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

Friday, December 21, 2007

A Christmas Remembered

They were nine and seven year old sisters. There had been a change in their circumstances but being so young, they didn't fully understand why they weren't going to live as a family in their own home any more. Grannie and Grampa were kind and Mum always did all the talking. Children were to be seen and not heard.

There was an older sister, a small brother and several aunts in the house. The little one spent a lot of time at the window each day, forehead leaning against the glass, face stained with tears as he watched his mother leave for work and waited for her to come back.

The girls still went to the same school but it was further away. Every morning Grannie left two pennies on the table to take the bus. The nine year old took charge of the money and they walked to school together. The money was saved though and that first Christmas, they had an entirely new experience.

Christmas Eve was a Saturday and it was dark and raining. Cobblestone streets were narrow, and lights from shops bounced and danced like raindrops on the wet pavement. In Scotland, rain and gloom dominate winter months and sometimes summer too. There was a pressing need for creature comforts, like a cheerful fire and good food. A chronic lack of sunshine creates a universal craving for sweet things.

There were Sweetie shops galore. M&Ms and Birrel's chain stores sold nothing else. Ice Cream Cafes were a delight. Variety was endless. Cream toffee in slabs had to be broken up with a small hammer, tablet was cut in squares and weighed in a shovel shaped receptacle on an avoirdupois scale.

On the walls behind the counter, tall glass jars filled with candy of every colour, shape and taste with hard and soft centres, lined the shelves. Caramels in a variety of flavours and brazil nuts encased in butter brittle were a mouth-watering attraction. Sticks of rock and lollipops came in a vast selection of shapes and facsimiles. Dates, ginger, jellies, and butter creams dipped in dark or light chocolate were displayed in rows in the long glass case that formed the counter.

For Christmas, the stores had fancy little cardboard boxes with carrying ribbons which held as little as two ounces. The excitement of choosing for this Aunt and that, for older sister and little brother was intense. Mum's favourites were Turkish Delight, chocolate covered ginger and dates.

For Grannie, they bought a cheese dish in the shape of a thatched cottage with climbing roses. There was no figuring going on and finally there was only fourpence -halfpenny left and Grampa's present was still not bought. In a newsagent and tobacconist shop window, pen knives clad in enamelled tartan were displayed on a card for sixpence each. Grampa cut his own tobacco. It was the perfect gift but there wasn't enough money left.

While they were gazing in the shop window, Aunt Peggy came by. There were six children in her house all younger than the sisters. The oldest was often sent to Grannie's house for a small loan for rent or some other essential. But the sisters knew nothing of that. All of their lives, Aunt Peggy had always lived next door to their former home. She shared everything .When she stopped to talk, they told her how much money they needed to buy the present for Grampa and she gave it to them.

They raced home laden with the bundles of small packages. Everyone was in the sitting room, the room with a cheerful fire burning. The sisters couldn't wait for Christmas Day. They immediately handed out the presents. There was surprise and delight all around.

Then it was over and time for the sisters to hang their stockings and go to bed.

But the stockings had disappeared. The search became desperate. Finally, they were made to understand, the stockings were not to be hung because there was to be no Christmas for them . Their circumstances had changed.

Waking up on Christmas morning each found at her side, a paper bag holding an orange, a bar of toffee and a penny.... from Grannie. Christmas stockings had never held much more. An apple and orange in the foot..a little white sugar pig with pink eyes and a teeny tail of pink yarn. A few chocolates in cellophane wrapping that crackled, sometimes a pomegranate, and a doll half in and half out of the stocking as it hung from the mantle where Santa had left it.

Christmases that followed had presents but the memory of that one would never be undone. It would haunt every Christmas thereafter.

In life, there are no guarantees because stuff happens and constant bliss is not much of a character builder. But when there are small children in the house, it is well to remember, a child's memory is a parent's legacy. It's the only one that matters Whatever creates a record of absolute clarity at a particular moment in time, is not itself clear... But there's a lesson to be learned and it is not about things.

Children should be able to trust that love given is love received.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Tis the Season.......

Season's Greetings and Merry Christmas Everybody!

Click this link for a wee bit of Christmas Cheer.

Wishing you health and happiness.


Tuesday, November 20, 2007


I was a child before and during the second world war. On November 11th at eleven o'clock we stood beside our desks in silence and contemplated the meaning of war. There were few families in Scotland who had not suffered loss. My mother's twenty-two year old brother had been killed at Dardanelles in Turkey. There was bitterness and grief still in my grandmother's house.

There was no talk of courage or glory or ultimate sacrifice just a realistic grasp of cruel and senseless slaughter and cold indifference to suffering.

When I grew older, after the Second War, my reading in large part was about various aspects of the recent war. It was long enough after the conflagration for propaganda to have been terminated. We had an accurate account of my own brother's death at twenty-one years of age. We knew the full horror and terror of his experience.

There is no dispute the Second War had to be fought. History however is not kind to the politicians in charge at the time of The Armistice and the years between. They made the Second War inevitable. My grandmother lived long enough to grieve again for a beloved grandson and to contemplate the horrifying details of his death.

When I attend a Remembrance Day Service, my thoughts are of senseless waste and the same thing happening over and over and politicians still yammering on about courage and valour and sacrifice, while they sit in a comfortable pew completely unaffected by the horror and sorrow they create by decisions they make

I did not attend Remembrance Day Service this year. I had two reasons. My remaining brother died at this time last year. I received the phone call on my way out to the Remembrance Day service. He was in hospital having survided a life-threatening episode but was not out of the woods yet. I spent most of the next seven days with him and all of the last three. I was glad to have been there, He needed me.

I remember the day he was born, when he took his first wobbly steps, when he started school and put his small hand in mine and held on tightly. When he came to Canada at twenty-one my house was his home. I know time heals. I know sorrow must simply be endured. I do not go where it is likely to be beyond endurance. Remembrance Day will forever be one of those places.

I had a second reason for not going. I thought I might be the only one who resents the new ceremony of the occasion. An endless succession of wreaths are laid by various commercial enterprises, a basket is opened to release a flock of pigeons, and a flock of politicians are prominent near the Altar of Sacrifice to open the basket.

This year I heard of two other people who have had the same reaction. The first a woman of my own years, turned down an offer by a younger relative to take her to the ceremony. She didn't want to go because it has become just another opportunity for politicians to show themselves off.

The second, a much younger woman, went to the Service and commented afterwards on the numbers of wreaths laid by various commercial enterprises. She feels the ceremony has been commercialized. It’s hard to criticise, when you know something is being done with the best of intentions. Still if it is not said, it will not be heard. Even if it is, things may not change. But it must be said, for there even to be a chance for change.

It is almost ninety years since the appropriate form of commemoration was decided. For two minutes at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, all activity is to stop, silence to reign, people to bow their heads and contemplate the hundreds of thousands of young lives lost, brothers, husbands fathers and sons. We inherited grief that never ends, that spills down through the generations

For two minutes, we silently contemplate the unspeakable horror that is war and realize, incredibly, for all the annual resolve, the fine words and sentiments, the bombast of Glory and Valour. War continues. In foreign places, in a society that bears no resemblance to our own, our children are still dying, their perfect bodies blown to smithereens by weapons manufactured by private industry in capitalist countries like ours.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Still about the Thanksgiving Feast

We had our feast at Heather and Andy's house. I shopped the day before. Robyn, my granddaughter and I stirred, chopped, broke bread and baked for several hours. Robyn moved easily about the kitchen, discovering her own skill.. She is thirteen years old.

We made scalloped potatoes. One dish with chives, one with cheese. Robyn had a mandolin and was eager to use it. I have been trying for months to make myself spend eighty dollars for such a gadget. Robyn found hers at a yard sale for five dollars . She sliced potatoes until her hand ached. Yukon Golds do not need to be peeled.

We created layers together. I placed each slice separately and precisely, Robyn picked up a handful and plonked them down, just like her mother would have done.

We made stuffing with brown bread, crumbed white bread for the sauce. It took four different places to find freshly baked bread. The loaf had heft and heavenly aroma. I cut off crusts and promptly buttered and ate the end slice.

Garden fresh chives and sage were chopped. Robyn did the footwork. She made pumpkin pies as well.

I found a new roasting pan for the turkey, stainless steel with a domed lid. The rack inside was its special attribute. It held the twenty-pound bird exactly. Strong, round handles at each end lifted it easily clear when it was done to golden perfection.

I marinated the beef with herbs on the eve and roasted it in my own oven on the day. The turkey was done at Heather's house.

Marnie shouted down the shaft from Barrie. "I am not doing punch any more". She baked pies, one pumpkin and one lattice apple - from scratch. Her mother told us how she came looking for unsalted butter no less.She also made an enormous basin of strawberry salad with strawberry dressing. It was eaten with gusto to the very last leaf.
Theresa was happy. She brought fizzy pop for the young ones. They were happy. They kept coming and hoisting bottles to pour drinks, because parents were too busy socializing to pay attention.

Patrick, my artist grandson, took the bus from Ottawa to come to the feast. Lizzie and Cameron were there as well.

Keenan, at whose house the feast was held, complained bitterly that I had adulterated the stuffing. I added a handful of dried cranberries to the sausage, sage and onion. Every crumb was eaten. But Keenan is a man of clarion conviction.He is all of twenty years old. Things have to be exactly how he anticipates them. I have no idea how he got to be that way.

The ham was baked the night before. It came with a packaged glaze. We dressed it with cherry centred pineapple rings and studded it with cloves. It was s-o-o good.

Heather didn't have time to bake her delectable little bites of buns but Rhonda stopped off at Molisano's bakery and bought fresh crusty dinner rolls. Heather came in time to serve the feast.

Marg and Doug, Andy's parents were there. Margaret has had a serious brush with the Big C. It was especially sweet to have them with us.

It was a true Fall day. Andy made a fire in the backyard. When grandchildren came in for drinks and hugs, hair and sweaters smelled of wood smoke.
The day came and went and was enjoyed by all. Nobody even noticed it wasn't at Grannie's house.


Thursday, September 27, 2007

So, Turn The Page Already!

If you live long enough, change and endings are inevitable. I will not gather my family together for Thanksgiving Dinner. this year. I am in the process of dealing with that.

It hasn't happened suddenly. It 's a long time since I did everything. The family grew. First were the children. Then they were teenagers with friends. After that, they were couples, then there were grandchildren. Sometimes the odd set of parents of spouses came, then friends of grandchildren. The numbers were always more than thirty and sometimes over forty.

I was obsessive about some things. A table or tables had to be set and Grace said. Plates needed to be hot and food steaming. Bread sauce called for onions and cloves to be soaked in milk on top of the stove all day, to be finished with soft white crumbs, cream and butter. Pies had to be home-baked, served still warm with freshly whipped cream

Cranberry sauce was made with orange juice and slivered almonds. One year I served it in cups of half oranges with the innards scooped out..... very pretty...never did that again.

The ham would be baked the day before and form part of the decor. In a clear amber coating with pineapple rings and studded with cloves, it held pride of place on the sideboard. Sausage stuffing with sage and onion was also made the night before. On the day, everybody stayed close to the kitchen. Stuffing had to be sampled and the rich gravy from the drippings sipped from a spoon. Grandchildren darted in like magpies to steal Aunt Heather's hot crusty buns as they came from the oven.

In time, gourmet vegetables and other dishes came from satellite homes. It all added to the festivity.

The talk would swell as the wine flowed and gales of laughter regularly erupted. My minstrel son, Frank, would sometimes bring his guitar - to the delight of all present. As grandchildren grew they joined the adult circle and shared in the sometimes raucous hilarity. But there were still always little ones tumbling about.

The change was gradual. My daughter Heather, without whose help the event would long have been impossible, put her foot down.

"You can't hope to sit everyone at a table, Mother. Give it up. Plates cups and cutlery have to be paper and plastic." Since she was in charge of the clean-up, that's how it came to be. It certainly made things easier.

Tipsy Trifle no longer appeared on the dessert table. Some desserts became store-bought but Brie cheese rounds baked in pastry and served with red-pepper jelly made a new and highly delectable appearance as an appetizer from the kitchen of Storm. Two types of punch were a resplendent display of strawberries, kiwi and star fruits, the creation of Marnie,. Theresa's Ceasar salad was a hit with everybody.

Then no-shows began. First one grandchild, then another and, inevitably, Thanksgiving at Grannie's became second choice on some years. .Other excitements beckoned. Now , the satellites are wider afield; London, Peterborough, Ottawa, Sudbury, Seattle and Korea for goodness sake.

Heather, who has been a stay-at-home mother, acquired skills in election organizing. When it's happening, the task is almost twenty-four/seven. She has long been my co-host, my election campaign organizer, my manager and involved with sundry other tasks too numerous to mention. Without her, Thanksgiving dinner would have been beyond me years ago. This year, a provincial election overlaps Thanksgiving.

This family has been almost sixty years in the making. I brought two sons from England. Then there were three more and two daughters. They envied their friends family reunions. So I built it for them. I nurtured it, it grew and flourished. Now they are each other's friends.

Grandchildren know their cousins as blood brothers and sisters. There are no family feuds.. Thanksgiving gatherings have always been a joy. My task is done.

Am I sad? Not at this moment.

I have often pondered the question, at what point does a parent stop being a parent.? Is it when children become adults? No, not then. There is no precise moment. But on the basis of my experience, I have to say, if children have been raised to stand on their own feet, there comes a time when they do exactly that and there is no longer a parental role.

Mine have been independent many times longer than they were dependent. I have grown accustomed to the fact.

This year, Thanksgiving at Grannie's house will not be.. It may never happen again the way it was. Was it precious?.... .. Indeed it was......Indeed it was.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

The Daily Tabloid

I am convinced my daily newspaper is contorting itself into a tabloid. The realization has been gradual. Royson James has been a beacon of gloom for some time. He has a daily column and presents as an expert on all things municipal. No reference is offered for his expertise. Nothing he writes reveals familiarity with the workings of any city in Ontario.

He recently offered ten bullet points to resolve the city's financial woes. Raising taxes was not one. It seems Toronto has a real aversion to raising property taxes to pay for needed services. Apparently they do not care for user fees either.

James first suggestion was for elected officials to surrender their perks: free passes to the zoo and city golf courses. He acknowledges giving up "freebies" would not save much. It would be a symbolic. Well hell, it's numbers that make the bottom line, not symbols.

How many times does a person visit the zoo? Why does the city own and operate golf courses? Shirley Hoy, city manager, says they will close a month early to save money. Why not sell the golf courses, make a few million and save a whole lot of money?

The paper had another story recently, complete with picture; a man with a baker's tray full of chinese dumplings. The dumplings were said to be filled with ground up corrugated cardboard laced with toxic stuff for flavour. I was horrified. A couple of weeks later, on an inside page, it was revealed the dumpling story had been a hoax . A Chinese reporter had gone to jail for reporting it. The Toronto paper however had printed it.

The final fable was about an American study of seniors’ sexual activity. It seems seniors had told researchers that x number between the ages of 75 and 85 years old are giving or receiving oral sex x times a month.

The fact these were face to face interviews was offered to verify the accuracy of the study. The story ended with a quote from Dr. Ruth, a seventy-nine year old sex therapist who gained fame from her frank, free, and joyful discussion of sex. She told the reporter she never answers personal questions.

That left me to imagine a group of anonymous seventy-five to eighty-five year olds being questioned by an earnest, youthful researcher about whether and how often they had given or received oral sex.

"Oh sure. Of course. We seniors are as hip as you juniors. How many times d'you think?"

Wink wink. Nudge nudge. How's your father

Today is the day I cancel my subscription to the Daily Tabloid. I need to be able to believe what I read. I have never subscribed to the Toronto Sun. I cancelled the Globe and Mail when it started emulating the Sun. The National Post never appealed. As much as I like turning pages, from now on I intend to choose what I read from outlets on the internet.

Monday, September 3, 2007

A Pat On The Back - www.Auroran.com

HEATHER'S NOTE: We've just learned that The Auroran is now online. I'm thrilled, because this means I can read the paper online, and can refer to it any time. I'm going to make an effort to link all of Evelyn's letters to the editor to the page on The Auroran's site. Kudo's to Ron Wallace and his team for their efforts and accomplishments. Keep up the good work!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Caustic Barbs

I have a reader who dislikes me intensely. I would have thought my last post would not have offended anyone. I didn't write it so I don't take credit for it. I feel though it is a very positive outlook on life and an encouraging one for anyone who fears old age may be the down time. of life. It is not.

Those of us who are fortunate to have achieved elder status know the trials and tribulations of life better than the generation behind us. We know something of our grandparents experiences, our parents, our friends and our childrens and their friends and now our grown-up grandchildren. We have numerous comparators to judge that we can be grateful for our lot.

My critical and unknown correspondent is intent on proving that I am a worthless human being. She claims I am small-minded and mean to the unfortunate voters who elected me. She does not identify herself however, nor does she cite a particular example of my perfidy.

Given the sparseness of evidence, it is difficult to understand just what my anonymous correspondent wants from me. Probably nothing. So, why I wonder, does she persist in reading what I write. It seems to me a waste of her time and not conducive to peace of mind.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Lazy Bones Lying in the Sun

The title tells all. It has been a glorious summer. My grandchildren and their friends have enjoyed the pool in my backyard more than ever before. I am not the lifeguard but I tend to be on the deck watching them all the time all the same. Then there is the time I spend in the pool myself by myself. I like that.

I am not a great multi-tasker. If I am writing, I need to do that and only that. The time whizzes by and before I know it I have spent the better part of a day sitting at the computer. I don't want to spend the summer days doing that, I want to watch my grandchildren in the pool.

So that is what I have been doing.

Yesterday, someone sent me the following piece . It is so close to my personal philosoophy I
could have written it myself. It is too great to keep to myself. It should be shared.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

My Reaction to My Age

Author unknown

The other day a young person asked me how I felt about being old. I was taken aback, for I do not think of myself as old. Upon seeing my reaction, she was immediately embarrassed, but I explained that it was an interesting question, and I would ponder it, and let her know.

Old Age, I decided, is a gift. I am now, probably for the first time in my life, the person I have always wanted to be. Oh, not my body! I sometime despair over my body, the wrinkles, the baggy eyes, and the sagging butt. And often I am taken aback by that old person that lives in my mirror (who looks like my mother!), but I don't agonize over those things for long.

I would never trade my amazing friends, my wonderful life, my loving family for less gray hair or a flatter belly. As I've aged, I've become more kind to myself, and less critical of myself. I've become my own friend.

I don't chide myself for eating that extra cookie, or for not making my bed, or for buying that silly cement gecko that I didn't need, but looks so avant garde on my patio. I am entitled to a treat, to be messy, to be extravagant. I have seen too many dear friends leave this world too soon; before they understood the great freedom that comes with aging.

Whose business is it if I choose to read or play on the computer until 4 AM and sleep until noon?

I will dance with myself to those wonderful tunes of the 60&70's, and if I, at the same time, wish to weep over a lost love ... I will.

I will walk the beach in a swim suit that is stretched over a bulging body, and will dive into the waves with abandon if I choose to, despite the pitying glances from the jet set. They, too, will get old.

I know I am sometimes forgetful. But there again, some of life is just as well forgotten. And I eventually remember the important things.

Sure, over the years my heart has been broken. How can your heart not break when you lose a loved one, or when a child suffers, or even when somebody's beloved pet gets hit by a car? But broken hearts are what give us strength and understanding and compassion. A heart never broken is pristine and sterile and will never know the joy of being imperfect.

I am so blessed to have lived long enough to have my hair turning gray, and to have my youthful laughs be forever etched into deep grooves on my face. So many have never laughed, and so many have died before their hair could turn silver.

As you get older, it is easier to be positive. You care less about what other people think. I don't question myself anymore. I've even earned the right to be wrong.

So, to answer your question, I like being old. It has set me free. I like the person I have become. I am not going to live forever, but while I am still here, I will not waste time lamenting whatcould have been, or worrying about what will be. And I shall eat dessert every single day. (If I feel like it!)

Friday, June 15, 2007

Writer's Block

I have created my own blocks to my blog writing. I recently engaged in a discussion with someone who preferred to be anonymous. The issue was my childhood recollection of a penny bank on a neighbour's mantle. I may have seen it only once. It is the only artifact in that room that I do recall. I would possibly have been four year's old or younger at the time.

My correspondent was determined to prove my racism from my sharing that memory. Oddly enough the frustration I felt from that exchange came from the fact the correspondent was anonymous. He knew who I was. I did not have the same advantage. I have decided I will not engage again unless I know the name of the person offering an exchange of ideas.
Then there were the e-mails I received from Councillor McEachern and her invitation to publish. That was tempting. But I knew my instinct was not pure.

I could not come up with a justifiable reason .. I tried, but I am no paragon of virtue. I too crave revenge. All it did though was stop me from thinking about other blogs that might be of interest.

So now I have cleared the obstacles to objectivity, my muse will no doubt return.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Another Pat on the Back

HEATHER'S NOTE: Below is an email exchange between Evelyn and a young Aurora citizen. I thought this was definitely worth posting. I've removed the young man's name.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Name Removedl" <_________@aci.on.ca

Sent: Saturday, May 26, 2007 12:00 AM
Subject: Regarding your Blog

Dear Ms. Buck:

My name is ______________, a local Aurora resident (recently 18 years of age), and an avid reader of your blog online. I just wanted to take the time to comment on a recent town council meeting I had the opportunity to watch in which you suggested the potential for publishing town
council meetings onto the Town of Aurora's website. I think this is an excellent idea. It's not always convienient to sit down and watch ACI's channel 10 at the prescribed times that town council meetings air, and I think this would be an excellent way to make local politics more
accessible to people of younger ages.

On that note, I just wanted to comment / commend you on your adopted use of technology to get your ideas across. I take great pleasure in reading your blog, and I have quoted your writing in several occasions in politics papers I have written for various assignments.

Thank you for making your viewpoints, idealisms, and thoughts accessible for everyone. Your transparency in those matters has not only increased my interest in municipal politics, but it has driven me to pursue involvement in it.

Sincerely yours,

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

One Potato....Two Potato...

I have had comments.. to my blog. Heather says I should not presume to know from whence they came. But I do. They always have the same tone. The last comment was that I obviously have no idea how much I am revealing of myself when I write.

I have lived for more than three-quarters of a century. If you can't imagine that length of time, don't worry. I have trouble myself realizing it and it is my time. I have been writing blurbs of one kind or another for almost half a century. Reading other people's offerings for longer than that. Nothing reveals more about a person than their writing. It is the reason most active politicians are reluctant scribes...ergo anonymous.

Writing what I thought about a particular situation was my first political act, although I did not know it at the time. Not until a neighbour suggested I should make a bid for a council seat. When I was elected and others were not, an oft heard comment was ”I guess we should be writing letters to the editor.”

Had they asked, I would have told them - what you write reveals everything . You can't fake it when you write it.

If you are full of bluff and bluster, it shows. If you are full of bile and other digestive byproducts, it shows. If your logic is adrift and shifts in the breeze, oh dearrie me yes, it will show.

Of course I know how much I reveal . I do it consciously because I know I can strike a chord. I believe we are all the same under the skin. We are as good as the best and better than the rest.

I want people to trust their own judgment, make up their own minds, let no-one tell them what to think or how to vote. Look for someone to trust because they showed their respect by being forthright about themselves.

I do not believe a person should have to pretend they are something they are not to be able to win public office. I passionately disbelieve the right to govern belongs to the elite of society.

Furthermore, if Winston Churchill had not been raised as an elite, he could undoubtedly have made great strides to improve the system for which he had nothing but contempt.

Maybe just maybe, in this speck of the world, I might be able to use my opportunity to sow a small seed in an effort to increase participation in our political process. Is that too large an ambition? Or is that just what every person with the privilege of living in a society such as ours should be doing?

Monday, May 28, 2007


HEATHER'S NOTE: Spring is a time for change, rebirth, and rejuvenation. To that end, Evelyn and I are revamping both her website, and the blog. I know that some readers have this blog tagged as an RSS feed - so I thought a new post would alert you to all that's transpiring.

Please visit Evelyn's Website Itself to see what we're up to. I'm still learning something new every day and so the site will continue its metamorphosis. For those of you using an RSS feed - you might want to set one up from the new site as well. ~HEATHER SISMAN

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Noah's Modern-Day Plight

In the year 2007, the Lord came unto Noah, who was now living in Canada, and said, "Once again, the earth has become wicked and over-populated, and see the end of all flesh before me.

Build another Ark and save 2 of every living thing along with a few good humans."

He gave Noah the blueprints, saying, "You have 6 months to build the Ark before I will start the unending rain for 40 days and 40 nights."

Six months later, the Lord looked down and saw Noah weeping in his yard - but no Ark.

"Noah!" He roared , "I'm about to start the rain! Where is the Ark?"

"Forgive me, Lord," begged Noah, "but things have changed. I needed a building permit. I've been arguing with the inspector about the need for a sprinkler system. My neighbors claim that I've violated the neighborhood zoning laws by building the Ark in my yard and exceeding the height limitations. We had to go to the Development Appeal Board for a decision.

Then the Hydro One demanded a bond be posted for the future costs of moving power lines and other overhead obstructions, to clear the passage for the Ark's move to the sea. I told them that the sea would be coming to us, but they would hear nothing of it.

Getting the wood was another problem. There's a ban on cutting local trees in order to save the spotted owl. I tried to convince the environmentalists that I needed the wood to save the owls - but no go!

When I started gathering the animals, an animal rights group sued me. They insisted that I was confining wild animals against their will. They argued the accommodation was too restrictive , and it was cruel and inhumane to put so many animals in a confined space.

Then the Ministry of the Environment ruled that I couldn't build the Ark until they'd conducted an environmental impact study on your proposed flood.

I'm still trying to resolve a complaint with the Human Rights Commission on how many minorities I'm supposed to hire for my building crew. Immigration and Naturalization are checking the Visa status of most of the people who want to work. The trades unions say I can't use my sons. They insist I have to hire only Union workers with Ark-building experience.

To make matters worse, the Revenue Canada seized all my assets, claiming I'm trying to leave the country illegally with endangered species.

So, forgive me, Lord, but it would take at least 10 years for me to finish this Ark."

Suddenly the skies cleared, the sun began to shine, and a rainbow stretched across the sky. Noah looked up in wonder and asked, "You mean you're not going to destroy the world?"

"No," said the Lord. "The government beat me to it."

Monday, May 14, 2007

Prejudice and Its Absence

I have learned some of my readers have no interest in blogs on town matters but they do enjoy the personal ones. It occurs to me the web site would be the best place for town matters and the blog for the personal. My website is being updated, for the first time, by my friend Heather. It is taking time. In that time, the winter has ended. My garden is tugging at me for attention and the warm sunshine is an enticement to be outdoors.

I have also discovered Facebook. Most of my grandchildren and some of their friends have claimed me as a friend. It is another reason to look forward to each day.

I had an anonymous comment on my Scarlet Fever Blog this morning. “Anonymous” thought my reference to a penny bank which was in the shape of “the bust of a black man” was “an offensive and derogatory term”.

The penny banks were made of iron. The colour was applied so that it never chipped or faded. I have seen them for sale in antique stores. They look smaller than I remember them. Canada was not an industrialized society until after the second world war. Manufactured items were, in the main, imported from other places. That must be why so many items familiar to my childhood, are almost as common here as they are there.

There were very few black people in the place where I grew up. I recall nothing offensive or derogatory about being black. Nor was there anything offensive or derogatory about being Jewish. It seems we were not touched by these lethal prejudices.

The only class deemed to be offensive or derogatory in my particular part of Scotland were Catholics. I was one of those. I can't say I ever felt my religion to be a blight on my life. Of course, that may have had something to do with the teaching that we were the only ones who ever had a chance of entering Heaven and seeing God. It wasn't much of a chance mind you, considering we were all such sinners and all.

Yet even the institutionalized bias against us never did impress itself upon me. Nor does it seem any of the previous generations of my family on hand were ever particularly unhappy about their state in life.

I think, it may be, that those who find it easy to criticize others and use terms like “offensive or derogatory” with regards to people or penny banks, may very well be the ones most negatively affected by their own thinking.

I bid them peace.

Monday, May 7, 2007

One for the Wake

It was a great day. Winter was over. There may be a few frosty mornings yet but it's a time when things happen in the garden in a matter of hours - if you don't stop to watch you miss it. It won't happen again for a year . . who knows where you will be then. I had two choices I could sit on the deck at the back or I could start the tidy-up at the front.

The clematis at the front door has needed attention since fall. Last year it climbed to the eaves; a bit lost among the Swedish Ivy. Then it pulled the ivy off the wall and tumbled in a heap into the garden below. It is a tangled mess and if I don't get at it, it will start putting out leaves on what appear to be dead stems and I will have a hard time cutting it back. The clematis won out over the deck.

I went in with the calipers. I figured I could stand long enough if I leaned against the wall, but I couldn't. Then I considered my options. I'd just flooded the bed with rain and melted snow from the pool cover. The metal tube legs of the stool would simply penetrate the soil. The pink plastic chair had wider legs. They might stay on the surface.

I can't ask my son to do this kind of garden chore. He does a great job of cutting grass, edging beds and digging out weeds. I used to do that happily for hours. I can't tell him that. Sons don't like to be told they have inherited any of mother's eccentricities. Not my sons. If I ask him to do any of the finicky chores, I will, in effect, be inviting him to tell me it's time to reduce the garden. Under no circumstances will I open that door.

I put the pink plastic chair in the garden in front of the clematis and sat in it and started chopping. . . not exactly chopping. . . . more like gnawing. Clematis vine is a skinny scrawny dry thing but it's tougher than rope. As I wrestled I didn't notice the chair sinking. That's when I realized I had made no provision for getting out of that chair.

I examined my options. My cane was out of reach and it would not have been any help anyway. The snow shovel was near to hand. I was sitting in the sun. I was comfortable. My back was to the street. I had been contemplating a snooze on the back deck. Maybe I would just snooze for a bit. In time, my son may drive by and notice me sitting in an odd spot.

My neighbour might come out to put something in the garbage box. It has a heavy lid, no doubt to foil the raccoons. It seems every time it is opened, it is opened high and allowed to drop shut. At times it seems they are visiting the garbage box every five minutes. They wont see my predicament because of the cedar hedge. I could call and ask if they would phone my son and ask him to come round for a minute.

The afternoon was early - not yet time for people to come home from work. But I am still comfortable. The sun is still warm. I consider other options. The clematis vine is strong. It is tangled in the ivy. I could pull myself up out of that chair. It was risky. If the clematis could pull the ivy off the wall, the chances it would stay put against my weight were slim to nothing. If I took the chance, I might end up sprawled on my back with my legs in the air. Not an option.I notice that I am seated close to a thorny rose. I have been close to that rose before and suffered the consequences. I also notice I have sunk further - my shoes are stuck in the muck. If I move my feet, my shoes will not come with them.

For no reason that I can think of, I recalled a story oft told by my mother. She had to send off a government form in the window envelope provided. It came back to her by return post. Puzzled, she examined it - found nothing she could change and sent it off again. Back it came. Now she was really angry. More typical government stupidity, she thought. Sent it off again. Like clockwork it returned. Finally. the light dawned, every time she folded the form her own name and address were in the window.

The recollection comforted me. If I ever get out of it, this story will be a good one for the wake.

I positioned the snow shovel like the mast in a boat. The shovel part was between me and the thorny rose. The chair had tilted. The rear left leg sunk further than the other three. I put my hand over the side and it rested firmly on the dirt. It was an easy roll out of the chair onto my knees. I wrestled the chair from it's sunken position and manouvered it forward - inches at a time. I crawled behind it until it reached solid brick and finally I hoisted myself upward.

Hands, arms, knees and bare feet were mucky but undamaged . I rescued myself from ignominious circumstance and the story is mine and mine alone to tell. . . or not.

I haven't heard my cousin Eileen, in Scotland, laugh like that since the last time I was there. She was telling me how she was starting to forget things. . . I said. . . “That's nothing - wait till I tell you this!”

Thursday, April 26, 2007

A Promise Not Kept.

Three years ago The Aurora Historical Society at their request, negotiated a legal agreement with the Town of Aurora to take responsibility for the interior renovations of the venerable Church Street School and for the eventual operation of the completed project as a Heritage Centre.

Last week, the Society decided by a vote, the over-all responsibility was too great for a volunteer organization to handle. Council was informed through a staff report received on Monday April 23rd and discussed during a joint meeting between council and The Society.

During the three years of the agreement, considerable work was undertaken. False ceilings, constructed decades ago to conserve energy were removed to reveal original tin tiles. Windows were re-glazed with authentic single-paned glass. Some of the the work was done by volunteers some of it was paid for by the Society and they continued to raise funds to complete the renovations. Council had no input in these matters. The last thing the town paid for was $117 thousand for a sprinkler system.

Late in the last term of council, a motion was presented, recommending sufficient funds be provided to allow the project to be completed. At that time, The Historical Society had been successful in raising $800,000. The estimated cost of the project was $1.2 million. Subsequent meetings between staff and the Society indicated the funds needed would be substantially more than first expected. Figures floated at that time were $1.5 million.

In the current term, for budget discussion, a motion was again presented to make the financial commitment to realize completion of the project. Further discussions were held to ascertain anticipated costs . A new motion was made that Council meet in camera to become educated in the history of Church Street School, Library Square and the disposition of the remaining Hydro asset, namely the building on Industrial Parkway. The motion failed on a five/four vote.

On March 20th , Council was informed architects had been retained and plans completed to terms of reference of The Historical Society . $100 thousand of their resources had been expended on those services. Council received a presentation and an outline of the plans and finally the estimated costs of the project. The figure had increased to $2.2 million plus a number of other items to bring the costs to almost $3 million.

It is currently recommended, resources be withdrawn from the Hydro Reserve Fund sufficient to cover the entire cost of the project. A bylaw passed by the previous council requires that notice of thirty days be given for funds to be withdrawn from the Hydro Reserve. The whole council must be present for the vote.

There will be an open house in the Church Street School at the end of May.The public will be able to view the plans. Council will have an opportunity to examine the plans and determine that they will meet the different needs of a town operated facility.

I have serious misgivings.

Until last Fall, the understanding has always been The Historical Society would, by their own commitment and with their funds, turn the Church Street School into a functioning Heritage Centre. Since 1969, millions of dollars had already been expended. Until last Monday, The Society was committed to the responsibility of operating the facility after its completion.

They have undertaken certain works - the main one being the retention of architects and completion of plans to fulfill their design.

Without prior consultation, and despite a legal agreement they sought themselves, the Society has withdrawn from their commitment.

As a consequence, the town is being backed into a decision with long range implications. Namely, the operation and staffing of a facility, including a museum, having had no input in the design process - with operating costs and staff funded from a tax levy. Millions more than anticipated are to be withdrawn from an asset belonging to the community-at-large.

I am not confident the public interest is being duly served. There has been no time for transparency - no opportunity for reflection or for participation.

The public have no idea of what is proposed.There has been no opportunity for a consensus to be taken.

I take no comfort from these circumstances.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Sheppard's Fields

I only had one concern about the decision to use artificial turf on the Sheppard's bush soccer fields.

The town does not own the property and $600,000.00 is a sizable chunk of change to spend on property we don't own.

We have an understanding with South Lake Simcoe Conservation Authority. But they do not own it either. I think it's time we proposed to Ontario Heritage the property should be turned over to the town for a dollar. It's not that crazy. but it is another story.

Right now, there are many people in town upset because of the understanding we are adding six hundred thousand dollars to the tax bill to do this project .. In fact taxes are not being used for this purpose. The money has been obtained from development. It was taken as cash in lieu of parks and can only be used for recreational purposes. According to provincial regulations, 90% of a recreation project can be paid for with development charges, 10% must be paid for by the community.

Leisure Services Director Al Downey suggested to the soccer association, they should pay the 10%, and they agreed. Installation is being done by our parks department. No money is being spent that doesn't need to be spent.

People have written about the beauty of natural grass. It is beautiful but it's not natural. Herbicides must be used on the fields to keep them in that condition. They can only be played on twice a day. They cannot be used at all in wet weather. Maintenance is heavy for such limited use.

The advantages of artificial turf are several. There is no need for herbicides. Maintenance is minimal. Snow can be cleared from it, , allowing it to be used for extra months. The location already has lights, so it can be used in the dark. Unlimited games can be played on this material.

We are currently dependent on a number of private fields to accommodate the sport. Even so, we are under continual pressure to provide additional facilities. The numbers keep growing. That is something I wonder about.

The sum and substance of artificial turf is that the stuff is practical. It has been used elsewhere and is proven. It is not cheap, but the money used to pay for it must be used for this or a similar purpose . It substantially increases the use of the Sheppard's fields. It saves on maintenance. It takes off the pressure to provide more fields.

I am not inclined to extravagance with my own or the town's resources. I believe the decision is sound.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Scarlet Fever and other Memories.

Logan has spots. They can't be chicken pox. He's had that. Neither can they be measles. He's been vaccinated. I suggested the only other thing was Scarlet Fever. The doctor said it's likely a strain of the streptococcus bacteria. His mother looked it up and discovered when strep erupts through your skin, that’s Scarlet Fever.

Years ago, Scarlet Fever was classified as a Childhood Infectious Disease. The patient was carried off in a red blanket to Isolation Hospital. Brothers and sisters had to stay off school and the house had to be fumigated. A bucket would be placed in the centre of a room. Something was activated and the doors sealed with sticky tape. We had to stay out for a matter of hours.

Whether or not it was effective, I have no idea.

Houses were two rooms usually but some were one. Entire families would sleep in a couple of beds. My father and brother slept in one. My mother, two sisters and myself in the other. The beds were called set-in beds. They were like cupboards in the wall with curtains that could be closed across the front. The platform would be high enough to store stuff underneath. Like the wicker basket full of laundry and a wooden rocking horse with hair that came from my paternal grandmother's house. We never got to play with it.

Most of the living was done in the kitchen. The coal range was there. Also the sink, with a cold water spigot. Light was a gas mantle above the fire. There was a communal wash-house in a corner of the yard, with a row of four coal cellars on either side. Backing on to the wash-house and therefore behind the wall formed by the coal cellars was the communal lavatory. It was so old, the stone slab where feet rest ed was worn to a hollow. I never remember it being anything but clean. There were eight families with numerous children using that lavatory. The door was held shut by a big rock. The top and bottom edges of the door looked like they had been gnawed at. What had originally been a knothole in the centre had grown to nine inches long and four wide. You might say it was weather-beaten.

Families took turns scrubbing and cleaning. There were never any arguments about it.

was a drying green at the end of the yard. Between it, and the wall formed by the coal cellars, each tenant had a patch of garden. They grew their own vegetables and most had a rhubarb patch.

Wee Donald McNab had a "midden" - a compost pile. Donald grew sweet peas in his garden as well as vegetables. He worked at the shipyard. He had a trade. He and wife Maggie had four children - Allan, Margaret, Willie and wee Donald. They had Sunday clothes, books to read, and they got comics every week.

Mrs. McNab, always had sweeties. Her children would get one most evenings.Sometimes she would share. She also had a penny bank. It was a bust of a black man and sat on the mantlepiece. The jacket was red and the tongue came out to receive the penny.

The gas meter took pennies. If you ran out of gas and pennies, you had no light . We went to bed and told stories when that happened. There were often disputes about the pennies and why they needed to be there.

My father smoked Will's Woodbine cigarettes. They came in little paper packets of five. They were cheap. He also rolled his own "fags". The old men smoked pipes. Some old women smoked little white clay pipes. That was considered pretty low class.

Wee Donald's mother lived close by. Everyone knew her as Auld Granny McNab. She wore skirts to the ground, a black shawl over her shoulders and her hair in a bun. She wandered about talking to herself and searching for her "Babby". She picked up little bits of stick wherever she found them and frequently came banging on Wee Donald's door in the middle of the night, crying for her lost "Babby”. It seems a baby had died and she had lost her mind. Whether at the same time I do not know. Granny was a sad, forlorn and familiar creature in the world of my childhood.

Like the rest of the men, Wee Donald got drunk on Saturday
night. Maggie had to wait up for him. His habit was to lie on the floor and kick everything within reach. So, Maggie stayed up to remove his boots. Then the only thing he could hurt were his feet and that helped to stop the kicking.

The door into their house was less than three feet directly across from ours. In the evening, quite often, Mrs McNab and my mother would stand in their respective doorways, arms folded, leaning on the door jamb. Mrs McNab would talk and my mother would regularly interject "Uhuh."

My father, sitting by the fire, behind the door,
surrounded by his children, would repeat it softly every time my mother said it. There was no wireless and no television. Sometimes there was no light and never were there any pennies to spare.

But there was laughter as well as tears and an awareness of other people's lives.

Intuition versus Cold Clammy Calculation

Bill Cosby was a guest on David Letterman’s program. Letterman was celebrating his sixtieth birthday.

Cosby's current humour is about aging. He said he has not taken to the computer. He is a Number 2 Yellow. All he needs is a piece of paper and a pencil.

Cosby is an old-fashioned comic. His humour comes from things that happen in everybody's life. He is not lewd. He has no use for unacceptable language. He is as astute now as he ever was. Still, if he has never used the computer, he knows not what he misses. There lies a field with an ever-ready harvest.

I am not proficient in the use of this technology but I continue to marvel at the material available at the tips of my fingers.

I have mentioned my dislike of Stephen Harper as the Prime Minister of Canada. These days the media are full of verbiage about how he has taken hold of the office. The Liberals lost the last election. He slipped into the void.

They fill the pages with irrelevant chatter about Belinda Stronach's personal associations but tell little about Stephen Harper's significant apprenticeship.

The morning after election, they showed him taking his children to school in his great coat and leather gloves. He shook hands with his very young son at the school gate.

Yesterday, when I was writing the Vimy Ridge Blog, I thought I had better verify my understanding of this man's background. Why is it, I wonder, so easy for me to find what everyone should know yet journalists, who make their living from communication are content to skim the surface of this particular pool?

I met someone in Aurora during an election in the seventies who claimed to be a Libertarian. He was eager to explain the philosophy. I thought then that must be what fascism is about.

People should take care of their own needs. They dont need government to do it for them. People who can't take care of their own needs should just be allowed to fall by the wayside. It's the law of the jungle. The survival of the fittest. It is the mantra of people without a social conscience.

I remembered the full page ads of the National Citizens Coalition which was the Libertarian group. I went into Wikipedia to confirm what I knew.

They claim membership of thousands but don’t release names. They collect dues but hold no membership meetings. They have legally challenged electoral financing laws limiting third-party advertising spending during election campaigns.

The organization was founded in 1967 by a wealthy insurance executive named Colin M. Brown, to fight against the creation of Public Health Care. The American Medical Industry involved themselves heavily in that fight.

In 1993, they supported Stephen Harper's successful bid to be elected as a Reform Party M.P. In 1997, he resigned his seat to become a Vice President of the organization. In 1998, he became President. In 2002, he resigned as President to seek the leadership of the Canadian Alliance Party.

We all know about the deal the Canadian Alliance made with potato-head Peter McKay to take over the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada. That which was made moribund by that other Champion of Self-Sufficiency, Brian Mulroney. It was a deal McKay promised he would not make.

The trail is still fresh. Nothing is secret about Harper's path to power. Still the media makes only purring noises about his success as a Prime Minister. Even as he shows them nothing but the back of his hand.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Rationale for War - or the Lack Thereof

The anniversary of Vimy Ridge has kept my thoughts churning this week. All those young men who died for a piece of real estate. More than three thousand and that was only the Canadian half. There were probably at least that many from the other side. I'm not even sure who the axis were in that war.

Canada had a sparse population. Those who died were the country's future. Young women were left without husbands. Families were never born. Men who came home were haunted by the horror for the rest of their lives. Mothers and fathers carried their grief to the grave.

It was called The Great War, an odd name for something that caused so much death and destruction.

Then, twenty years after the slaughter ended,it started again and thousands more died. They called it World War Two.

After that, the Europeans decided it must never happen again. They formed a Union to make sure .

But now, for us, it is happening again. Only not in the same place and not for any reason we can discern. We are not defending ourselves from an enemy.

On the ceremonial platform at Vimy Ridge, we had a Prime Minister who was once President of the National Citizens Coalition, an organization that supports privatization, tax cuts, and cuts in government spending - A right-wing group formed to fight, among other things, the National Health Plan, the admittance of the Vietnamese refugees and real and perceived government waste in general.

He apparently doesn't believe people should be compelled to contribute taxes to ensure a just society but it's alright for young Canadians to be blown to pieces by land mines and killed in ambush by people who are supposed to be benefiting from their presence.

He is willing though to spend millions for air-conditioned tanks so they can be comfortable while they wait in fear in that isolated God-forsaken, medieval place, thousands of miles from home and families and light years from everything they know and understand.

Friday, April 6, 2007


Five year olds are among my favorite people. I was five once - as were all my seven children and seventeen grandchildren. The dearest friend of my life, I met when we were five. For all the years and thousands of miles that separate us, she loves me still, as I do her.

Hayley and Ryan are cousins and my youngest grandchildren. She is tall, fair-skinned and typical Anglo-Saxon. He is a beautiful round brown-skinned boy.

When the clan gathers, much of the entertainment is about the amazing perceptions and observations of the very young.

When she was three, Hayley informed her mother after a pre-view of pre-school she would only play with “the chocolate girl”. They became close friends for all the time they were together.

That summer, there was a swim after dark. We had a spotlight on the diving board. She took tiny steps towards it, elbows tight to her side, hands clutching open and shut, half whimpering, half giggling. She climbed up on the board and we told her “You don't have to do this, Hayley girl”

But she had already blanked us out. She was going to do it. She inched her way to the end with her toes curled and stood... for all of three seconds. Ahead of her... everything was black...no moon ... not a star to be seen. Then she jumped ...as high and as far as she could go.

Floating behind her, a small thin high voice cried out ...”GERONIMO”
Ryan stood on my bones one day. Resting his arms on my shoulders, he scrutinized my face, and then he poked his finger into my cheek. “Oooh” he said, “It's crinkly”. His mother gasped. But I told Ryan, if he is lucky, he will live long and have beautiful grandchildren, who will stand on his bones, poke a finger into his cheek and say, “Oooh...It's crinkly.” Hayley and Ryan enjoy each other. There is an affinity between them. When they tire of leaping in, racing to the steps and climbing out of the pool, they sit on the deck facing each other, knees bent, toes touching ...and chat. They never run out of conversation. They need no-one else.

Small children continue to amaze and delight me. How much they learn in such a very short time... How well they converse and articulate their thoughts.

Later, when they need to be serious, I will offer some advice. I will tell them:

Take nothing for granted...Listen well to what you hear... Read everything... more than once if need be...When the time comes to make a decision - let it be yours. If there are to be mistakes...and there will be...let them be yours. Because the consequences will be yours to bear ... the lessons will be yours to learn ... and life will never fail to engage you.

Monday, April 2, 2007

A Cautionary Tale

I have written two blogs about the Planning Act. They were too dry. Didn't make the point I wanted either. So, they didn't get posted.

This is my third effort . A bit of history has to be included.

Before The Act was passed hardly a day went past without a scandal or a hint of same relating to the development industry.in the headlines. Being suspected of corruption was an occupational hazard for municipal councillors. Even Government Ministers were not immune. Investment in land was a good bet. Nobody was better placed than people in the know.

My neighborhood had 750 homes. The first phase was almost completed when we bought our
house. It was said that a particular council member had received a house and a trip to foreign parts in return for favours. I never saw any evidence to suggest it was true. But “When mud is thrown some of it always sticks.”

A Minister of Municipal Affairs resigned his post once because he had inadvertently signed documents for a development in which a family firm was involved. He came back because he had done the honourable thing in resigning. Another Minister whose name was besmirched walked in front of a moving vehicle on Yonge Street one dark and rainy night.

I can't say the loss of public confidence was the sole rationale for The Planning Act. It is certainly true headlines changed after it was passed. Municipal politicians still lost their seats if they were perceived to be too friendly to developers but rumours of corruption definitely declined.

The Act is precise. Steps are clear. Applications are made to Planning Departments. Proponents are wise to seek advice from planners on the Town's Official Plan, Zoning Bylaw and Town Policies and Standards. The process takes months to complete before a plan appears on a Public Planning Meeting Agenda. (The Whitwell development took ten years from start to finish).

At the start of the Hearing, the Clerk must declare it has been properly advertised. The Chairperson instructs the Planners to Report. The proponent is invited to present his case. The public are invited to express their comments. They may do so as often as they have something to say. The chair must announce three times before closing that part of the meeting and opening it to deliberation by council.

The objective is to make it clear to all and sundry, no part of the proposal has been considered before the public meeting .All parties concerned have equal opportunity to be heard before a decision is made.

It is similar to a court proceeding. Evidence is presented, witnesses are heard. A precise record of the proceedings is created.The only hard evidence to be considered is that presented at the Hearing. If error is perceived ,the decision is subject to appeal by the Ontario Municipal Board.

It is also a fact, that owners of land have the right to use their land for any purpose that does NOT contravene the Official Plan, the Zoning Bylaw or endorsed policies and standards of the municipality and provincial

It is no more appropriate for a councillor to be conducting research prior to a hearing than it is for a judge to conduct an investigation into the innocence or guilt of a person accused of a crime.

And yet - in the last term of council no matter how many times it was explained, Councillors and Citizen Members of the Environmental Advisory Committee persisted that planning applications should be reviewed by their committee first.

This term, it has already been argued, the Economic Development Advisory Committee members should have first dibs at planning applications.

Last week, at the hearing into the application of the York Region Separate School Board to build a High School on land they had purchased for the purpose, one councillor made a statement that he had done a great deal of work and research prior to the meeting. He made an immediate motion to deny the application. It failed.

At the beginning of the last term of council, at the off-site orientation, a presentation was made by an expert in municipal law cautioning councillors about legal pitfalls. Three councillors had boycotted the conference.

So far this term, no such opportunity has been provided to the new council.

In the past, this town has incurred hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal costs because some people elected to office simply refuse to accept there are limits to their power.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Don't Call Me Job

What am I supposed to do when patience is stretched to the limit?

There were six or seven officials from York Separate School board and The Chairman of the Board there to support the application. It was a proud moment. Elizabeth Crowe is the Aurora Trustee for the board as well as the Chairman. She described what the school would provide; shop courses, opportunities for technical training, track and field facilities, a dance studio. Programs the board has never before been able to offer in our neck of the woods.

It is not a long history. My daughter attended the first separate high school, St. Roberts in Markham. It was classrooms out in a field and nothing more. It had taken years to convince the provincial government the British North America Act intended separate schools to have education up to Grades Nine and Ten. I paid fees for the senior grades.

The change came with population numbers. Accommodating Catholic students in their own High schools was not more expensive than building more public schools and public schools were becoming impersonably huge. Our population continued to explode. Two years ago, Sacred Heart, in Newmarket was using the stage in the auditorium for classes. Even with the end of Grade Thirteen the pressure is tremendous. There are twelve portables filling the yard of Sacred Heart
High School in Newmarket.

Now, in Aurora, we are to have a school that will provide almost everything. The Board has an excellent working relationship with the town in the shared use of facilities. We use their sports facilities in return for our maintenance. The students will use our swimming and skating facilities at the Leisure Complex. It will be a walk through the Arboretum which will also be an educational facility. They will have a Child Care Service and evening programs in the school, with lights on, and people coming and going. Neighbors to the Senior's Centre. Vibrant life and a beautiful building on Wellington Street with access from Industrial Parkway North.

These classrooms were needed two years ago.

Last night, at the Public Planning Meeting councillors queried numbers in our grade schools, questioned why there should be students from other places, expounded on the need to save idle land for industrial and commercial use and even floated the possibility of an adult entertainment centre in the vicinity of the school as reasons to oppose the application. They said the Board should have acquired land in a residential neighborhood. Teaching positions were denigrated as 'non jobs' and a motion was made to deny the application.

Had it succeeded, the Board would have been obliged to appeal the decision to the O.M.B. They would have incurred legal costs. The town would have incurred legal costs. Our staff recommendations would have been used in evidence against us. The decision would be made for us after thousands of dollars had been paid to lawyers, all out of the same pockets.

When it became apparent the debate was over and the motion to approve in principle would succeed, the Mayor proceeded to extend the argument. She asked the planner for the umpteenth time to explain the definition of employment lands and how an institution providing almost 200 jobs could fit into that context. It was as if they were hoping, if they kept repeating the same question, the planner might cave in and give them a different answer. That must be what the third degree is about. It happens all the time in Aurora Council.

The time was eleven-thirty p.m. We had been deliberating for four and one half hours.

I wanted to take wing and fly right out of there. My patience was exhausted. I could not leave and forfeit my vote. I could not explode in a shower of vituperation. So, discretion being the better part of valour, I covered my head with my jacket and clamped my hands over my ears.

I have never claimed to have the Patience of Job