seventeen minutes.


The result of the final vote was as expected; the decrepit temporary bridge that replaced the original one that collapsed will be removed and the road brought up to modern standards, as it should be. The city would be remiss not to fix it. To try and preserve it on quasi heritage grounds is a ridiculous notion. Anyone who drove to the meeting needs to accept this. Judging by the number of cars outside of One Carden last Thursday, that would be the majority. If you know someone who cycled the full 7km into town and back to attend, I’d love to meet them. They will probably be quietly happy that a bike lane is to be included in the redesign, even if it means the surviving cedar hedgerow that became full fledged trees will disappear. They are big and lovely now but far from “natural”.

The main resistance toward the makeover concerns a possible secondary scenario beyond trees that isn’t in the cards yet. It’s the burning question: will a future council cave in and allow development on “conservation” land? There is a bit of a subplot here, in that the established residents understandably like the area the way that it is. In their view, the beautiful vista of the subdivision with it’s streets lovingly named after creatures that regularly get cleared out to build houses must be preserved as is. Niska Road itself has sprouted a gaggle of monster homes and none of them seem to have an overtly heritage tone. It’s a pure Monuments to Conspicuous Consumption vibe. Did any of these folks give a toss when the Hanlon Creek Business Park was getting rammed in? Do people only fight alleged crimes against the environment when it might decrease the value of their three car/four toilet house?


The neighbourhood will only need to be concerned about a future development if fresh pipes and ducting are stuck in the ground when the new work happens. If you spot an electrical and water service upgrade in the fine print of any plans, a subdivision will appear sooner rather than later. If not, there is no need to worry for now. Fresh incomers and their SUVs will not be arriving any time soon to increase the number of seconds it takes to exit the driveway for a trip to Costco or to a far flung heritage trail somewhere for some nordic pole walking. No big pipes, no problem.

Thanks to the tweeting prowess of Guelph Politico Adam Donaldson, the essence of the meeting was conveyed to many of those (like me) who couldn’t stay for the full event. In Adam’s Twitter feed you’ll find the best point of the evening, made by a non driving grade eighter named Tia Carey. She said “how can you say you’re in favour for safe access to nature and then have cars drive through it?” If it was such a critical area, the road would be closed outright; but it won’t be, because it isn’t. When the engineers of old decided to construct a crossing at that particular spot, they couldn’t have predicted a future in which everyone can go anywhere in their metric tonne or two apiece machines where a path exists for them to do so, single lane or otherwise.

This former backroad’s destiny was sealed the day the first bridge opened, inadvertently creating a remote-ish community that owes it’s entire existence to the automobile. The main draw up the other side is a giant store that by design encourages people to fill their machines with massive quantities of products far in excess of what one actually needs to exist. Everyone loves a bargain, real or imagined. In this century, all roads lead to consumerism. And in that neck of the (former) woods, you’re pretty much stuck without a personal set of wheels. Until the day when that is no longer the case, more roads and bridges are to be expected along with epic special meeting nights in the council chamber. Make sure you pack a snack next time.








Tell me, Condo Condo Condo

By my nature, I’m the type of person who takes a great interest in the goings on in my neighbourhood. I love a good old fashioned town hall meeting and here in The Ward they are usually held at the Italian Canadian Club. There haven’t been many lately but when the massive condo developments were first proposed after the trashing of the WC Woods plant, there were plenty of meetings. They really need to come up with another name for a meeting where you’re pretty much being told what is going to happen. It’s more like a lecture and a formality really, for not once in this town have the concerns of the citizens altered the end product of a development. Don’t insult our intelligence by handing out chart paper and getting us to write down our ideas like it’s Grade Six again. The second time that happened, I bailed for the pub. Stick your Sharpie up your ass, buddy. This is obviously a done deal.


(A future Scotty Hertz (played by Ed Norton) watches a condo fire caused by unattended scented candle in an English major’s investment condo flat in Condomania 2. He’s perfect for the role, Ed Norton is exactly two days older than me) 

If you can point out an instance where a mass community anti development outcry truly won out in this city, I will gladly retract that last sentence. Sure, there will be concessions to the people like a small public square, coffee shop or access to the river, but somehow developers manage to get exactly what they want, every single time. There may be delays, such as in our famous epic Wal Mart battle, but The Big Box was built regardless. The Jesuits, curlers and thousands of happy-ish Wal Mart shoppers coexist in the burgeoning northern retail hub without conflict. The world did not end. Concerns were raised about the 18 story Tricar tower and it’s twin across the tracks. They’re going in, unaltered. Good thing we didn’t buy the dump of a house we looked at on Sussex Street, I’d be buying 10,000 helium balloons like the old man in Up and hitching a ride out of there post haste. It’s more likely I’d be rhyming off daily complaints on this blog until I died of pure exhaustion.


(Next stop, Owen Sound)

I sympathize with the citizens in the south end who have valid concerns about their new neighbours, the HIP Solstice condo developments. South enders have paid a shedload of cash to live the suburban dream and are now having visions of driveways littered with red Solo cups and puke accented by general dumbass yelling between 12-3am, Thursday through Saturday. Most people accept that towns and cities need development and that it will happen eventually. You don’t really see people lying in front of bulldozers anymore, with the exception of incidents like the Hanlon Creek Business Park standoff.  They are sticking a townhouse development over there as well, because business isn’t exactly booming. No word yet if it’s going to be called Jefferson Salamander Estates.

hcbp grading

(Heavy equipment prepares the grade of the Hanlon Creek Business Park for empty space)

Solstice are in essence building the new university residences, so the U of G doesn’t have to. I’m not implying they are in direct cahoots but at this rate, you will never see another student dwelling being built right on campus. They should actually be called Symbiotic condos. There is an info table in the University Centre promoting living at Solstice regularly. MacDonald Hall, a classic early Edwardian gem, has been cleared out and is being converted into the consolidated College of Economics. Private money built it; it’s named MacDonald after the tobacco giant that funded it, a fact conveniently lost to time and likely be lost in the reno. So Moo U is now missing a residence. Where do all the students go? They have to live somewhere and enrolment isn’t increasing. Many of them will end up in the investment condos off campus, conveniently situated on the bus route for which they all get a really cheap pass. Symbiosis in action.


(The abdicator Edward VIII shares a smoke and a joke with the ladies on the steps of MacDonald Hall, Guelph -1919. His grandad lends his name to all things “Edwardian”)

In the south end, what initially started out as a condo for “upper income retirees” has evolved into two projects. Both are investment condo properties geared to students, with a chunk of wetland, 1,000 trees and a church getting smoked in the process. Add in the other on going developments (Coltara, Arkel Lofts) and you have what my colleague Guelph Politico has aptly named Condo Central. A junior version of the boom we’ve seen all across the GTA and every boom goes bust eventually. It’s the part of the capitalist mechanism that no one really wants to discuss until everything turns all 2008. Boom, bust and bailout.

If we see a similar, larger economic collapse, I will predict in spooky futurist fashion that under the guise of the University, the province will take over Solstice condos and run them.  By that time we will be downloading lectures directly into our brains, the library will be run by robots who have all media ever created in their flash drives and the developers will still be getting exactly what they want, every single time.










Open Sources

The recently departed Gang of Four, which was actually a gang of 8 or 9 of us in rotation at any given time, were very touched by the generally positive comments that made the rounds when it was announced we were coming to the end of our run on CFRU. I was also quite happy to hear that Guelph Speaks lone coyote Gerry Barker had chimed in on our demise. From his perspective, we are a casualty of the recent municipal election results. (Did you actually listen to the show, sir?)


No matter. We have thick skins. You have to in this business.  Seconds after we were told the show was ending, Guelph Politico Adam A. Donaldson and I decided on the spot that somebody had to carry on the great work of Beyond The Ballot Box in some form. There are plenty of bloggers, tweeters and all sorts of personalities both real and imaginary who chirp about politics on line. It was clear that what the Gang did was fairly unique and it would be a loss to just fade away in the static. It will be missed as much as we will miss being a part of it.

In the media world, Adam and I produce what is commonly known as Open Source or Community Journalism. Adam is a dedicated, seasoned journalist and at one time was the editor in chief of The Ontarion newspaper. His long running Guelph Politico blog is the go to place to find out what is actually happening in this town. But if you aren’t aligned with one of the big media players, anything one might do is considered an “open source” in the broader scheme.


The time is coming (and may have already arrived) when the open source will be your primary supplier for news and information. The era of a massive centralized news bureau dispatching reporters far and wide is pretty much over.  They were the norm and seemingly had limitless resources – if you heard it on the BBC or read it in the New York Times it was 99% guaranteed to be accurate, factual and timely.

We will strive to be the local version of that long solid tradition. You pretty much have to take our word for it though and we hope you will hold us to account, call bullshit, question everything and pull anything we have to say apart. That’s what we do daily and would also expect any engaged person to do regardless of stripe. Feedback is most welcome.

I’ve been an open source for a while. Not to a Donaldson degree but I’ve been around. Here’s a bit of a bio for the record.

When I was in grade 8 I had a letter published in the Mississauga News about how I wanted the great world powers to sit down and have a chat so we would avoid a nuclear war. Plenty of people saw it and commented on it. That was the precise point when the media bug bit me hard.

I had a two zines in high school, “The Page” and “Dig”. Back then we called them underground newspapers. The admin tried desperately to find out who had put them together, as a couple of issues were highly critical of certain goings on at the school and used “foul language”. It was strictly typewriters and photocopying back then. I was in the last typing class before it became “keyboarding”. I’m rather ancient in the scheme of things.

My first proper freelance work was for Cognition – the Canadian Organic Growers Magazine. Although it existed pre internet, somebody took the time to preserve an article or two:


Although it’s not really my focus, I’ve had some photos published over the years in various places such as the late great Eye Magazine and Canadian Crop Producer. When I joined CFRU in 2003, I was given the labour news file, which eventually evolved into one of the first podcasts of it’s kind in the world on rabble.ca . Podcasting of this type was so new, I was asked to speak about it at a conference at McMaster. Archives of show are still lolling about on-line. This interview with Billy Bragg is a personal favourite:


A magazine called Our Times did an article on what I was doing then, cached here:


As most of you know, Hertz isn’t actually my real name but it’s the one that stuck. You can call me whatever the hell you like.

Around the same time I did a theatre review by request, possibly my only paid gig ever:


A while later, I was drafted to a rebooted election reporting team at CFRU which was part of Royal City Rag, eventually evolving into the weekly Gang of Four. I have Jan Hall to thank for coaxing me back into the game and getting me re-energized about the world of politics. Jan can still be found at CFRU on Saturday mornings, hosting the fantastic Folk Roots Radio:


Currently when I’m not on CFRU or taking care of other workaday duties, I occasionally write for rankandfile.ca



And I’ve blogged in several places but The Spannerbook is the latest incarnation. Thanks for reading.

I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether I’m a credible open source or not. I hope my previous endeavours are a reflection of the type of reporting I am hoping to contribute to the new project. If I’m delivering news, I assure you it will be accurate, factual and as timely as possible. If I’m spouting opinion as we did so often on the Gang, Ill preface it as such. I feel it’s important to differentiate between news and opinion at all times.

I am not the agent of, nor am I a card carrying member of (or in the employ of) any political organization or entity. I see it as my job to hold them all to account and for that I feel one needs to be strictly non partisan.

All possible internet polls, quizzes and tests that I’ve taken for fun tell me that I am very much on the left of the spectrum. So I’m still the pinko you have come to know over the years but I guarantee I will never lie to you or disregard your opinion, whatever it may be.

I hope I’ve passed the audition.

Join us for our launch on January 8th, 2015 at 5pm on CFRU 93.3FM or online at www.cfru.ca

You can contact me at scottyhertz “at” bell.net, Twitter: @scottyhertz and I’m easily found on Facebook. The old BTBB page will be our new page soon. We’ll keep you posted: