Monday, October 31, 2011



For me, Halloween is a night for ghosts and goblins, shrunken heads, and memories of the biggest gamble in life for my family and me.
It was on Oct. 31, 1971, that 62 of us worked in a shambles of an office to bring out the first Toronto Sun.
I had turned down one secure federal job in Ottawa and even safer municipal job in Toronto to work for less money on a risky tabloid. Was this going to be the resurrection in a new body of  The Telegram, which had always tried to be different and have fun and not play it safe and pushy like the Star?
As I wrote the first of thousands of columns in my tiny study, the youngest of my three sons, Mark, cried as lustily as his three-month-old lungs would allow. And Mary, who never confessed her doubts, tried to keep his rowdy brothers quiet.
My career had been soaring. Was I about to crash, and take my family with me?
Up to that point, Halloween had just been a time to carve clumsy jack-o-lanterns and try to ignore memories of humble Halloweens as a boy in Chesley when all we could afford was to dress me as a ghost under an old sheet with burned cork smeared on my face. No candy when I worked the neighbourhood, but then there wasn't much money either.
The Sun prospered, my doubts withered and the years spun by. The Day Oners tanned in the glow from our Sun. But then shadows came and the original pioneers, and the newspaper itself, shrunk through retirements, deaths, accountants and the wicked witch from Quebec.
Finally the big occasion at this time was for the Worthingtons and Donatos and Downings to gather for anniversary dinners,  to tell grand tales about trips and to boast about what our kids and grandkids were doing.
And I would take a nostalgic stroll past a real ghost house in my own neighbourhood where John Gault and I investigated for days and wrote stories which became front-page sensations in the old and lamented Tely.
Then a couple of years ago, Halloween took on a marvelous edge. Mark had grown up to work for eBay and helped a fascinating man sell a great blue whale's skeleton to a Saudi sheik for a lot of money. Events like that don't happen every day so Mark and the seller, Billy Jamieson, became acquaintances. And Jamieson invited Mark and his parents to his lovely downtown loft where shrunken heads and war clubs adorned the walls and there was a mummy a floor below the haunted fish tank mounted in an old hearse.
Yes, all the words in that paragraph are true.
What a marvelous setting for a costumed Halloween party. You could perch on an electric chair from an American prison and listen to Jamieson tell how you had to make sure you were buying a real shrunken head from long ago and not just from a recent murder victim.
Jamieson's Halloween party was one of the most authentic in the land. If a real ghost had shown up to elbow me aside at the bar, I would not have beens surprised.
This wonderful picture of Jamieson taken by James Ireland captured the crazy mix of showman and explorer that percolated beneath that erratic mane.
The story of Jamieson and how he sold a pharaoh's mummy to Auburn University for $2 million in the stuff of legend, and TV shows too.
I wrote about Jamieson in blogs Come Smell My Shrunken Head, Shrunken Heads And Great Explorations,  Billy Jamieson And His Shrunken Heads, and then, sadly, one marking his death on July 23 this year.
If you wonder about all these references to shrunken heads, I keep making them because the public is fascinated by them. I can tell from the tracking of my blogs that month after month, people make their way via Google to read about one of the most interesting men I have ever met.
As I type this, the door bell keeps ringing and Mary confesses that she's down to the bottom of the baskets to apple juice and granola bars. It's a happy time. The neighbourhood is renewed with kids blossoming among all the old farts.  There have been Halloweens when no one came knocking, no one chanting trick or treat. I always say I want the trick, which baffles the rookie elves and fairy princesses.
I could tell them of a time when the rumour at school the next day was of the occupied outhouse that was pushed over  on to its door, which made exiting messy, to say the least, and all the windows that were soaped on houses and cars belonging to the teachers.
Maybe it happened. Maybe it didn't. So what! Halloweens are an illusion anyway, when kids can yell and make demands of adults and pretend that when they grow up they really will be astronauts or football stars and maybe even a vampire.
It's a time to imagine great things. Because there are only a few like Billy Jamieson who actually do what others only daydream about, to explore ancient ruins and deep jungles and to act like Harrison Ford seeing Petra for the first time.
R.I.P. Billy Jamieson. I have no idea when your birthday was, but it should have been Halloween.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011



Two other couples were enjoying an autumn weekend in a B & B with Mary and me when the transmission of my van started acting up. You know, Dodges when they get to 125,000 kms,
So I limped back to Toronto at 100 km/h because the traffic would have run right over the top of me if I had gone slower.
Just another example of how 99% of Ontario drivers drive faster than the speed limit on our highways. Trouble is, they drive at a mixture of speeds because not all of them feel they can trust the unstated deal by the OPP to let you go 116 or so without worry.
I have made the case to three transportation ministers over the years  that when Queen's Park insists on a 100 speed limit on  Highway 401, all it does is encourage scofflawism.  And it is not healthy in a democracy to have too many laws,  bylaws and regulations that everyone ignores.
One of those ministers confessed that if he stuck to the speed limit, his trip to Queen's Park after a weekend in his riding would really be an ordeal.
Strangely enough, some of my colleagues on the Ontario Safety League, a volunteer advisory agency on safety, particularly on the roads, didn't share my views that it is silly to post speeds of 100 when most traffic routinely goes at 115 and a few at  120, and the OPP only pull you over for greater speeds than those, or for erratic driving
What prompts me to return to this chestnut of an issue is that the British Parliament is raising the national speed limit on major roads, which is already 70 mph or 112 km/h, to 80 mph or 128 km/h.
The justification is that the transport ministry says this will be a fiscal improvement because it would reduce travel times.  The minister says that in the four decades since the speed was set at 112, there has been a large decline in fatalities. Officials think that faster legal speeds would be safer too. I'm not sure I would agree with that but the experts say that accidents happen when you have vehicles moving at much different speeds and we certainly get that now.
Environmentalists have rushed to condemn this, saying it will increase fuel consumption. An interesting argument since one could argue that a stream of traffic moving easily at 120 would not be burning much more gas than the present dog's breakfast of different speeds.
For me, the major problem in driving our 400 series of super roads is the rogue 18-wheelers which will ride your bumper in the middle lane even if you're doing 120.
Let the cops pull them over after they see their traumatic stunts, and go after the idiots running at 130  or more, and leave the rest of us to cruise easily and safely at a speed that is definitely not the one that  authorities post.

Saturday, October 15, 2011



Coming soon to your friendly neighbourhood drugstore is the latest red tape hassle of the Ontario Ministry of Health.
Starting Nov. 1, and right now in some drugstores, identification must be shown to collect prescribed pain killers. You want some Tylenol 3, then you or your spouse better have a driver's licence or government ID or passport or an autographed picture of the health minister.
The first idea was that everyone had to show this identification. Now it's been changed to the person collecting the pain killer if their name isn't on the prescription. Since Mary picks up most of my prescriptions, which is not unusual in families, she will have to deal with this new nuisance.
So what's my objection? Because most of the time it's unnecessary. You give a prescription from your doctor or clinic to your druggist. Often the name and address of your doctor, your personal details and those of your family, are already stored in the drugstore's computers. The pharmacist checks the prescription to see if it is valid, and 15 minutes or so later,  and it definitely will be longer thanks to this new red tape, you get your pills and you ease your pain.
Barry Phillips, the druggist who runs the Shoppers at Bloor and Royal York,  has a form to be filled out by his staff for each prescription - while you stand in the queue and fume - and that form must be kept for two years.
 Naturally he and all pharmacists are annoyed at this latest snarl of red tape. After all, the druggist has to be satisfied that it is your prescription to fill it in the first place. The prescription would be rejected or your name and your doctor would be double checked if there is any suspicion.
 Demanding and recording identification at the end of the process is just a waste of time and paper since the original prescriptions have always been kept for two years.
It's not just the pharmacists who are upset. My GP, Bernie Gosevitz, one of the world's best doctors, tells me that doctors are upset too by the new red tape.
Twelve pages of information have been provided by the government. Of course the Ontario Public Drugs Program Division has to do things like that to justify its existence in the costly health system of Ontario which devours around 43% if the provincial budget.
The first justification is to provide education and raise public awareness about the safe use of these drugs. Except that's the job of the prescribing doctor.
The government says there has been a 41% increase in narcotic-related deaths in Ontario following the addition of long-acting oxycodone to the Ontario Drug Benefits Formulary. So all those pensioners out there who are eliminating their chronic pain by getting almost free drugs thanks to the province will no longer die because they or a relative showed their driver's licence  to a pharmacist.
The government tells us that prescription narcotics are a lucrative street commodity for individuals and organized crime. There have also been a significant increase in pharmacy robberies. So showing a  licence to get Tylenol 3 is going to reduce robberies and alley sales.
It's a little like the government is going to reduce car thefts by demanding drivers show their licence before they buy gas.
At least it gave me something to talk about with Phillips other than the inability of the police, city hall and parking officers to control the illegal parking by cabs at his back door. His wheelchair ramp is often blocked by cabs clustered at the Royal York subway station. The same cabs also block you when you try to back out of the metered parking. They are a problem every daylight minute.
Yet 22 police division, Councillor Peter Milczyn and the zealot parking enforcement officers are incapable of unsnarling a main entrance to a store which has many customers who find it difficult to manoeuvre around the cabs.
But the same parking officers will swoop down like vultures if you are a minute too soon or too late for whatever petty bylaw they are enforcing. It doesn't matter if it's very early or very late, you get tagged but the cabbies sit there handicapping a busy lane.
I am sure that authorities will bring out the handcuffs if you dare show up with a prescription that doesn't match the latest dictates of the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care
Wouldn't it be nice if the ministry concentrated on solving the present crisis in hospital care rather than twiddling their thumbs and looking for bogeymen among ordinary Joes and Janes!



Of course Rob Ford shouldn't have been driving around holding a cell phone to his ample face. But there's a nice side to this story.
Mayors of Toronto, like all major politicians and captains of industry, can have cars and drivers provided to them. It certainly increases their productivity and the number of visits they can make each day instead of sitting fuming in traffic.
So Mayor Ford likes to drive his own minivan and not use a city car and driver. Good for him. It certainly fits with his genuine man-of-the-people attitude. Now if only someone will show him how easy it is for hands-free operation of a phone in a car.
Not only does that reduce accidents, it reduce the number of  idiots driving slowly and wandering between the lanes while infuriating all the drivers around them.
Once upon a time, when Toronto had a four-person board of control elected across the entire city, the mayor and the four controllers all got limousines with licences running from 5000 to 5004. And to reduce the jealousy, they were quick to offer lifts.
Nathan Phillips used to have his car stop at the TTC stop at  St. Clair and Avenue Rd. and offer lifts downtown to startled commuters. The council chamber for the regional government was a few blocks from City Hall, so reporters packed into Fred Gardiner's Cadillac for the trips back and forth. (That car was once used to take a prostitute to hospital after she overdosed in the council washroom during a break in a hearing before Gardiner.)
There were no armies of aides or spacious offices in the old city hall. The board of control had  offices which were large closets, and one secretary each. Aldermen would come in and coax the secretaries to write letters for them.
The controllers had a lot of extra work and not much extra pay but they certainly gloried in those limousines with the special licences that all the cops knew.
They got special perks too, like two tickets to every Leaf game. Since Don Summerville, 10 months the Toronto mayor before he died playing goal in a charity game, had a wife Alice, who hated hockey, he took me to those special free seats just behind the Leaf bench.
Summerville was popular in the sporting world. He had been a goalie on the Kirkland Lake Blue Devils when the team won the Allan Cup and had played in Leaf practices. So everyone knew Don in the Gardens, but I was anonymous..
We sat near one of the Leaf owners, Big John Bassett, who also happened to be my publisher. One day he was walking through the city room of the old Toronto Telegram when he spotted me typing at a battered desk. "You work for me," he demanded? "How can you afford to sit in those seats behind the bench?" I  explained, but didn't tell him I paid Summerville back by writing some of his speeches.
Now Summerville is just a name on an east-end pool. He is so forgotten, his name is often misspelled in the media. And the limousine fleet and the free tickets have dwindled with time too. But let's not expect with all these changes that we want the mayor to be driving himself, although it's good he gets a bitter taste of traffic. It's safer if he just concentrates on cutting taxes.

Friday, October 14, 2011



It was late Thanksgiving Day when Mary and I headed back from the cottage.  And there on a side road near the hamlet of Trent River was an OPP RIDE spot check.
No problem. Most days I have nothing stronger than a Diet Coke. So I told the female constable that I hadn't had a drink. Then she asked where we were going. Toronto, I said. Something in my tone made her defensive. I'm just doing my job, she said.
No, she wasn't. But I didn't feel like a hassle before a two-hour drive, so I drove on muttering.
Mary said what in heck was the problem. I said this country is filled with people who moved here because they didn't care to be stopped randomly by the police and asked what they were doing. In fact, I said, not only is that illegal, it's the very thing that the police promised not to do when RIDE started.
I know, because the Ontario Safety League credited me with being the godfather of RIDE. It all began when the Metro Police presented the Metro safety council with a proposal for two special cruisers to be used to stop motorists at Christmas in Etobicoke and check for drunkeness. The original name was Reduce Impaired Driving in Etobicoke. I moved the motion that the safety council buy two roof-top signs and support the idea, providing the cops didn't push it as an excuse to stop and search without reason.
The next year the police were back and the innovation in traffic safety became Reduce Impaired Driving Everywhere. To reduce the toll on our roads from stupid drunks is a wonderful goal. So judges and pundits soften their opposition and the rest is history. The idea is to ask about drinking and not destinations etc.
Except the results at Christmas, probably because of the RIDE publicity, is quite poor when you consider the small number of  charges laid and the thousands of drivers who are stopped.
Unfortunately, there has been another result, one that had been feared by the courts and libertarians. I have had a top cop boast to me about the great results when several of his constables have pulled over cars for no particular reason and then search, finding drugs.
Except searching without a valid reason is not only illegal and immoral, it puts a bad taste in the mouths of all of us who would just like to live our lives free of  police questioning just because they feel like it.
When they do that, we really have been taken for a RIDE.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011



I have been writing about Toronto's awful traffic since the jams began. Meaning, my entire life.
I wrote a blog titled Eternal Traffic Hassles.  I thought I had experienced it all. But something happened on an ordinary Wednesday after I wrote it that left me vowing to move to Peterboro (which is the way we used to spell it.)
It really can't get any worse. I thought I had seen it all but then on just another morning, when nothing special is going on, my trip downtown was like going to Hades.
How critical is the situation? The city isn't about to die, but there's little doubt that CEOs are going to move their headquarters because of the hassles about downtown traffic and parking. And the strain on commuters is enormous and probably a drain on energy.
Mary and I had appointments with Dr. Bernie Gosevitz, who has long been our doctor because he is one of the best around. So we started off at 8 a.m. , because she is limping so badly, we would never have made it via our usual trip on the subway.
I figured that leaving an hour for me to get to a 9 a.m. appointment was more than adequate. I even foolishly had illusions of leisurely hunting for a parking spot that didn't require a second mortgage to rent.
The direct route from near Bloor and Royal York to Jarvis and Bloor - where Gosevitz is ensconced in the Rogers headquarters where he is one of the Pooh-bahs - would have been along Bloor.  Except  that artery suffers from hardening even at that time,  thanks to illegal parking of cars and delivery trucks and a few cyclists.
So I headed down to the Gardiner, which was stopped. So I cut down to the Lake Shore, which was cranky.  Finally we got to Yonge, which was blocked, so I headed south and ended up coming up Parliament, thinking smugly that I would be swinging around the downtown chaos.
 Big mistake! It didn't matter what major street or minor street or lane that I tried, there was a snarl or construction or illegal parking, even several 18-wheelers needing repairs.
So I arrived just after 9, bailed out and left Mary to look for parking and then to hobble to the office because her appointment was after me. After our examinations which took an hour, we headed home.
I'll spare you the details but it was another hour. At that rate, you can only make one appointment a day and never go to work.
Later that day,  I went downtown again,  to the Symphony. It was raining, and Mary was limping, so I paid $10 to park underneath. A speedier trip than earlier in the day, but it took 30 minutes just to get out of Roy Thomson Hall and the parking underneath.
The next day, I went downtown and back four times by the great solution, they say, of the subway. Total time was as long as by car even in foul traffic, six escalators weren't working, some idiot running for a train hit me as hard as I've been hit since I played football, but the cost was a bargain at just over $8.
No wonder 80% of the city doesn't move by the TTC despite that price to sit on half-a-seat.
Before Detroit fell on evil times, it was rated along with Los Angeles as the only North American cities above Toronto in vehicle registrations and traffic problems. Now it's just L. A. and let me assure you that Toronto is worse. When some supposed expert discovered that a year ago, I wondered what took him so long.
A few years ago, I drove my oldest son and his family from their lovely home near Laguna Beach in California to the L.A. airport.
The trip was equivalent to driving from Hamilton to Pearson. Except the trip was during the Friday evening rush hour.  Not exactly a picnic but it wasn't as bad as driving anywhere in Toronto during the Friday evening rush.
I think the clincher is that I would never dream of driving from Hamilton to Pearson at that time. I would borrow the money and ship my son's family by limousine.
This really has become a traffic tale of two cities. The suburbs vs. downtown.  It's reflected everywhere from traffic signals and signage to the shrunken size of downtown roads. Even the problems of cyclists are different. They are too few to be much of a problem during the rush hour in the suburbs except the stupid politicians have cut into the road space with bike lanes.  But downtown they buzz around like angry hornets, with mouths to match, zipping from roads to sidewalks to roads, making life dangerous for pedestrians and difficult for motorists. And in a new development, the electric bikes now appearing on our streets are making even the ordinary pedal pushers feel unsafe.
I repeat what I said in the Sunday Sun on Oct. 1 in a column saying that politicians, not cars, are the problem when it comes to the roads. During rush hours, cyclists should be banned from major streets, for the safety of everyone, especially the tempers of drivers.
Of course if we had a proper system of roads and traffic management, we wouldn't think too much of  bikes competing with thousands of tons of metal and plastic. But the way things are these days because City Hall is so inept, we begrudge even the space taken up by ants.
The annual cost of traffic congestion in the Greater Toronto Area is said to be $2.2 billion. Right now, the major search for solutions is only of a bit of the core,  like .001% of the GTA. The study originally was to cover the area from Lake Shore to Queen, Bathurst to Jarvis, but a big deal was to extend it further north to Dundas.
How pathetic! Might as well spit in the lake. But then this daily hassle only costs a couple of billion.

Monday, October 3, 2011



As the tow truck driver hooked up our old BMW for the final time, Mary came out to say we should take a farewell picture.
I did because I was sad. I was saying farewell to 20 years of life and driving in a sturdy nimble car that I never wanted in the first place.
I was at a party in 1991 when a stranger asked what I thought of BMWs. I told him they were too expensive and I didn't like the people who bought them.
Turned out he was the Canadian president of BMW. Said he thought the Editor of the Toronto Sun should drive a BMW and offered me a 1992 325i for a few days.
My sons were delighted. Even some cousins zipped down concession roads with grins at the lightning performance.
After a few weeks, I phoned the president and said wasn't it about time I returned his demonstrator.  I was due for a new car rented for me by the Sun but I wasn't about to get involved with a $47,000 car no matter how well it handled. And the Sun bean counters would have had hysterics if I tried.
To make a long story short, which is not the usual way of columnists, the president gave the leasing company a really good deal and I threw a few thousand in the pot, after I warned the president that I could never write about the car or it would be a conflict.
And so I acquired a quick small car that I grew to like so much, I bought it at the end of the lease. It helped, of course, that I also had a Dodge Caravan for all the trips to the cottage or on holidays when Mary takes along just about everything moveable. Recently I have had a 2005 Toyota Sienna which is a wonderful highway car for trips but isn't the easiest to manoeuvre in the city.
The BMW was so fast, I could find myself passing at 150 when I swear I just touched the accelerator. The miracle is that I only got a speeding ticket every three years or so, and never at my speeds cruising the autobahns.
The car was so solid, Mary got rear-ended coming off Highway 427 and survived with minor neck strain and $4,000 in damage. The car was repainted in Mauritius Blue, which it really needed, but some jealous jerk keyed the new paint the first night it was home.
It was a joy to drive but migawd, it was expensive. How about $1,000 to replace two windshield wiper motors! Thank heavens my faithful mechanic of more than 30 years, Kurt Stibbe, found a solution that didn't cost that much.
It's important to have a great mechanic if you keep a second older car. And T & S Auto, 2276 Dixie Rd. (905 279 2679) was there when the BMW started to labour and wheeze and finally needed a new transmission. But after 250,000 kms, all the little problems added up so it sat more than we drove it.
My first car was a 1930 Model A Ford shared with two cousins during high school. We fixed everything ourselves, including putting a new rear end in the wrong way so when cousin Dave shifted into reverse to take it out of the yard, it hit the tree in front of the car. So we took it out one night on Weston Rd. to see how fast we could go backwards since there were now three speeds to reverse. Bought it for $75 and sold it for $80.
When I got a few bucks after school, I bought a red gem, a 1954 Le Mans Austin Healey. Louvered hood with racing strap. Hard and soft tops.  Getting into it was like wiggling into a glove. What a difficult car in winter. I traded it for a Riley 1.5, a clever little British sedan. Now I keep thinking of that stupid trade because only 54 of my Healey were made and they now sell for $500,000 each.
Then it was an Austin Marina, with the engine mounted sideways. Unique in North America around 1968.  When they checked oil in U.S. service stations  -  remember when they did that as they cleaned the windows -  they would call everyone out of the garage to look.
It developed a hiccup where the starter motor would stick, and I would have to loosen two nuts and hit it with a rubber mallet to disengage it.  When I had to do that almost daily, and once in a tux, I bought a little car from an unknown manufacturer. In 1972, it was the only Toyoto in the neighbourhood.
Then came forgettable cars before I bought a Taurus in its first year in 1986. I think the best advice you can get is never buy a car in the first year of a major model change. Wait for the bugs to be worked out. For some reason, I keep ignoring that. My Austin Marina, BMW, Taurus, Caravan and now my new Hyundai Elantra Touring were all picked by car journalists as the best car in its class when they first were produced. And I snapped them up. So I can only blame myself when the transmission failed on the Taurus after just a few weeks.
They say you never forget your first kiss or your first time. Add to that your favourite cars. I will never forget my BMW - I hate yuppies calling them Beemers - just as that Austin Healey and the Model A that I learned to drive in will always be tucked in my memory.




The most used word after Andy Rooney retired from the great U.S. news show 60 Minutes was that he was a curmudgeon.
The word seems invented just to describe him.
Yet he was a fair curmudgeon, I think, which makes it more honourable. He was not a cranky sour prejudiced jerk, which many curmudgeons are. He just wanted to be known for his words and please, please, don't bother me on the street.
I suspect any praise of Rooney is lost on many under 60. If you lived with parents or relatives wounded by the Great Depression, or you saved string in a ball, turned lights off as you left a room,  soaked uncancelled stamps off envelopes or thought three times before you bought anything over $100, then you were a Rooney fan or appreciated much of his commentary.
Like when he counted the cashews in mixed nuts to point out that there were too few to live up to the advertising on the can or grumped that a cereal box certainly exaggerated the contents shown in its illustration.
What grabbed me on his farewell - which we knew was coming because he was often missing in recent months - was how he stressed proudly he had supported himself for his entire life as a writer.
Since he's 92, that's a lot of writing. And he intends to keep on typing.
Did I ever identify with that since I made my first money in Sunday School essay contests in 1945 and have been earning my living through writing since 1957.
Rooney certainly had an illustrious career as war correspondent, gag man, ghost writer, author, TV commentator and newspaper columnist. He became really famous, however, when he wrote that signature farewell essay for each 60 Minutes show.
In a much humbler fashion, I've done just about everything possible as a writer too: Books, speeches, gags for roasts, advertising pamphlets, TV ads, radio and TV commentary and, oh yes, thousands of editorials and columns.
I even wrote advice-to-the-lovelorn columns and the horoscope when the syndicated material didn't show up. Oh yes, when you work on weeklies and three newspapers, you have to be able to write anything.
I understand from a woman who won an Emmy as a 60 Minutes producer that the regulars there conducted themselves like kings with fawning and expensive courts. Perhaps, but I love the results. When the program turns to rock climbing or the hot new musician, no expense is spared. Beautifully photographed, and well written. I watch even the repeats when similar shows on other networks often bore me the first time.
Rooney was quirky, right from those bushy eyebrows, which look as stupid as those that Hal Jackman flaunted as our lieutenant-governor, to some of his angles.
But as someone who savours fine commentary - as if it was a juicy steak with reeking garlic bread and a good red  -  I appreciated hearing original thoughts from an elf who must cringe at what passes for comment today on the Internet and some papers.
I used to tell aspiring columnists that there had to be something beyond a rant. If I want a rant, I would say, I can dash one off myself in a few minutes. There has to be insight, or a different view - now cursed by the expression of thinking outside the box - or  great metaphors. No need for crude flaming insults unless you to some surprise have actually invented a new one.
You often got that from Andy Rooney.  May he write for a century!

Sunday, October 2, 2011



In politics, nothing beats a tax cut. Dalton McGuinty should try it instead of screaming in imperial bureaucratic measure as the Tories propose them.
As a scarred participant in too many budget "lockups" at Queen's Park, I was another cynical columnist about provincial tax cuts. Until the day I opened up the book of misleading figures to find that the addition that Mary and I were building had just got cheaper.
We decided to indulge ourselves for a change and were going to buy a Jacuzzi. The government in an attempt to stimulate the economy had decided to drop the sales tax immediately on bathtubs. And there were some other savings in the construction and alteration fields.
The treasurer paused, as if he was passing a snake pit, when he went by the Sun table. I said that for the first time in my life there had actually been a measure in the budget that saved me money immediately. I added: "I may actually vote for you guys."
One thing stands out for me from the rhetorical garbage flying in this campaign. We have the Grits trying vainly to show they haven't raised taxes that much. And the Tories targeting all the provincial unrest over Hydro and heating bills.
Over the years in my, I have fulminated about Hydro bills. The last one on July 15 was titled Hydro's Cheating Smart Meters when I encouraged the Conservatives to short circuit Hydro. Blow the breakers in the entire damn headquarters!
I am not one of those who believe that the smart meters are either smart or a danger to our health. I just know they can't add, and there are thousands of people in Ontario who will agree with me.
I had an unfortunate interruption in my cottage life due to my being imprisoned in various hospitals.
At least, I thought stupidly, my bills will be lower. Fat chance of that, but the shocker to me, like I had grabbed a 220 line,  was the cottage bills were so exorbitant. On my main cottage, Hydro says I used the grand total of 1 kWh. The bill was $86.88. You don't have to know what a kWh is particularly to know that is a staggering charge.
It gets even worse with the bunkie to which we try to banish the grandkids who prefer to sleep in front of the fireplace. No electric usage at all. Even the infamous smart meters couldn't manufacture the smallest trickle of electricity.
Oh yes, the charge was $75.30 for three months of no use at all.
So I really don't care whether Tim Hudak has a certain chipmunk look and that the Tories for some reason are slumping in the polls.
The Tory leader promises me a minimum of $275 savings and there may well be more. He would really lock in my vote if he had a Royal commission into why the grand promise of Hydro, on which the provincial economy rested for a century, turned into a bloated grabbing enemy of the poor suckers in the middle class who have to pay $75.30 when a cottage is not used.



It is a remarkable cover. Toronto Life's October edition promised us The Truth About Tim Hudak.
That headline could have been written by Dalton McGuinty in between his unconvincing rhetoric that his Grits really haven't raised taxes again....and again....and again.
If you listen to the premier, you might think he's against taxes period.
Turns out from the cover story that the Conservative leader has worked hard during his lifetime in politics and his only crime seems to be that he isn't accepted by the self-styled intelligentsia who read Toronto Life.
 Oh yes, he actually married a woman who knows all about politics from right inside a premier's office. The crime here is that Deb was running the office for  Mike Harris who actually did try to save money.
Actually the Toronto Life cover should read: "The truth about Toronto Life. It made the right friends in the new Family Compact that tries to run Toronto, hired the right editor and stabbed any opposition to politically correct issues. The magazine's plot to rule the city."
I have admired Robert Fulford since he was a Toronto Star reporter who was more able and agreeable when we met on assignments than their usual rabble. And Sarah Fulford certainly is a competent writer, demonstrating in her October letter that she knows how to screw a mayor as she dubbed him a "little unhinged."
Among his crazy stunts, she says, is his refusal to attend Pride. The downtowners, gays and lefties who keep harping on that don't realize that Rob Ford reflected the majority view of Toronto who think testicles are best viewed in private and would prefer their nudity at the cottage than on the main street.
Of course Sarah Fulford has something going for her beyond competence.  She has the right last name, and with the readers that Toronto Life is trying to keep, names are very very important, even better than the average IQ to which most Rosedalians aspire.
My son Mark, who lives in China, takes Toronto Life as a fast way to catch up on his visit to his home city that he loves. That's the only reason I had a copy, with the sly picture of Hudak. (That picture must have warmed the hearts of the Liberal insiders who will now worship Toronto Life.
I remember when Toronto Life was born and featured a article by Hartley Steward, then a kid editor, later a publisher of several Suns, and always a great writer. I got an irate call from the Tely publisher, Big John Bassett, who controlled the Leafs when they were winning, the Argos when they were winning, and CFTO when it was promising.
Bassett asked if it was true that Steward worked at the Telegram. I said yes. He wanted him fired. I said that under Guild regs, Steward could write for non-competing media. Bassett insisted. He asked if Steward was any good. Yes, I said, he has a real future. "I hope he tells you to go fuck yourself," the publisher bellowed as he hung up.
A nervous Steward wanted to know what he should do after I relayed Bassett's dictum. I told him to ignore what I had said.
I think the voters should do the same with anything Toronto Life has to say about the Tories, Hudak and Ford.  The problem with the silent majority is that too often they don't write letters when the story doesn't match the sneaky headline.
But they're still out there in numbers that would make advertisers drool.