Saturday, September 27, 2014



It seemed a straight-forward deal until the Bell accountants started cheating.
BCE, the Bell Telephone conglomerate, told the Toronto stock market world it would buy the stock it didn't already own of Bell Aliant at $32 a share.
And if too many people wanted that, they would give us some money and the rest in BCE stock.
So I waited to the penultimate day and said through the TD discount brokers I wanted the cash deal, that I wasn't interested in the alternatives.
When the deal was announced, the stock actually traded higher than $32 but then towards the end of the period before the deal closed, its price fell below, first by cents, then by more than a dollar.
Turned out that BCE notified the TD discount brokerage that it would pay $14.60 for each of my 500 shares and give me the rest in BCE stock.
Then the obese outfit got cute. The $32 figure was no longer used, but $30.70 since the cheaters said the stock had fallen towards the end. Then BCE also argued that I had to pay more for the 168 shares I was being traded in its stock than if I bought the same stock in the open market. In fact, the stock is still lower on the stock exchange than what BCE charged me.
So the $32 deal for each of my shares really wasn't. The fast-money boys saved $700 just on me.  Imagine the total savings once BCE finishes slashing at the public like a fox in the henhouse at midnight.
.I would hope that BNN and the Globe and other august observers of the market would not use the $32 figure in recognition of the fact that BCE officials would have to admit under oath that that figure is somewhere between a fantasy or a fib or a felony. That may be a vain hope since BCE owns BNN and has 15% of the Globe.
I am reminded of the maxim about figures lie and liars figue. I should have known something like that would happen after all my years being angry at my phone bills. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014



Onward, water soldiers, marching as to war
With no politicians facing them before
No mayor, MPP or MP to lead against the foe
Backward from the battle, see their banners go!

Coming soon to your beach, lake and river, the latest natural menace that you never heard of...before it cuts your feet, chokes your water and becomes a problem in cottage country and just about everywhere else.
You should regard water soldiers as the sharp-leafed aquatic plants that possibly will echo the menace that zebra mussels became in just two decades, transforming great expanses of cottage country for all time.
Water soldier plants resemble giant pineapple tops. So imagine a pineapple field floating just off your cottage, an invasion so thick that it chokes everything and anything, including kids playing in the water and the daily fun of the family swim to that big rock.
The menace is pretty enough to have been used in water gardens in Europe and parts of Asia.
The picture I have used comes from a British gardening site selling the plant on the Internet.
But settling back on cushions in Cairo, puffing on a water pipe and enjoying the sight of water soldiers and water lilies floating in the pond beside the bar is one thing, having to capture and burn 25 plants off my dock when I want to go swimming is much more galling.
How it got here is a mystery. Some idiot in my Kawarthas corner around Burnt Point south of Havelock probably thought it looked pretty in their landscaping and then got bored and discarded it. The last huge menace, zebra mussels, hitchiked from Europe in the ballast water of a foreign freighter that dumped it illegally in Lake St. Clair.
So water soldiers are believed to have first started anchoring here in 2008 in the shallows or being swept along by the vigorous currents of the Trent River, which right now is being whipped into whitecaps around my point as I type. So I haven't yet done my regular dubious harvest.
Several years ago, at what unfortunately was the last annual picnic of the North Seymour Ratepayers Association, there were a commendable presentation and brochures on water soldiers, which as a rookie member of the association executive I dutifully spread to my neighbours.
It seems that the Trent from Highway 30 near the hamlet of Trent River down to the big drop in the river known as Healey Falls is the only place in North America where wild expanses of water soldier sare found.
The distinction of living on a unique stretch of river will not last long, judging from the explosion in growth of water soldiers around me since I first learned about it. It was three years ago when I phoned a hotline about colonies I had found near Hardy Island. Two men showed up and worked away for a couple of days. Now there are many expanses of water soldiers in backwaters. The growth may be exponential.
Despite the obvious fact that anyone who has been paying attention has known about water soldiers for several years, if you sift their reaction, it has come out of the blue of the Trent for politicians.
I phoned a friend and fellow cottager worried about the new threat to kid him about emails and letters he had received when he tried to sound the alarm. He once was in the CBCs upper reaches and all the major figures in news and current affairs cared about his attention. Now he is just another cottager so that when he raises this important issue with local MPP Lou Rinaldi. he is supposed to be content with a canned reply from an assistant.
Trust me, Lou, you're never going to make it from the deserved back bench above parliamentary assistant unless you work harder in the constituency.  As Editor of the Toronto Sun and veteran columnist, I used to tell assistants that unless I heard from the boss immediately, I would feel free to say anything I wanted about the pol or the issue.
Which is the way I feel about this since I have made fruitless calls.
The only good guys so far are the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters. Why a good private organization has to devote more on a comparative basis to this puzzles me when you consider what the feds and natural resources ministry could do.
 Something called the Invasive Species Centre and Trent University is involved too, which is understandable since the university has to do something to make it stand out from being just another provincial university for those who couldn't get into a major one.
It does have a nice campus, and a river which I predict at the present rate of fighting water soldiers will have students wondering what those strange prickly plants are in just a few years. The most optimistic estimate is it will take a minimum of five years to control the infestation, but then there are gloomy predictions it will take an eternity.
Why, cottagers wonder, didn't someone spray Reward sooner, the herbicide that is supposed to kill or lame the soldiers? (You know, the herbicide that deliberately is made so expensive and wrapped in red tape that you feel you're a criminal if you try to use an ounce.) Why the delays? It appears that the federation has put up the most money, $35,00 plus donations, but $50,000 or so is a trifling sum when you consider the possible consequences, but there seems to be a lack of will as well as funds.
The focus appears to have been to map the menace, not to kill it. The worry from the few bureaucrats who seem to have got off their ass long enough to actually go and inspect is to contain it above the triple locks and the falls at Healey.
You know, protect Campbellford and the little generating station that is downstream. And keep it from the lower reaches of the Crowe. (You have to protect the Crowe, you see, if you are an environmental bureaucrat, because a former environment minister loves her cottage there and you don't want to drag the NDP into this fight considering that so far the Liberals don't give a damn and the Tories are still licking their wounds.)
Of course, they have failed to contain the menace, which is understandable considering the Trent is a major river and the authorities have never kept the water level so high for so long.  Floating islands of tangled vegetation have been a menace all year (I wrote a blog "Dangerous Islands of Trent River" on May 20) and this huge gush of water through the locks and dam of Healey Falls carry battalions of water soldiers.
Since water soldiers are perennial, even if we control them they will continue to be an additional problem because in cottage country, we already have a huge water weed problem due to the curse of zebra mussels which have cleared the water and allowed all that sunlight to stimulate all those weeds. Even the fishing has changed. Then we have the fertilization from the lax policies controlling the pollution from farms even though a female premier has stopped playing at being a farmer and agriculture minister so that voters will forget she's from T.O.
There are part of the famous Trent-Severn Waterway that have never been so choked with weeds. I can't boat or even canoe in stretches that were still passable 15 years ago.
If it gets much worse because the red tape boys and girls screw up the fight against the latest problem, and it really does spread to block even the huge intake pipes of water filtration plants and long stretches of public beach, I can see tax strikes in cottage country.
After all, we are mad already at Hydro overcharging and the residents in the towns and villages getting more than their share of the municipal tax dollar, particularly when you add in education since cottagers can't use the schools.
If most cottagers in affected areas were to withhold or delay their municipal tax installments in unison, I imagine something constructive would happen this afternoon.
Nothing has so far. Just MPs even ignoring meetings, MPPs having some flunky reply with a canned excuse, and me burning the latest crop of water soldiers.

Monday, September 15, 2014



Too many of us spend too much time in traffic dreaming of a hell where traffic engineers run like hamsters inside giant wheels while carbon monoxide blows in their faces.
Since the engineers, aided and urged on by politicians who want all their activists living in areas protected from through traffic, are impervious to the lesson inherent in the axiom that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, and believe the greatest invention in the world is a maze surrounded by construction, anything sensible that I might propose will be lost on them.
If the trafficrats aren't spending our money on a multitude of signs, so much so that you think it is possible for a city to get measles, they are sentenced to remedial courses in driving motorists mad.
The timing of traffic lights is always of great interest to me, particularly when I finally get a green but can see that the next light has just turned red.
Back when I was a kid reporter, I used to write regularly about how Toronto virtually had invented  the idea of feeding signals from traffic lights into a buried computer centre so that you could actually drive along without every second light blocking you.
In fact, traffic experts from all over the world used to come to study what the Toronto metropolitan area was doing.  I once went to Singapore because of radical changes there in handling traffic and all the experts there wanted to do was ask me what was the latest innovation in Toronto.
How the mighty have fallen!
I was reflecting on this the other day when I drove in from my cottage on the Trent south of Havelock to deliver Mary to a bus taking her and some relatives from the Plewes clan to lay waste to the shops of Quebec.
My destination was the Legion in western Peterboro (the way we used to spell it in the old Tely to save  type.)
I hate to be tardy but we arrived a few minutes late for the pickup by the excursion bus. Why? The usual idiots on Highway 7 who get nervous at 80. The usual lumbering dump trucks and tractor trailers that are too big for ordinary highways but are allowed there by stupid politicians and lazy law enforcement..
 And every light was red.
Since Lansdowne is a main drag, you would think that at 8 a.m., it would be possible for any rookie official with more firepower than a smart phone to program a system where many lights could be synchronised.
But oh no, traffic limped from red light to red light, which may cut down on speeding but certainly increases pollution and wear. Presumably, the drivers around me were going to jobs or making early calls or deliveries, but the city wasn't easing the trip one bit.
Ironically, after Mary got on the bus and the driver and I stopped bitching about how traffic had worsened, I drove back to the cottage and stopped only once in 60 km.
See, it is possible. And it is interesting that in Peterboro it is easier to leave town than to work there.
I was trying to calculate the odds of driving all that distance and only having one red out of 20 or so signalized intersections.  Perhaps one in a million.
 Why it's practically a miracle, one that no traffic engineer would believe and every traffic engineer will ensure never happens again.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014



I moderated countless political debates in Toronto for nearly 30 years, from St. Lawrence Hall to church halls to school gyms to Nathan Phillips Square to endless cable shows. They blur together now because even when they were happening, not much real news was being created.
You see, real news most days is about 99% old. And with our political campaigns growing longer to the point of insanity, even candidates for dogcatcher have exhausted all their good ideas after three weeks.
The idea of mayoral campaigns lasting from January into the fall seems a concept hatched in Hades. Since most smart candidates never really stop getting their ideas out, and the GTA is drenched in media hunting for material, the combination means that many of us are bored with the major candidates before they sign their entry papers.
What complicates campaigns is the number of men and women who run for most positions. It is their right in a democracy. Except, as I have argued in plenty of meetings planning debates,  and in newspaper conferences about how we would distribute our resources, just because a 21-year-old student runs for mayor because he thinks it would be a great way to get publicity for a job, it doesn't mean we have to give him the same attention as a candidate considered important  by more than just his mother.
This brings anguish to the politically correct officials who control such public venues as St.Lawrence Hall or Nathan Phillips Square. They fear the heat of a few activists. I said I would take responsibility for pruning the competent from the silly and the futile because, after all, as a columnist and editor who daily made choices as to whom was covered and who was ignored, it is part of life for any journalist worthy of the name.
 It's fundamental to the news business that you not cop out and give equal space or time to everyone just to play it safe.  For those who say you should give both sides of every argument, I remind them there is often more than two sides. The sad result of the chicken shits who won't make obvious choices is, as the classic argument goes, you would have given equal time to Hitler.
One tense crowded night at St. Lawrence, with three major candidates behind me, I began the speeches only to be shouted at by a perennial mayoral candidate who had got his first publicity years before when he was arrested for sunbathing in High Park. (Yes, it was illegal at the time.)
I said to Zolton that hundreds had come to hear the main three. He would be wasting their time. But if the crowd wants to hear you, I told him, they can hold up their hands. No one did. I repeated the offer so there would be no confusion in the media. Still, no support for Zolton.
He marched angrily towards me, except I was bigger and just as determined. (And there were two paid-duty cops at the back.) So he subsided. I knew that would not be the end of it. When question period arrived, so did Zolton, first  to the closest microphone. He spoke for two minutes before I cut him off, pointing out that everyone in the hall knew he was going to pull that trick so he should now quit. And he did.
Things were more untidy when Rogers held two-hour debates each noon hour from Nathan Phillips Square during one provincial election. It was live, of course, for Channel 10. There was one crank who hung out at City Hall speaking at every committee meeting. He was tolerated because that was his right in a democracy but I saw no reason to be polite to the jerk. So he hated me.
There were 22 debates between the Toronto provincial candidates. About half way through the schedule, he started showing up to shout curses at me from the back of the square of chairs which never made it on air but had a disconcerting effect on me as chairman.
After this happened a few times, I said to a constable assigned to patrol the square that it would be nice if I could conduct a public debate without someone cursing me from the back.
He said he didn't think it was that much of a problem. Besides, he sort of agreed with the heckling considering some of the things I had written about the police.
(Ironically, when you consider that most controversy about police is when they over-react, I have had trouble getting them to act at all. I organized a publicity event in the civic square as a founding director of the Outdoor Art Show. I had some politicians compete to see who could produce the most interesting painting in 15 minutes while the media watched. The jerk showed up to yell curses at me and Mayor Art Eggleton. I pointed out to a watching cop that another of the artists was Roy McMurtry, the AG who became Chief Justice. The constable refused to do anything on the grounds that such an experienced group should knows how to deal with kooks.)
One year Rogers decided to do something different. They invited the public to the council chamber for the question period that would be run there by Vic Rauter, the curling guru who was then a young reporter anxious for any on-air experience if only on cable. Few people showed and Rauter looked lonely on the dais.
 I ran the main part of the debate from the mayor's office where the major candidates like John Sewell were seated in front of the mayor's desk that they hoped to occupy.
The show began with me making a grand entrance from near the private washroom. I strode confidently to the centre of the office but as I began, the mike popped off my lapel into the thick carpet.
I shouted in the vicinity of the mike, finally found it in the rug, fished it out and jammed it back on the lapel. Later they said that all my words were quite clear. "That is the advantage," the late Kip Moorcroft said, '"of hiring a guy with a big mouth. I mean loud voice."
I told the Rogers vice-president that he really meant the first version. When it comes to running political debates, it's useful when you don't let the hecklers, or the candidates, shout you down.

Monday, September 8, 2014



You realize about the time you spend more time saving your body than you used to spend at work that a big city and its cottage countries can never be heaven.
But I refuse to stop fighting the little bursts of hell that can ruin a nice time.
So I can be cantankerous and the family get madder at me than at what upset me.
You realize that after the food finally arrives at the restaurant that you probably won't be able to hear your friends because of the music and the yowelling kids at the next table but you learn to put up with it for about five minutes.
But then....
You realize no computer works all the time and the TV which has more electronic firepower inside than used to be on a battleship will hiccup and Rogers will say they can come at 7 a.m. next week but you put up with it, sort of.
Though you may something to the person handling the complaint which is being monitored for quality assurance.  I suspect it is a computer monitoring a semi-computerized technician and nothing ever happens if they just hang up on you.
And so we all confront life, hoping to keep the hassles to a minimum, hoping that the slow driver won't always be in the passing lane on the trip to the cottage and when you get there the only neighbours not cutting their lawn won't have gone to town leaving their dogs to bark and bark and bark.
I was enjoying life at the Ex when a cute tot admired the flowers around the fountain south of the Bandshell at the E. I admired him. It was warm and peaceful, a scene right out of Norman Rockwell.
Then the tot plowed through the middle of the garden trampling lovely blossoms because he wanted to wade in the water. I waited for the parents to admonish him. They didn't. He kept trampling.They said not a word. So I did. Many! Loudly! Profanely!
Back when people knew who Rockwell was, and the Saturday Evening Post for which he did such great nostalgic covers was a huge hit, kids didn't crush gardens when the parents were around, and strangers didn't need to lecture the kid AND mom and dad.
Ironically, it was a famous rose garden. The roses seem fewer but enough have survived the budget cuts that I hoped the kid would get scratched. The garden has also survived the plot to put the turbine there, you know the money-losing windmill that rumour says no longer produces any power at all.  I proudly was the only one to vote against its construction. I lost but I did get it moved.
I was there resting from the air show which now has a strangled home along the waterfront because the city has let the breakwater deteriorate to such an extent that it isn't safe for large numbers at the water's edge.
That was the scene of my first encounter of the day, this time with a youth who said he was an air cadet, but from the amount of beer consumed by him and two buddies, they were older than cadets and already insolent.
The air show began with two anthems and the vice-regal salute since David Onley opened the program as our lieutenant governor who will be retiring honourably in just two weeks
The supposed cadets slouched into the anthems at the next table and then the runt, busy chewing his cud of gum, hiked his pants ostentatiously so he could shove his hands deeper into the pockets.
I don't believe I cursed but several hundred people, including Onley and Art Eggleton, the former mayor and defense minister, heard me bellow " take your hands out of your pockets."
They were so shocked at being called out, they didn't bluster a defense. I was prepared to toss them into the lake if they had, since I was reinforced by Mark, my son who has the build and temper of a tank.
Onley and Eggs agreed later that when we were youths, whether or not we had been in the army or cadets or as I had been in the RCAF Reserve, the idea of standing at attention during O Canada was something you knew by Grade One.  If I had pulled such a sad sack stunt at the Avenue Rd. RCAF base, I would still be marching around the drill square.As for chewing gum, that was banned from all schools and most offices.
I was strolling a broad sidewalk when a trio of women wearing the armour of first motherhood came marching toward me each pushing a stroller which had the look and bulk of an armoured personnel carrier.  The first glared at me when I didn't step off the sidewalk, since there was plenty of room to pass single file.
You know kid moms. We have to manouver around them in small restaurants and on the TTC. Why we even have the variation who wander slowly and obliviously across the intersection after the light has changed pushing the baby and pulling the dog while talking on the cell phone while traffic snarls.
Regular readers will recognize an old theme here, that it is not that we get crankier when we get older, we just won't put up with the crap anymore and speak out. No wonder Andy Rooney was such a popular part of 60 Minutes, the best TV show of its kind, and rants from acidic wits like Lewis Black are sought by smart producers.
I used to have this disagreement when I tried to hire older reporters. I was told they were worn out. No, I would say, they just won't put up with the BS and stupidity of young editors.
And so it is these days with life in general, especially in the big city that has too often outgrown its civility. There has been a decline in public politeness just as there has with routine service, whether you're trying to get an answer out of a bureauracy or negotiate your way through these automated telephone gauntlets where you remember fondly the good old days when actual people answered and actually looked after you.
Exasperations abound in this selfish careless city. Texting during meals. Sloppy scofflawism like cycling through crowded sidewalks and speeding through stop signs. Cellphoning through movies.
I couldn't use my TD discount brokerage account for two days and when I finally got a human to deal with it, she said that I talked too much as I explained my complaint. But, I said, it is TD who goofed. Why do you act as if I'm guilty?
The other day I had a credit card question for Costco. I am a big fan of that company and told people later it was dealt with efficiently. Then I realized it had taken me 30 minutes and that I had talked to three people at Costco and two at American Express. But then with some companies today I would still be on hold. So I was pleased it had only taken five calls and two long waits.
My family grumble when I explode. Have more patience, they say. Why be so confrontational! Except, I say, the decline will accelerate if we don't push back and speak out.
We have to tell the idiots to stop their kids from running wild, especially in gardens,
We have to insist openly that it's a fundamental to good manners and citizenship to honour O Canada.
We have to complain every time a company like Rogers has people dealing with complaints who act like they really don't give a damn and they hope that if they make it difficult enough, you will just go away.
If we don't grumble and honk and yell, the slide away from civility will continue and it will need more and more cranky old farts like me to howl at the moon about the good old days when service was more than just talking to a computer.


Monday, August 25, 2014



The Toronto Star goofed uniquely the other day. Now there's nothing unusual about the Star goofing but printing a complete page of sports stats that were nine months old is not something I have seen or heard about in half a century of journalism.
I might sympathize if the Star wasn't so uppity holier than thou, like the Liberals on a bad day.
After all, I have been in the trenches, in charge of getting a huge edition onto the presses and out in the street when the rewrite desk was manic, the editors helping me all seemed to be drunk and the press crew was smarting over imagined slights.
I don't devour sports stats like so many fans do but I did turn in my Sunday paper to check how far the Jays had fallen from their nest of superiority high above the division.
And what I found was NHL, NBA, NFL, skiing and curling results, in face so much from last winter that I looked out the window to see if this cold summer had ended and we were already launched into another frozen hell.
Oh yes, there were no baseball stats, and for some zealots, a day without arcane On Base Percentages or even ordinary averages is a day without sunshine.
The Star had a little correction the next day. I would have preferred a full story on what actually happened. It can be mysterious. I still remember the Grey Cup where the publisher asked me the next day in a roar why the special game edition came out with the stats story as the headline story and the main story on Page 3. But at least we were covering a game that had been  played hours before.
I was once killing time at a formal dinner with Ted Rogers, the communications czar, and we were yarning about how difficult it was to run a new media outlet. In my case, it was the Sun, where the 62 of us were expected to do several job each in the early 1970s, in his case it was CHFI when FM was still so rare he practically had to give away FM radios in the early 1960s.
Rogers had no reporting resources at all, which he tried to deal with by hiring Larry Henderson, who had been the first national newsreader for CBC TV. Henderson cobbled together a summary of the news and delivered it on tape at 11 p.m.
It had been a long day. Rogers said he was short staffed and the guy in the control room was reeling with fatigue . So he took mercy on him, sent him home early, and said he would run Henderson's tape and then take the station off the air.
Except he ran the wrong tape. It was from the day before. No one noticed, including Rogers until the next day. No one phoned in.
That was when, Ted told me, he figured he desperately needed more listeners. Of course now the station says most days it is the largest in the country.
Ironically, the guy who would have been most upset would have been Larry Henderson. He was legendary for his temper, actually swearing or mumbling on camera if he was told to speed up. He had stalked off a set on live TV when a stagehand messed up. But apparently he was already sleeping, like too many of the potential audience, and missed his commentary twice.
At least the Star can content itself that it didn't goof on Saturday, when it is the largest edition in Canada, and perhaps in Hades too. Maybe they need to use some of the resources wasted on the dead mayor walking on actually checking that they are printing yesterday's news.

Saturday, August 23, 2014



Once upon a time, before the wasting of taxes became an epidemic, our politicians just didn't know how to screw spending up as badly as they do today.
Not only has the size of government exploded, especially in the care and feeding of the elected reps, so has the money thrown away on dubious projects.
Too many voters have become too blasé. The big question is will this change in the next election when it didn't in the last.
Consider that the outrage was over quickly when it came out that Waterfront Toronto had paid $946,140 for 36 pink metal umbrellas and two chunks of rocks to be placed at Sugar Beach.
 Sounds aptly named considering the monetary sugar lavished on people who sell beach umbrellas and rocks for a living.
Didn't we learn our lesson when we bought 700 tonnes of granite from a Muskoka farmer and plunked it down like a jigsaw puzzle from the Shield in a Yorkville park.
Many were as mad about that as they were decades later when the city kept tearing up any road near Bloor and Bay and kept doing it month after month after month while the stores wilted.
Our alleged transportation planners didn't have a plan because they didn't give a damn.
I can assure you as a veteran political observer, whether as City Hall reporter or daily columnist or  Editor, that this news about the silly beach decoration would have reverberated for months in the day and cost politicians and officials their jobs.
But not it seems in these urban days of waste.
Too many voters have come to accept this as the new norm. As more condemning proof, consider the hundreds of millions wasted by the provincial Liberals before they go re-elected.
There have been a number of references to past controversial urban decoration, such as Henry Moore's sculpture nicknamed the Archer. which is in the civic square near City Hall's doors.
 Just about every detail about it has been mangled, whether in the Star or various dubious Internet sources. Nathan Phillips Square was planned to have one major piece of art. So the city went after a creator of monumental art. The Archer cost $150,000. There was a fuss, and it didn't help that many didn't like its look.  So Mayor Phil Givens raised the money privately. Except the voters, who could still get mad then about such things, continued to believe that taxes paid for it and threw Givens out of office.
Givens was not a flash in the pan. He had been alderman and controller before mayor and later was a MP, MPP, police commission chair and judge.
Ironically, most of the media, especially the Star, have forgotten what came after that defeat, because it is significant in the history of one of the city's most important pieces.
William Campbell, the city treasurer, a wonderful steward of our taxes, got a phone call from Moore who was anxious to do a deal to avoid the English tax hit. Moore asked if the city would pay him over a few years. Campbell jumped at the opportunity. The pound fell against the Canadian dollar during the payment period and the distinctive sculpture that kids can ring like a gong ended up costing only $97,000.
So Campbell then paid to have the Archer put on a platform, then to have lights around it, then he bought a $6,000 Moore bust for the committee floor of the Hall, then...
It was an inside joke between the treasurer and me that he was such a great investor  he kept having to find more purchases for the Archer fund. If only we had officials like that today in government.
Ironically, the treasurer had a grandson named Rob Ford. Fifty years after the glib Givens was defeated by speech therapist William Dennison, indifference to waste had so festered that when Ford made a fuss about the waste at Sugar Beach, it was seen as just another hissy fit to support his pet bugaboo, derailing the gravy train at City Hall.
Yet one reason that even this clown still has some support with the electorate is that there are still people around who care less about his drunken excesses and more about his attempt to cut the drunken waste.
To me, that's the big municipal issue this October, the reason I told John Tory the other day that he should just keep hammering on the need to be much tougher on spending, to vow that council must stop being a patsy for the unions, in fact so weak in negotiation that spending just on police, fire and ambulance is now $1.7 billion, up from the one billion the expensive trio of emergency services cost each year just over a decade ago.
It's the taxes, stupid, voters must tell the candidates. Let the frothy stuff and the endless transit plans  be yammered about by editorial writers and activists.
Obviously there isn't a government department or agency at every level of government that doesn't have to do a better job in dealing with our money.  Just at City Hall you can run the gauntlet from the important mundane stuff to the exotic, from A to Z, and find ulcers.
A is for asphalt, and the terrible shape of our roads. They never have been this bad, not since we got rid of the mud roads of olde York. Yet at least one engineering expert claims one reason that all our potholes deepen and multiply like consultants is that they don't patch them correctly in the first place.
Z is for the zoo, where it seems for years that if the stories didn't concern shipping the three elephants
to another country, it was about the financial plight. Yet the preening zoo bosses took bows (and free trips to China) to get Er Shun and Da Mao, the two giant pandas that cost about $1.8 million annually to care for and rent from China. There's more cost and attention given their supply of bamboo food than the breakfast program in any humble school.
If you really wanted to fix the potholes, you would do it right the first time.
 If you really wanted to attract people to the zoo, you could spend a fraction of that $1.8 million and ship a couple of winners a month to Beijing as a gate prize and see the pandas there. Or buy them stuffed pandas.
 Chinese rulers are quite clever. They have suckered us into raising their cute bears that are endangered species because of their policies.
Unfortunately changes like this to the routine and the gimmicky would just save money, and as too many of our politicians at all levels prove most days, they only know how to spend. Their attitude is as certain as death and taxes.