Thursday, August 20, 2015

FIXING ROADS AND RUINING TEMPERS


A LESSON ON HOW NOT TO FIX THINGS

It was just an ordinary drive back from the cottage one weekday evening when Mary said I think there was a sign three lanes over saying the two left lanes are closing.
There are only three lanes, I said. That will be chaos. Surely the sign would have been a prominent one, not just a minor one stuck on a shoulder.
A few minutes later, Mary spotted another such sign in between the walls of tractor trailers. And then traffic stopped.
About 45 minutes later, a wasted costly 45 minutes for hundreds of drivers and truckers, we emerged from the Ontario Government's stupid chaos in resurfacing major highways and were headed again to Toronto.
You know, I said, Mark may be right about all this. My youngest son lives and works in China and cringes at how inept Ontario is compared to China when it comes to the length and upset of roadwork.
His theory is that our road repairs last so long and are done in such a poor fashion because of corruption. The contracts are stretched out and supervised ineptly because the various companies make more money this way, and thus have more money to lavish on the politicians they like in an election.
It may sound laughable that we are doing so poorly compared to the China that is certainly having its financial problems lately but I have been to China and know that their major highways make 400, 401 and the QEW look like cowpaths used by sick livestock.
It used to be that we envied the autobahns of Germany and northern Italy and thought the Chinese good only for rickshaw paths and junks. No more, but we're still stuck in 1930.
If Mark had been with us, we would have had the smartphone app which would have warned us of the monstrous jam and allowed us to avoid it. Soon we will all have to carry electronic surveillance just to move down a street.
 I do tune in to 680 all-news radio but I find their traffic reports suspect especially when I am sitting in the jam on the street where they say traffic is moving well. I also find huge gapes in their coverage and if you happen to be on 401 east of the 35/115 interchange you might as well not exist.
There is more traffic roaring to Toronto each night from the east than there is from the north. It used to be said that the heaviest truck traffic in all of Canada was found Tuesday night between Montreal and Toronto. But according to CFTR, it's no man's land. Ted Rogers would not be pleased at how his baby stations have grown.
I was also struck about how the OPP avoided showing themselves. I imagine they were there, hidden in groves, but they sure managed to avoid a lot of work by their absence.
I was reminded of one Friday evening rushhour in Paris when I drove around the Arc de Triompe three times. Believe you me, only the first circuit was intentional. The traffic wardens stood outside the circling chaos and just waded in when the accident was more severe than just a fender bender.
It was anarchy at 10 p.m. on the westbound 401 just before the over-priced highway service station. In fact, truckers and the more irate of the drivers roared into the station and immediately out again, hoping to leapfrog a few hundred metres by going around some of the mess of metal on the station's roads.  Then they butted back in, assuming that most people would avoid a dented fender if they could but they didn't care themselves because they were cowboys who just didn't give a damn.
At the very end of the chaos, when the lanes squirted into two and then just one, there were so many examples of dangerous driving that it's a miracle there weren't fatalities.The jungle still lurks in the DNA of many of our drivers.
I suppose this is another example of what Sam Cass, the legendary traffic guru who was honoured throughout the world (but not in his home Toronto) said was so dangerous it was safe.
There was an intersection north-east of the old city hall where Cass had no traffic signs at all. He said drivers crept through as a result.
But with such huge numbers, it is just madness to take three lanes of a superroad and jam into one lane and do it in the dark for hours. Surely there should be a few OPP officers and a couple of temporary traffic lights supervising the blending to bring some order out of the madness.
The fact that this isn't being done now by our transportation ministry is just another example of how we are lucky to have some of the lowest accident stats in North America.
No thanks to Queen's Park which couldn't even run those special HOV lanes for the PanAm Games without them becoming a confusion. For that matter they can't even supervise driving schools. Just look at all the lousy product on our road. I wonder whether many are still buying their licences under the table as happened for years.
You would think for all the taxes that we still pay on our gasoline that we would get something more resembling reasonable service from the chuckleheads  who supposedly run our roads. As it is, we have road repairs that last for years, probably even longer than the civil servants who approved them and should have been retired years ago because the horse-and-buggy procedures on Ontario roads should have died in the last century.




DERWYN SHEA: CHRISTIAN POLITICAL WARRIOR


THE CHURCH AND TORIES LOSE A CHAMPION

Derwyn's voice was ravaged by pain and medication a few weeks ago as we chatted about events but there was still the flash of wit and insight from my favourite Christian critic.
It was an honourable 77 years before cancer took him down.
He may have had a lovely home high above Grenadier Pond and looked like a comfortable Anglican priest with his beloved cats.
But there had been difficult times.
Like when the landlady gave him some cigarettes and kicked him out to walk the streets of Hamilton on a cold Christmas so the kid didn't interfere with her family's celebration.
Like when he and Julia had company only after 9 pm. when he was a young poor priest in a western railway town because they had to go downstairs into the funeral home to borrow chairs for guests.
Like when church leaders really didn't like him being such a politician. Keep City Hall out of Christ!
I had an intense Baptist boyhood where the Bible was read after every meal. It left me with a lot of complaints about religion mixed with Bible verses branded on my memory.
This led to great debates with Derwyn which I will recall this Christmas.  I will take a card around to Park Lawn Cemetery after I have removed one of the Wise Men or added one because of course our Bible does not give the number of Wise Men who travelled to the manger.
Derwyn had forgotten that in his voluminous knowledge and I never let him forget  the three kings reference isn't in the Bible.  He came for New Year's Eve dinner and I swear in revenge gave such a long blessing that it lasted from one year to the next.
This year I will raise a glass of his port, or one of his rare single malt scotch whiskys, in memory of the politician and priest who was happy to swim against the popular tide and thought the politically correct activists of church and state generally were really in hiding from real thinking about the issue.
He was a voice of common sense on the police commission and planning board and as an alderman, councillor and MPP could be counted on to deliver useful insights mixed with gentle sarcasm and a glint of an Irish smile.
He was a vigorous opponent of the regional Metro council getting involved with a domed stadium and the proof that he and a few others were right came after SkyDome ended up costing $629 million in public funds, a huge wound on the taxpayers' purse.
In the crucial debate, Metro chairman Paul Godfrey accused his usual ally of leaning on figures gathered by me to try to kill this great idea which was then said to cost ONLY $250 million. Ironically, shortly afterwards I became Editor of the Toronto Sun reporting directly to a new publisher called Paul Godfrey. And Derwyn became the CNE president fighting a radical corporate change at the Ex that has never worked after it was forced on us by Bill Davis and Godfrey. (I went to the opening of this Ex as another past president and thought of Derwyn's battles on behalf of the thinking man's fair.)
I quote Derwyn often about how to give a good speech or sermon. Derwyn thought the best length was 18 minutes. You tell them what you're going to tell them, then you tell them, then you tell them what you told them.
Pick only one message or theme, he said, and stick to it. He could be counted to stick to his causes  no matter what. He kept the humble parish of St. Clement's open in his spare time when the Anglican Church wanted to close it. Indeed, I suspect his church often found him as difficult as his Progressive Conservative party did on occasion. Indeed, one bishop told me his early religious  commitment had been doubted. until they were doused by the fire of his faith. No doubt the politician willing to take a stand made other clerics uneasy.
After all, Derwyn could be tough, especially at election time. He gave David Miller one of his three defeats before Miller  went on to become mayor. He defeated Elaine Ziemba, a former cabinet minister, to become an MPP.
I think Mike Harris should have had made him a minister and not just a parliamentary assistant. After all the former premier trusted him enough later to have him perform his second wedding ceremony which was a titch controversial.
At the last, he was a founder of the Association for Former Parliamentarians because he said that some who had retired or been defeated as MPs and MPPs really found life to be difficult and should not be forgotten because they had worked hard for decades in public service.
Of course Derwyn was never forgotten.  After the political wars that swirled around him in the westend ceased, he was the Canon running St. Hilda's and its three buildings for seniors, Hardly retirement stuff!
At the visitation on the day the Ex opened, an irony he would have enjoyed, an illustrious political past - former  MPPs,  MPs, mayors, councillors, cabinet ministers, Speakers, and Metro chairmen - mixed with Derwyn's foot soldiers from past campaigns, like his companion, Christine Schubert, who was an election worker for Derwyn in his first one 33 years ago.
There were baskets of city and provincial crest and flag pins at the door, just like Derwyn handed out for decades. There was even election chatter and some old issues uprooted for the day. I half expected Derwyn to get out of the casket and join in, after taking a few digs at all of us, when Godfrey and I talked again about very expensive stadiums.


Thursday, July 30, 2015

DOWNING TRIES TO THROW A PARTY


SLEEPING WITH 80-YEAR-OLDS IS GREAT

When the last friend disappeared into the evening along with the beer and wine and food, and all the ice had said to hell with it and become water in the heat, I decided Mary Downing's 80th birthday party was the best event ever in our backyard.
I've been working up to it for the 50 years since we bought our starter house and never got around to moving.
Why we even had our three sons there. That is quite an achievement, since Mark lives in China, John Henry in California, and Brett says he has a home two blocks away but seems to spend his time in Thailand, Abu Dhabi and whatever exotic destinations his wife can wangle a pass for.
John Henry did arrive late but Paul Corey was still there to represent the guests who had vanished like the blooming ice that kept drooling and melting like my firiends at the old press club bar.
Of course the prof was still busy sampling the wine. I leaned on him for a recommendation for my white wine (or so I thought.) Mary deserves champagne but some friends consume that bubbly like Diet Coke.
I bought a case of his suggestion, only to find out later that he really didn't know because he only drinks the red and not the 2014 California Chardonnay that is produced by Berringer under the Stone Cellars name.
Went well with the sandwiches from Sanelli's Cookery. All the smart people in our area, whether they're the NOBs from North of Bloor or the SOBs from South Of Bloor,  see Adriana on Dundas St. W. for their festive food.
(I hasten to add as a reputable journalist that these are not paid plugs for the wine and the delicious food, but if the LCBO and Adriana do want to make a deal, I would be happy to be compensated in product.)
Of course, the piece de resistance was the birthday cake. I don't want to ruin Brett's gruff image around the Ex where he is one of the longest-serving employees, or with the players in the hockey leagues where Brett plays goal twice weekly, but Brett makes the family birthday cakes.
And they are great. (And I do expect goodies.)
Four years ago, Mark started egging me into a special party for Mary for our 50th wedding anniversary.
It was along the lines that she had put up with my guff for five decades and the occasion should't be glossed over with just a few friends in for drinks. Of course he was right!
Unfortunately, two things happened to ruin that date. I then went to four hospitals for three months and had to learn how to stand and walk again. That certainly put a crimp in the planning.
 And one favoured locale, the Old Mill, was busy building on its greenery, ruins, parking lot and backyard, thus ruining the pleasant Humber setting that I've enjoyed since high school dances. Turned out that other locations, thanks to the licences and rules 'n' regs of bureaucracy, are no longer simple rentals.
So the special anniversary drifted by. I felt guilty because I remember how special the golden anniversary was to my relatives and in the neighbourhood when I was a boy.
 Having a marriage that lasted that long was considered a miracle. (There have been times in my marriage when I thought the same.)
But enough was enough in procrastination.  I couldn't blow another big occasion or the sons would mutter more darkly than they do now after a few beers.
Yet there are occasions when you feel you need a good computer (and someone who can actually get the damn thing to work without hiccups) to pick a party date after you factor in troop movements, holiday plans and work schedules of friends, relatives, neighbours and the weather man.
I figured being summer and with only two weeks warning, there would be quite a few who just wouldn't be able to make it. Then there were all my Kawartha cousins and cottage friends who wouldn't want to drive 200 km. into the maw of Toronto traffic on a summer Saturday. So we figured a barbecue later for them.
I figured if everyone did show up, and brought all the tads, we could move to the Sunnylea school yard. After all, it seems many of the local kids learn to drink in its parking lot
If it rained, we would just drink quicker and save on the mix.
It went well. I knew it was going well when at least one person who dropped in for a few minutes stayed for a few hours. None of the politicians (most of whom had run for mayor on occasion) had   been attacked recently by the media so they were in such a fine mood they never even debated this fall's election. And I think the prof may actually have tried the excellent white.
Since Mark played hooky from his job in China, John Henry flew across the continent just to do a walk-on, and Brett and family were loyal butlers, I decided that the family could do all this again, and not just talk about it.
Soon!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

FLIP FLOPPING ALONG


ONE HORSE THINKING

I believe that in another few years, our politicians will come to their senses and ban bikes from major roads.
Instead they content themselves with lowering speed limits when things would work a helluvalot better if we could actually move at the old speed limits.
I thought we had got rid of the lower speed limits when we eliminated the horse. Trouble is, we didn't eliminate the horses' asses, especially at their home stable at City Hall. 
It seems nonsensical that we spend fortunes on roads and signalized intersections and parking lots and then handicap the effort to move most Torontonians who travel in private vehicles by mixing in a few cyclists.
Just as we don't allow bikes on the super roads like the Gardiner and 401, we shouldn't allow them on major arteries like Eglinton and Yonge, at least during the rush hours.
After all, why ban parking during those hours, when motorists pay a fortune in taxes and fees, and then cyclists, who pay not a damn for those expensive services, are encouraged to screw up the same inner space.
There used to be an argument about the cost of on-street parking. Some transportation experts and politicians said that it was economic madness to build roads that were four lanes across and then allow two of the four lanes to be used most of the time for parking.
 After all, the roads cost a lot more to construct than parking lots. And to give the freeloaders part of that road access seems contorted urbanology.
But that's a sermon for another day, even though I was contemplating the wording for it the other day as I observed a large young man sprawled with his bike and huge back pack across a subway aisle and a couple of seats.
At least he wasn't up above on Bloor St, where only a few bikes cause three times the impact of the same number of cars, yet we are supposed to scorn the cars because most have only one person. In this country, unlike in Asia where you can have a family on a bike, the cyclist is the ultimate in selfish transportation.
This chap on the subway was certainly an obstacle as passengers tried to squeeze by all his parts and corners.
As luck would have it, he lurched to his feet at my Royal York station and then pushed his way to the door, his progress being handicapped by the flimsy flip flops that he was almost wearing on his feet.
Now flips flops are for the beach or a pool, not for city streets. They may be cool and there's a nice onomatopoeia to them -- their sound is in their name - but they really are dumb things to wear if you care about fast footing.
Outside the train Flip Flop Boy was a great moving mass towards the escalator which caused various people to get out of his way much as you would shy from a mad dog.
Nothing like riding an escalator with a bike banging off the walls and your pack gouging the person behind.
Out the special gate he went that the TTC has for strollers etc.  Left it open of course.
Flip Flop Boy then mounted, got off to collect a flip flop, then mounted again, and sped down the sidewalk through the crowd.
I don't know whether people got out of his way or he blew them out of the way.
Got into my car parked behind the Shoppers - by some miracle all the cabs had left a few legal spaces - and drove along the one-way lane.
Unbelievable! Flip Flop Boy reappeared hurtling down the lane the wrong way. I screeched to a stop and delivered a shout of curses which I had to end to warn an old lady who was limping into his path.
Flip Flop Boy appeared oblivious to the chaos in his wake. It may have be an act but judging from the behaviour of some cyclists, their IQ is lower than the number of their gears. (I exempt my sons and grandsons of course.)
Later, I was making a slow right-turn at The Queensway and Royal York where the traffic lights have a timing set by the Devil. Miss your green and you wonder about getting a motel.
Suddenly, in front of me, came a very old and very feeble man who didn't bother looking in any direction. I wondered why he was moving so slowly but then thought he may be blind because he leaned on a cane and had an unfocussed expression.
Then I saw one reason why. He was almost wearing flip flops. I wondered why he didn't trip over the tiny sandals as he shuffled.
I thought later that I should have taken his picture. After all, I had just seen how Flip Flop Boy was going to look in 50 or 60 years....if he lives that long.

.

Monday, June 1, 2015

INCOMPREHENSIBLE TTC ANNOUNCEMENTS


DOESN'T INSPIRE CONFIDENCE IN SAFETY

It was 3 p.m. on the subway heading west from St. George when there was an announcement over the loudspeaker system which probably cost millions considering how transit and City Hall routinely spend fortunes on comparatively simple things.
I could give you the date but it really doesn't matter. This seems to happen most days on the subway.
I couldn't give you what was said. That remains a mystery, probably even to the guy making the announcement.
Then there were a few more pronouncements but we all looked at each other and shrugged. ' If you had mined the minds of everyone on the train and promised $100 for each word of the message,  no one would have collected.
Why the hell do we accept this nonsense from an outfit that spends hundreds of millions of dollars every year and can't even broadcast a few clear words into a subway car?
It remains as big a mystery as City Hall allowing the Gardiner and the Don Valley parking lot to be closed to vehicles for charity events. As someone who has at various times biked down the middle of super roads before they opened for business, let me tell you there is no special zing. It might as well be a wide sidewalk.
So it is just plain stupid to snarl Sunday afternoon traffic like what happened exactly 24 hours before my incomprehensible subway announcements, because the DVP was closed, and 401, Victoria Park, Sheppard and other escape routes were wrapped in construction bandages and slippery with rain.
If charities want to keep this nonsense up, we should campaign for donors to send their dollars to organizations that have more common sense.
There have been complaints for years about this and many better alternative routes suggested. But then of course the charity doesn't get its name in all the stories about the traffic closing.
People also have been exasperated for decades about muddled announcements in the transit system. It is a given that most of the time you have no idea what was said. It could be a real emergency or just the end of the world and another fare increase.
Doesn't fill me with confidence about how the transit workers do routine tasks despite the sweetheart union deals!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

TORONTO STAR EDITING SUCKS


DOESN'T ANYONE THERE KNOW HOW TO PLAY THIS GAME?


After decades of editing and writing and thousands of columns,  I am sympathetic and understanding about typos and errors even in well-known facts, geography and judgment.
I ignore mistakes in grammar because too many fingers can be pointed at me.
But some times the Toronto Star, the largest newspaper in the country with hundreds of millions   unused in its wallet, really bugs me.
They can afford to hire more staff to eliminate the stupid stuff. And the Dick-and-Jane explanations and breathless columnizing really look dumb when they're wrong.
Let's start with something minor.
There was this feature about a red oak. I have oaks, some of which I planted at my house and cottage - I 'm fighting beaver big tooth and sharp claws over one - so I read on.
The Star said it was in Northern Etobicoke. So I thought I would drive up through the old suburb to take a look to see if it really was unusual. Then it said it was in Weston. I went to high school there so I was more interested.
Turns out it was not in Etobicoke or Weston but at Sheppard and Weston Rd., which is east of Etobicoke and north of Weston. So it was wrong twice! The area has a comparatively new name of Emery.
The Star explained at length about the swearing in of the new police chief.  So a crime reporter wrote about the sword used in the ceremony. Said similar swords had been used to swear in chiefs since the creation of Metropolitan Toronto in 1954.  Except Metro started in 1953.
The amalgamated force didn't start until 1957 and that was a major, not a minor, issue at the time.
 The Star listed the member municipalities which had crests and names engraved on the sword. Only 12 municipalities were listed. Somehow the City of Toronto, the largest, didn't make it.
Some female celebrity/peaceniks are invading the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea to get publicity for their cause.
All this was described excitedly by columnist Catherine Porter who told how she had read up on the DMZ for two whole days to find out how dangerous it was. She quoted others calling it the "scariest place on earth." It was a kindergarten rendering as if the DMZ had just been imposed last year and its initials were not world famous.
I am writing this looking at a strand of barbed wire from the DMZ on my wall. I have been there four times.  Three decades ago, the Sun used pictures of a North Korean officer there playing peek-a-boo with my long lens.
My wife Mary has been there.My three sons have been there. My youngest son Mark won a magazine photo contest for his pictures in North Korea.
Tourist tours to Seoul have been going there by the thousands for decades. I was at an International Press Institute forum in Seoul where 600 male and female delegates loaded into an army of buses to sightsee there. And that was nearly 20 years ago.
Why even our PM has been there, with the North Koreans staring in at him as if they had heard that he is the favourite politician of the Star.
 It's just being used now as a backdrop for some activists just like the latest demonstration at police headquarters. I suppose they can dance semi-clothed in the mine fields or do something really dumb or just wave a peace document they want everyone to sign as if no one has been trying to do that since Canadians died there.
But just like it was at the Berlin Wall for nearly three decades, go and gawk and pontificate and you are as safe as if you're in the bar back at hotel sipping expense account drinks. After all, Niagara Falls is dangerous too but completely safe unless you go wading.  I picked the giant falls deliberately because Porter who doesn't conceal her ignorance about the issue does concede the DMZ is a major tourist attraction.
I caution the peaceniks/activists that if they really want to get dramatic pictures and stick their hand in the maw of the dragon, they're not advancing the cause of peace but perhaps the need for more mental health counselling for celebrities.
C'mon Star, do better and maybe your stock will triple back to what it used to be before the ruling families ran it into the ground chasing such wounded targets as Rob Ford.
Wouldn't it have been nice if the taxpayers had saved a few million from that fruitless and useless police investigation of the sick mayor which was all prompted by the holier-than-thou Starlings?

Friday, May 22, 2015

BACKROOM KING CLARE WESTCOTT


A GREAT TALKER BUT EVEN BETTER AT DOING

The stories flowed like the Trent River gushing in spring flood beside the retirement home in Campbellford.  But I could listen forever.
For the man spinning the tales is Clare Westcott, long a king of the back corridors of power.  He's almost blind, and his walking is worse. He's a shrunken 91, but if I was running a government, I would resurrect this oracle of the past as an adviser.
After all, most days the premier demonstrates she needs one.
As the chap at the elbow of Bill Davis when he was one of our best premiers and education ministers, Westcott knows how to sell an idea all the way to reality and make politicians look good in the process.
 And that's a rare art!
I have watched him operate for 50 years. There have been collusions that would have had me drummed out of the columnists' union if revealed. But my how the man could talk. Even when you knew he was turning a load of BS into a rose garden.
Mary was fascinated. Clare was telling her the flipside to countless Downing stories and columns. Here was a civil servant who turned into an unabashed Robin Hood when he was trying to help people. His solutions were never conventional and could be vaguely improper.
Not only did he know everyone, from bank presidents and celebrities to kid Tories in northern hamlets, he put the arm on everyone when he was out to right a wrong. He connected people like he had invented the Six Degrees of Separation theory.
For several decades, he was involved in every scheme, grand or tiny, coming out of the pink palace. Often in the weirdest ways.  And it all started when he dropped out of Grade 10 and tried to join the army but got rejected.
He worked for a decade as a Hydro lineman, but that job ended up a pole one day when a metal splinter flew from his hammer and blinded him in one eye for the first time.
He took a rudimentary night school course in journalism at Ryerson Institute of Technology and talked his way into a job at the Telegram. That stopped 2 1/2 days later when he said he couldn't work the weekend because he had to go home to his beloved Seaforth and see his wife and infant son. So the legendary Doug MacFarlane fired him on the spot (and lived to regret it.)
Nothing much was doing in jobs so he worked the edges of the Tory dynasty and established a network of Young Progressive Conservative organizations in every riding, catching the attention of premiers Leslie Frost and John Robarts and hotshot ministers like Robert Macaulay.
It paid off finally with work establishing trade offices in two Italian cities. He was back there with Macaulay who had spoken at the Rome Press Club and was very refreshed afterwards. A call came from Toronto about a project that would turn into the Ontario Science Centre. The idea was that maybe the centre would also have a railway display. So Westcott was asked if the government wanted to buy 11 steam locomotives. Macaulay didn't want to discuss it, just grunted at Clare to buy them.
 Clare discovered no one was interested in his engines, not the science centre, not the Ontario Northland, which was using diesels. So he sold them to a Hamilton businessman who has a son named Steve Paikin of TVO fame who called the other day because he is writing a book on Davis and wants to interview the man behind the dais of power.
 Clare still talks to Davis most days and says with delight that he thinks the boss is nervous about what he might tell Paikin with his characteristic candour. After all, Clare believed in giving 110% to a job and was known to complain that even the best of the politicians around him were "damn lazy."
After all, Westcott's sharp memories are packed with details about schemes and manipulations that might shock the conventional.
 Once he discovered a provincial warehouse stuffed with old school desks which weren't going to be used in Ontario. So he found an American trucking company that would take them to the docks in Florida where Caribbean countries could collect them. The trucker got fined $10,000 by the  authorities because he hadn't charged for the charity run. So Clare phoned the Royal Bank president for money to pay the fine. The president said he needed a receipt. So Clare persuaded a Catholic mission to give him a receipt to give to the bank.
Clare hoots with delight about Davis putting him on the Ryerson board when he was a high school dropout and various doctors of pedagogy in the education ministry wanted the post.  Ryerson was on its way to a university at the time, thanks to Davis, and was involved in a huge building program, also thanks to Davis.
Clare was involved in the secret negotiations to buy land around Ryerson without causing a real estate stampede. His story from those days is about him reporting back to the board that thanks to recent purchases, "we at Ryerson now own two whore houses." The first woman on the board, Ruth Frankel, laughed the hardest..
Thanks to Westcott's inside knowledge and Davis' clout and innovative mind, the power twins established 22 community colleges based on the Ryerson model.
That caused some difficulties for Ryerson, as did its president, Donald Mordell, so the board went searching for a new leader. I had been hired to write its history and was involved in other ways so I was put on the search committee.
A touchy situation developed when we decided to consider Walter Pitman, then at Trent. After all, he had been both an MPP and MP for the NDP and the official critic of Davis as minister. Since Davis was the most important person in Ryerson's new life as a university, what would happen if they didn't get along?
We decided that no one would believe that a Sun columnist would be involved in such an undertaking. So I phoned Westcott who was no longer on the Ryerson board and asked, and he checked with Davis and reported back there was no problem. Then I told the search committee that through various means I had determined the premier wouldn't mind Pitman being appointed. Since Davis (and Westcott) later gave Pitman two major appointments, obviously our humble  committee had done a good vetting job for them.
Clare was one of the key people persuading Davis to cancel the Spadina expressway to demonstrate he was a modern politician. (Not a good idea!)  Then they hired Buckminster Fuller, who had done revolutionary designs for buildings in the lake as part of a Telegram promotion, to propose development for the unused expressway land. The buildings were huge and thankfully the idea died without a trace,
Then Davis and Westcott became the Bobbsey Twins of transit and the premier was honoured as the American transit-man-of-the year. One reason was an adventure in magnetic levitation, a test of a wheeless train which was supposed to run around the Ex on a test track. The government got out when the train wouldn't go around curves. (In repayment negotiations with Dave Garrick who was running the Ex, because the experimenters had cut 60 trees, Clare offered their trailers. Garrick used one trailer to house Paul Beeston, the first Blue Jays employee and now the team president.)
Clare hated sexism as much as he loved his family and new ideas. So he hired Sally Barnes, the first female press officer for a premier,  despite old farts worrying how it would look at night when the premier was travelling.
 Clare "used" everyone, no matter your politics. He used me to capture a riding. Phil Givens had been a Liberal MP and then got elected provincially to get away from Pierre Trudeau who didn't like him. He wasn't that happy at Queen's Park either. Clare asked me as a close friend of the former Toronto mayor to find out if he was interested in being appointed  chair of the Toronto police commission.
Since it came with a car and driver as well as a good salary, Phil said yes. So I reported back to Clare and Phil got the job and the Tories finally got a chance to win in York South Weston.
Clare thought it was such a good idea that he got himself appointed police commission chairman after Davis retired.
He helped start Crime Watchers (with solid Cal Millar from the early Sun, and with Garrick raising money.) The chief then, Jack Marks, didn't want his female constables riding motorcycles or horses. So Clare waited until Marks was out of town and told a deputy to put the best looking female constable on the best looking horse and get the Sun to take a picture. Marks was mad but his ban was destroyed.
After Clare got fired by Premier David Peterson from the police board, he served on the federal parole board for a few years, worked in the Toronto office for Michael Wilson as federal finance minister, and was a citizenship judge.
He grumbled  on the telephone after I had written about all the jobs that he held because he was fired as a one-eyed lineman by Hydro. An operation had removed the splinter and he had two working eyes to go along with all the different pensions  I was kidding him about.
Now he doesn't. But his memory is 20 20.
What a guy!  I liked him even after I discovered that he slipped secret scoops behind a radiator in a second-floor washroom near the premier's office just to buy peace with a rival columnist.
As many found over the decades, it was best to stay on one of his many good sides. Besides, you wanted to hear the stories.