The most important election since the last most important election after the prior most important election previous to this one

I tuned in to some of the leaders debate en francais on TVA this past week and wondered where Maxime Bernier was. It turns out he wasn’t invited to participate, nor was Elizabeth May as neither of their parties has a federal seat in Quebec. A brief scan of a few comment sections/e-opinion toilet turned up no armchair whining about these omissions that I could find. Neither party seemed to be openly whimpering about this specific debate either, unlike the minor tempest that has erupted over the cancelled not-quite-all-candidates debate that was supposed to take place at the University of Guelph.

Never before in the political history of this town has the fringe somehow managed to hold so much sway. The battle for fifth place is so interesting because the struggle for the MP seat can be so incredibly bland at times. Next kick at it, you won’t remember any of them. It’s my job to remind you over the next few years, as I do when I endlessly appeal for Pierre Poutine to come on our show. You are always welcome Pierre and we know you know where to reach me.

totally legit

I love the presence of fringe candidates and have voted for many over the years but never for anyone carrying a heavy load of insidious or just plain wacko baggage. There are times when the hubris of some of the independents can be grating, especially when it devolves into a tiresome, oxygen sucking, showboating yammer. I am not so secretly hoping that the King of the Canadian Election Fringe John Turmel hits the 100 election mark but his grandstanding schtick wore thin years ago. It does take a lot of gumption to challenge The System though, knowing fully well that the energy you expend won’t amount to any degree of hard political success. But never say never.

john turmel

With a bit of digging you will quickly find that every established party started on the margins or was a product of some kind of political divorce and factionalism. Time and experience erases much of this but the origin stories are consistent; there is nothing pure, untouched or holy about any ballot choice, as much as the sales jobs we get during the election period would lead you to believe.

My favourite line I hear ad nauseam on the social these days is that THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT ELECTION OF OUR LIVES! If I had a loonie for every time I’d heard that one I could stuff an offshore bank account full enough to be on top of the Panama Papers list. I may have actually believed it in the not too distant past. As a provincial paper candidate a generation ago for the fledgling fringe party known as the Greens, it was one of my main go-to phrases when called upon to speak about all things Green. At that point, our imminent Earthly collapse was to be the year 2000. We’ve only got a decade to turn it around! I shouldn’t be here! You took my childhood!

I left the Greens long ago to be the pundit in the wilderness you listen to weekly but my bolshie values haven’t really changed all that much. One green, two green, red machine, blue machine, orange crush, francais bloc – in my opinion, at the current rate, we are all still f—ked. Yet somehow, I’ve committed to this volunteer journo job talking politics weekly, blogging sporadically and during elections, it’s darn near daily. Viva democracy!

I hold out some personal faint hope when I see all of the bodies at extrapolitical events such as the climate “strikes” of recent weeks. People have embraced young Greta because she tells it like it is to the faces of those that need to hear it. Her meteoric rise from the fringe to the mainstream has been incredible and hopefully she will be able to survive the fame. It has become fairly clear that our only collective chance at planetary survival is by owning the bakery rather than just demanding and receiving bread of varying quality after THE MOST IMPORTANT ELECTION OF OUR LIVES ends and Doug Ford emerges from his bunker to go back to “work” delivering gut punches to people.

Take it from somebody who has been on many a picket line, your strike needs to be perpetual for it to have a lasting effect, if any at all. The continuous questioning of authority with the goal of upending it is the only way we are going to make it through this modern shitshow. Climb off the comments page, close this blog (but thanks for tuning in), cease your never ending mobile phone prayer and get out into your community and find your functional place in it. The belief that change begins and ends exclusively with the ballot box will be our undoing. What are you waiting for?



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 Stolen Bike Capital of Wellington County

My work bike was swiped early on in the mass bicycle theft wave that has swept over town in the past few years. I didn’t have a sentimental attachment to it yet I still had that sinking feeling you get at the moment you look at the space where it used to be. It’s a violation. The scenario was identical to that of Ricci in the 1948 classic Italian film The Bicycle Thieves; I set the thing down for a minute to fetch something for a job and then it was gone. Six months later our shop was robbed in a weekend heist that netted power tools, my mobile and laptop, another bicycle and a beautiful set of lightweight bolt cutters that have probably been used in many a heist since. If your idea of security is a chintzy cable lock then you might as well leave the damn thing unlocked. And if you do leave it unlocked, it’s as good as gone.

the bicycle thief

Campus is an open buffet for these scammers, so much so I’ve called in at least six different dudes taking bikes in the middle of the day. They try really hard to pass for students but no student walks past all of the racks eyeing up the potential merch then doubles back around to do it again. They don’t give a shit and I don’t either. If you do this and we see you, the campus police are coming for a chat. Count yourself lucky that I’m not allowed to directly intervene.

I don’t see them as “cockroaches” though, as somebody at the Ward 2 Townhall put it last week. The assorted daylight robbers I see over and over are always male, white, 5’6” to 5’11” carrying a heavy duffle bag instead of a backpack, emaciated and definitely strung out. There are exceptions to this, such as the King Of The Bicycle Thieves who you will see slugging a different set of wheels around town on any given day. He’s usually not riding it as he seems to have some kind of back trouble. A spine like that would definitely need some kind of treatment and since opioids are prescribed like candy, I strongly suspect The King has a habit to feed. He would also need existence money as disability benefits are paltry. And he unequivocally does not give a f___. Your bike will fill the void for a while.


We aren’t quite at the austerity levels of post war Italy but our current gentrification wave has it’s share of casualties. All rents are up, nothing is affordable and if you have an addiction as well, the money has to come from somewhere. The thefts are brazen because the thieves aren’t actually capable of caring about it. Pain is pain be it physical, psychological or a continuous hunger pang. We all know that feeling and there is a moment when you are willing to do anything to make it go away.

Guelph also has one of the largest addiction and mental health treatment facilities in the nation. Conveniently located across from Guelph General, Homewood’s claim to fame is that they have treated countless famous people over the years who pay big bucks to come here from all over to clean up. It’s a for profit operation grandfathered into our socialized medicine system but public money is injected into it, public private partnership style. 80,000 patient days of services on contract from OHIP to be exact. That is the care for the rest of us not on a Hollywood salary. You have to shell out for any upgrades to the base level.

The Schlegel company paid $129 million for Homewood in 2010. An investment like that is only sunk into a place if you are expecting a good return on it. Homewood is always held up as an example of a P3 success story but if it was as great as advertised, this town should have far less dudes that need to steal bikes to maintain the lifestyle to which they are accustomed.


So beyond town hall meetings, what can be done? Community supports have expanded but not without controversy. People still are wary of safe injection sites and the Community Health Van but these are very necessary parts of addressing the problem in the short term. Legal marijuana should also help as two studies have suggested that in places where weed is legal, opioid use drops. If we start to get a “law and order” campaign from the new government(s), coupled with the demonization of those on benefits and the “finding of efficiencies” it is going to get worse. Locking them up just creates a pile of locked up addicts.

Until the deeper root causes are addressed such as economic disparity, a lack of affordable housing and the misapplication of pharmaceuticals by those quick to the prescription pad continues, your bike and anything portable of value is a target. Police insist that thieves are generally lazy but if someone is busting into your shed and rooting through it for the primo stuff, that’s a bit more savvy than snagging a bike left sitting out by gli stupidi like Ricci and I. You need to lock your bike to the snow tires and even then it might not be enough. But don’t leave the damn thing lying out like you’re out in the country. Big city aspirations lead to big league problems. Welcome to the club, Royal City.


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.



Chainsaws at the Gates

The looming clear cut at the LaFarge gravel pit property has been presented as the end of a “complex” case. It’s not really complicated at all; developers pretty much get to do exactly what they want. Such are the rules and laws that govern private property rights in the capitalist system. This land is your land, if you own the title. With the required piece of paper in hand, you get to shred 2000 trees. If your goal is to preserve it, you need to own it. Ask any haggard veteran of the local Wal Mart wars.

The city blessed this years ago, it’s disingenuous to pretend otherwise. Here’s a bit of a refresher, as preserved by Guelph Politico: “January 30, 2009 – An Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) mediation process has resulted in a potential settlement on a proposed development on the former Lafarge lands at 35 and 40 Silvercreek Parkway South. The City of Guelph, together with the Howitt Park Neighbourhood Residents’ Association and Silvercreek Guelph Developments Limited, has agreed to request that the OMB approve a mixed use employment/commercial and residential development on the site at an upcoming OMB hearing.”

Four years later in 2013: “Council unanimously approved a new plan to develop an area known as the “Lafarge lands,” located at 35 and 40 Silvercreek Parkway at a meeting Monday night. Matthew West, a vice-president with Fieldgate Commercial, wrote a letter to council promising the development would “review options for retaining” a bur oak tree on the site. Coun. June Hofland, a longtime resident of the area near the proposed development, declared a conflict of interest on the matter and abstained from voting.”

Once the white sign gets hammered in the ground, everything that the public can see behind it is eventually toast or will be altered in some way. I’ve seen this before on an epic scale. I’m just old enough to remember the farms of Peel County and the drive through the country on Highway 10 from Square One to Brampton. I can still see the name on the signs on the fence line as it was going up  – “The McLaughlin Group”. Here is an aerial shot from 1974, just to show I didn’t dream it:

square one 1974

Below is a more modern view of the same area. For the record, I had a crash pad in one of these condos for a time and would cycle to work in this madness. There is a trail by the Credit River that will take you quite a ways up or down through town but when you leave the safety of the path and head into the industrial zone, you’re taking a big chance when on two wheels. It was not a place built for the cyclist or pedestrian. There are no feel good bike boxes here, the GTA commute is total war. 

condo condo

Certain things can be saved or salvaged from the demolition if the will is there and they are movable objects. Around the time of Square One photo above (1974), the McLaughlin group made the effort to save the historic Cherry Hill House by moving it out of the way and turning it into a restaurant. It’s hard to believe but there are still a few surviving places like this left in Mississauga. 


Often the mall would get built around a house and it would remain in situ. The Mad Hatter Pub (now known as the Maharaja) is another example. The strip mall developer made an effort and a piece of history was saved. You can find it on a google map at 4646 Heritage Hills Boulevard. It is the only “heritage” left there. They tried, at least. 

mad hatter

It would take quite a bit of digging to determine whether these places were saved because the developer wanted to keep them, or had to. Regardless, the optics are pretty good and the developer still gets what they want. A win-win as they say in the corporate world.

It’s a bit more difficult to work around natural landscapes. Nature is more powerful than any bricks and mortar structure and when she finds an opening, she lets loose. She’s the dandelion in the sidewalk crack, the bats in your soffits, the mice under the cupboards, the oak tree square in the middle of the old foundation of a settler’s place long rubbed out. 

She’s the significant species of birds like American Redstarts and Northern Flickers listed on the 2005 environmental assessment of the “brownfield” known as the LaFarge Lands. Do they compile these reports because they want to or because they have to? We’ve known for years that the chainsaws are primed and waiting by the gates. Why pretend otherwise? A clearcut creates a climatization period. It gives everyone some time to get used to the blank canvas before the new buildings and parking lots arrive. Tonight’s scheduled drum circle memorial should convey a blessing at the mighty bur oak and make sure a shit ton of evidence photos are taken, as there seems to be a lot of communication problems on local development sites these days.


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.





And To Think I Once Saw A Mulberry On Neeve Street

On the day that Guelph was founded in 1827, a large maple tree was cut down to mark the occasion. John Galt and company knew that foundation stories need some panache, so chopping down an obstruction to make structural lumber carried great symbolism. Chainsaws or luxury condos were not a thing back then, nor was the patented early morning sneak attack so tree huggers don’t have time to quickly mobilize and shut them down. They didn’t put up a distillery where the mighty maple stood so that several generations later it would become part of an investment condo scheme. Whiskey was a mandatory 1800s lubrication requirement, much the same as craft beer is today. A commemorative plaque to remember the town’s first official tree assassination still stands in the shadow of the Metalworks development, whose sewage upgrade was the prime mover for the unceremonious removal of Neeve Street’s famed mulberry last week. The intention to preserve it was mentioned at every single community meeting and it’s removal proves that there are truly no fucks given when housing-as-commodity is on the horizon. I mentioned this at the meetings, were you there? Do you remember a city councillor screaming at me until his face turned red? There were lots of people around. Perhaps I dreamt it like Marco did in the Dr. Seuss book about Mulberry Street. I swear I saw a stacked townhouse tree lined future but in reality we got a multiplex of high-rises and forlorn stumps. Marco later got a gig writing promotional materials for real estate developments. 

what marco saw

We long term Ward settlers have been putting up with a lot of crap while the new investments are being built. This isn’t the usual temporary frosh week disruption of jocks  hollering and defecating in the middle of the road, pumped on Red Bull and vodka at 5am. Streets are closed for months, giant craters randomly open up, reversing machinery beeps incessantly, dump trucks gun it to and fro, equipment pounds at the bedrock all day while the workers toss hundreds of Nestle bottles into the pits in full view of the blue water preservation ribbons tied snuggly to trees still standing. No one should be surprised at the visceral reaction to our communal mulberry getting smoked, we’re all a bit testy as anyone would be when the neighbours are making a racket and disrupting the relative peace. You can leave our 100+ year old sewer pipes as they are down this way, thanks. The moment a potential upgrade is mentioned, you’ll know that the hood is destined for gentrification greatness and your blue ribbon’d tree, whose roots likely burrow deep into the old brick lined shit tunnels, is doomed. The 7am chainsaw is always primed and waiting along with the excuses – “it was a sub contractor!” “there was a communication problem” “we’ll plant a new one!” “your call is important to us”. What on earth made you think they actually care? Was it the organic coffee and plentiful biscuit trays at community input night? 

60 unit cluster

The very minute that the Woods factory was sold off to an equity fund was also the moment the death notice was signed for the Neeve Street mulberry. I filed away all of the handouts from those long ago meetings, when the stated goal was to incorporate as much adaptive reuse as possible and that no new buildings would ever be more than four stories high to preserve the character of St Patrick’s Ward. What a waste of paper and time. Back then, those that gathered at the Italian Canadian Club were ok with the official line. The consensus was yes to redevelopment, except maybe from the workers who lost their jobs when their factory was asset stripped and run into the ground, no different from the recent implosions of Sears and Stelco. Your stocks and shares in those companies are worthless now but don’t worry, there are new ways of creating and storing wealth in many tiny cubes stacked high for all to see. And never mind those anarchists mooching tree fruits at the gates dear investors, they will be dealt with. The Downtown West Bank Biltmore Metalworks Distillery District is one or two MPAC assessments away from being tear down central. It’s far too late to fight anything once the book value of the two bedroom clapboard shack has hit $500,000 deep within the Owens Corning hexavalent chromium inclusion zone. It will be over. (hello future reader in 2027! ps – I told you so)

If you are aspiring to preserve your neighbourhood and shape it’s future, a rock solid reliable, diverse and active community group presence is required, coupled with a cadre of headstrong city council contenders primed and ready to make a run to represent you. Griping about it after the fact on Friendface and on the blogs (!) will result in a zero percent slowing of the investment property / commodity housing takeover. If a cohesive resistive force doesn’t exist when the first snow job proposals are presented, it will not magically materialize once the white sign is hammered into the ground. The time to get at it was yesterday.



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 river Jordan but to the Eramosa, where a young man has taken up residence in a tarpaulin hut this Christmas Eve. He has plenty of ingenuity 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 minister to the poor are enjoying two stat holidays in a row so it will be days from now until somebody official could pay a visit. We can’t call the police to assist as there has been a crackdown on the rough sleepers lately. No one owns the slope by the river and he has claimed this tiny patch of it for now, let’s leave him be. He is harming no one.


Thankfully the weather forecast for the next few days is a mild one. Within sight of here there are countless new warm 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 them would likely not want this guy as a neighbour. Many seem to be preoccupied with their tax and condo fee bills and are quite vocal against 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 his tarpaulin hut. 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 nearby 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 nearby 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 also likely mulling over their year end bills, which will 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 will point to this place and say “your neighbourhood isn’t a food desert anymore” but a Cliff Bar however affordable is not a meal. Pricey snake oils from the homeopathy aisle will never 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 those in line. Our virtue signals seem to be on the wrong frequency. You’ll get the same reaction when expressing uncertainty about the sizes of Starbucks cups and holding up the queue for a nanosecond. Let’s get out of here.

We need to take the sketchy path behind the strip mall to get back 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 as quickly as he emerged. 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 Christian Bible is a detailed instruction manual regarding a follower’s obligation to the poor yet much more energy is spent during the holiday season hashing away at mall manger placement or whether a 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 may to step outside the annual crap fest to find that True Meaning you might be seeking.

Guelph anti-poverty advocates critical of scaled-back welfare increase



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.


Careful With That Knife, Kathleen

Everyone becomes a little bit socialist in a Canadian hospital emergency ward. I don’t know of a single incident of someone spending time in The Emerge who said “please let me pay for this” at the end of it. Those that have the means generally don’t settle for regular care but if a Lamborghini has collided with a Corolla and everyone is bloodied and unconscious, they all end up in the closest ER regardless. That is the key concept of our universal system; we are hopefully all given the same degree of quality care and you will not be billed whether you are of the one percent or homeless. There is usually a fee for the ambulance and a shake down to pay for parking but the service itself is mostly free, for now. If you want to keep it that way, you will need to fight for it at every turn or it will disappear. Illness is a guaranteed revenue stream and there are plenty of people out there that do not care where their wealth comes from, even if it is due to your misfortune. Such is the free market. The fact our universal system exists at all is a miracle.

My most recent visit to the emergency in a caregiver capacity was hellish but it wasn’t due to the staff in any way, it was the lack of them. I’ve never been in there on a full moon, which healthcare workers will tell you always makes for a wild time. Militarized police and security seemed to outnumber the workers on this particular night. Every other patient near us was in the midst of a mental health crisis and it looked as if security was tending to all of them until the police eventually came. Noticing me slouching in an old crappy chair, the head of security asked me if I wanted a warm blanket. She also asked how the patient was doing and that they would be with us shortly. I thought it odd, seeing as it’s not her job to do any of these things. A gap is being filled by default with the blurring of a well established line. Should a not much above minimum wage kid with minimal if any medical training be looking after a woman in a full emotional meltdown? Should four police who look like soldiers be the ones taking her to the Homewood across the street? Why do they seem surprised she is completely freaking out in their presence? Could she get shot? It’s happened before, metres from where I’m sitting and we’ve never officially found out what went down.

the day of the shooting

After several hours I was handed a plastic urinal and asked by a doctor to get a sample from the patient. I’m about as qualified as the average security guard when it comes to proper medical things, which is not at all. It didn’t go well. We were out in the hall in full view and the patient is old school and modest. After a bunch of grumbling from the patient I blurted out loud “sorry Chief, Im not a health care professional” which made two of them appear as if by magic. It wasn’t an intentional ploy. I speak the language though and my respect for them is deeper than they will ever know. I’m the actual socialist in the emergency ward. I want the urine samplers to be on a long Sunshine List stacked with front line workers. If our piss, blood, caca and puke is part of your day to day every day, they will never pay you enough. I love you all.

As much as I loathed the Harris Tories, their Sunshine List is a wonderful invention. When a report comes out such as the one this week that 250 nurses across the province are being laid off, the Public Sector Salary Disclosure becomes my point of reference. There are plenty of people on the list that deserve to be there. When I see a registered nurse, psychologist or pharmacist listed, I’m fine with that. Remuneration aside however, there seems to be an endless glut of directors and managers with no indication given as to what they actually do. Just what exactly is a Value Stream Leader and why does the Brant Community Healthcare System have 23 of them? What is a Total Rewards Manager? Does the Vice President of “People” at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario actually introduce himself using that ridiculous title? If I embrace my inner journalist and actively dig for answers, I’ll get the runaround. I saw a lot of well dressed folk with official ID badges swanning around while I knocked back antacids, hoping my tricky stomach was beat up due to stress rather than another round of the gastric thing I caught the last time that sidelined my caregiving duties for a week. I know full well what the doctors, nurses, blood technicians and cleaners are doing. I empathize with the worker who will promptly arrive with a mop if I barf on the Total Reward Manager’s shoes in the lift. Is it out of place within a socialized system to wonder out loud why there are countless administrators but the nurses who are in the trenches get let go in the name of cost effectiveness?


Guelph has managed to remain a small enough locale that you will run into people that you know, or at least recognize, everywhere you go.  The nurse up in the recovery ward was one of them this time. I’ve seen Paul walking down my street regularly but I didn’t actually meet him properly until I saw him on the job. We had a long wait trying to check out of the place, which seems to be where the Premier would really like patients to be if her prodigious use of the word “community” is anything to go by lately. It was a stake out of sorts; I wasn’t leaving without the patient and it took the whole day. If I’d have left him alone, they would have kept him another night. Paul was amazing, popping in regularly to check on this and that – he even walked us to the car to make sure all was well the whole time, never missing a beat in the collective mayhem. If Paul is part of the latest cutbacks, I will personally spend every available minute dedicated to the health care battle and endlessly harp at the government for accountability. I don’t really have any free minutes though, I’m too busy being a caregiver in the community due to the ebb and flow of People assets, thanks to the reimagined architecture of the staffing model paradigm blah biddy blah blah. Take me to your Value Stream Leader, Ive got an important message for them.

Clowns and Ghosts and Niqabs, oh my!

As of Sunday morning, 1.6 million people have been to the advanced polls on a holiday weekend when people generally have a bunch of other things to do. A record advanced turn out is expected. It’s a popular belief that people lose interest in elections when they bracket a holiday period or if the weather is crappy. Not so this weekend. Some lines were long and a bit of grumbling is understandable, with accusations of voter suppression not far behind. Thankfully, I was in a shortish line and had a bit of time to get caught up with a neighbour who always works at a poll. We high fived when I cast my ballot. The atmosphere was calm and respectful, a very Canadian scene with lots of thank yous and unnecessary use of the word “sorry”. The greeter outside was looking after a friendly little terrier who was not allowed into the zone. No word on which party has the best canine policy.

When the first flood of links popped up to stories of people dressing up to go and vote, I immediately assumed that it was in solidarity with Zunera Ishaq, the reluctantly famous woman who fought and won the right to become Canadian while wearing a niqab. Upon reading them I realized that even we die hard politicos get it incredibly wrong sometimes. She will likely eventually head to ballot box with her face covered, which has prompted the fancy dress from others in protest. Clowns, ghosts, mummers and a woman wearing a potato sack have all exercised their primary democratic right so far. Attempts to whip the masses into a frenzy of rage have clearly failed. If you show your ID and swear an oath that it is indeed you behind the gear – you’re good to go. You have every right to look as fabulous or idiotic as you want. Let’s have the next election on Hallowe’en. Bowls of candy will insure more record numbers. The Pirate Party will win the costume parade hands down.


Last week, a steady line of mostly young advanced voters graced the University Centre at U of G. In a new twist, the students were given the option this year of voting either locally or in their home ridings. Guelph’s on-campus special ballot in 2011 became infamous, as it was where Conservative operative Michael Sona made his first appearance in that campaign, raising a very public pre-robocall stink in the UC that may have been a bit of foreshadowing. This year, all was calm. Voting ran for four days and the line was longish so they formed two eventually. We old timers get a bit grumpy at the prospect of a long wait but for the young ones, having fully trained for such occasions in velvet rope night club situations or add/drop lines, would not be deterred. I witnessed at least one woman in a head covering, raring to go. No one blinked.

I have found that most of those who chronically complain about the government don’t bother to vote, with the most common excuse being “they are all the same”.  I usually last about one political conversation with anyone that admits to this, which usually ends in me telling them if that’s the reason they don’t vote, they need to shut the fuck up. I know lots of people that don’t vote that have a deep seated political reason not to and I respect that fully. One better is to show up and officially decline, which is also well within your rights. It can sow a bit of confusion though; a friend of mine was told when asking to exercise this option a few years ago that he should just spoil his ballot as it’s the same thing. It definitely isn’t and he held firm, not leaving until it was done. Numbers of declined generally don’t make the news, nor do the hundreds of fringe candidates on the margins, unless they are doing something interesting or wacky. But it’s all part of the process and every bit of it counts.

The big day is closing in fast.  You’ve probably heard enough at this point and have made up your mind. You may have already done the deed or are still thinking it over. Either way, please join the Open Sources team on election night from 8pm on, either on 93.3FM, live streamed at or in person at The Bullring until closing time (11pm). We should know by midnight who has got the gig. Congratulations in advance on doing your part to make the wheels turn.

lying pieces

In Search of a Plan B

The details aren’t clear yet and they may never be as to what exactly happened to Brandon Duncan in the Guelph ER. It is a near certainty though that if you are having a psychotic break with reality and happen to be holding something in your hand, the police will shoot you. It may be once, or a few times, or eight times but you will never be gently aided into care by people in white coats like in the movies. The cliche of the police standoff and takedown does apply however. It’s surrender or die. Time and again. I’ve looked hard to find such an incident that has ended peacefully in this country. If you know of one, I will gladly correct myself.

It is an automatic reflex action for a person to defensively reach for something when they feel threatened, regardless if the threat is real or imaginary. I’ve done it – half asleep thinking someone was breaking in to the basement, I found myself standing by the door with an aluminum bat in my hands with no idea how I got there or that we even had the damn thing lying around anymore. Deep in my mind there are memories of getting harassed by drunk jock assholes or having eggs lobbed at me by some clowns yelling “fag” or any number of altercations I’ve had with dickheads in one of the statistically safest cities in Canada. If you’re half asleep, you go in to automatic fight mode. If you have completely lost touch with reality, you’re still going to be on your guard. And if you don’t respond to angry armed voices screaming at you to “DROP IT!”, you will be shot. But is this necessary in absolutely every single instance? How can this possibly be the standard operating procedure? Does a plan B even exist?

The videos in the following links are violent and unsettling.

Sylvia Kilibingaitis called 911 herself, saying she had a knife and was going to kill her mother. The dash cam in the police car shows her heading for the officers, who had been screaming at her to “drop the knife”. She didn’t, so they shot her.

Michael Eligon was blocked in by multiple police cars and several officers with weapons drawn in the middle of a street. He was in a hospital gown carrying two pairs of scissors, ambling along on autopilot. He cannot drop them. From the second he enters the frame it’s obvious the situation will not end well.

Sammy Yatim was on a streetcar by himself with a knife, goading the police, calling them “pussies”. Countless officers were at the open front door. There didn’t seem to be an immediate threat to anyone except Yatim himself. He was shot multiple times, then tasered. He was 18.


These are only three of countless examples but the pattern is consistent. In police speak, the threat is always neutralized.

People in heightened emotional distress will grab whatever is handy when confronted and they aren’t going to part with whatever it is willingly, especially if someone in a uniform is yelling at them. It’s not as if you can suggest to people who are prone to altered states not to do this so they won’t get killed. The item could be (and has been) scissors, a kitchen knife, a lock and chain, a chair, a small coffee table, a stick. Thankfully, in Canada, it’s rarely if ever a gun. A witness to the incident at Guelph General said that the bleeding woman outside the ER yelled “help, my boyfriend is shooting at me!”. Accurate or not, this was the information the police went in with. There was blood on the pavement and the presence of gun was implied. Brandon Duncan, a man described as “sweet and gentle” didn’t have a chance. It is the absolute worst case scenario. It doesn’t help that the details are being kept quiet, unlike in other jurisdictions.

In 2013, the police in Iceland shot and killed someone for the first time in their history. The victim suffered from a mental illness and was randomly firing off a gun alone in his apartment. They tried to teargas him but he kept on shooting, hitting an officer in the helmet. They shot him but barging in with guns blazing was not the primary course of action. Violent incidents involving guns are rare in Iceland, even though per capita firearm ownership is very high. The entire nation, including the police themselves, went into mourning. They apologized to the man’s family and were genuinely remorseful about what had happened. Although their police structure is the same as other forces the world over, the model of applied policing they adhere to seems to be radically different. If the photos on their Instagram account are anything to go by, Icelandic cops are possibly the most likeable police force in the world. It’s time for them to widely share their methods.

cop with cat–we-should-remember-the-wonderful-person-and-all-his-gifts-/