Monday, April 30, 2012



I realize the Toronto Star likes nothing better than to run a commentary bitch-slapping the mayor but the latest nonsense from Richard Florida just drips with the Florida/Star hatred.
The headline read: "How Ford's Pride snub hurts our city." A highlighted paragraph read: "It's time for the business community to step up and tell the mayor to stop damaging Toronto's reputation."
C'mon guys! The real world really doesn't care whether a politician supports or ignores homosexuals, just as long as he doesn't throw them in jail or target them with discriminatory laws or preaches against them. Not marching in a parade filled with flamboyant pornography isn't that big a deal.
Florida has a huge rep as a "rock star economist," author and deep thinker about urban issues, although I doubt the ordinary folk care whether he speaks or farts. He's director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management.
I have nothing against that school - my sons John Henry and Mark have Rotman MBAs - but it would be nice before such profs run off at the mouth that they consider whether they could defend their comments as if they were in a doctoral thesis.
For example, Florida writes that this slap in the face to Toronto's gays "is also a direct blow to Toronto's hard-fought reputation as one of the most open, tolerant, diverse and inclusive cities on the planet."
Oh really?
I suppose it's nice that "big thinkers" come here to settle and teach and lecture us, but it would also be nice if they didn't regurgitate statement about this great city which are almost impossible to prove and spent more time on research into whether their sweeping statements are fact or fiction.
I am reminded of another transplanted American, Jane Jacobs, who was worshipped by the left and urban activists although the planning that she advocated would produce exactly the kind of street that most of us would not want to live on.
One of the strange things about Toronto is how vulnerable our leaders are to repeating myths. For example, Mel Lastman when he was mayor of North York used to boast that it was the third-largest city in the country when it wasn't.
Lastman, David Miller and others routinely talked about how Toronto is the most multi-cultural city in the world. Oh really? The world now boasts a Milky Way of cities and to pretend that any international organization has done a competent analysis of most of them is just plain silly. Organizations like the UN and WHO are so busy kowtowing to dictators and mouthy minorities that their stats must be taken with several tonnes of salt.
In the "most multi-cultural city in the world," an annual multi-cultural celebration called Caravan was started by a friend of mine, Leon Kossar, in the 1960s. At one point, 54 pavilions, each bearing the name of a foreign capital, showed off the food, culture and entertainment of their country. It was a huge success. For years I was one of the judges of the best pavilion. Caravan ran out of steam and then died a decade ago. I'm sure the Gay Pride parade years from now will be just another Santa Claus or St. Patrick's or Orange parade...if it lasts.
Florida's basic argument, when you render out the BS, is that when big cities are doing everything they can to become more competitive,  the mayor's "intolerance is damaging both the city's reputation for fairness and its business climate."
Florida considers the mayor's ignoring the Gay Pride Parade as one of those poor decisions that have a significant negative effect on city economies that can last long into the future. Yes, but it's more representative of the views of most Torontonians than Florida's. Dare I raise the ideal of democracy! One poll indicated that 29% says it's up to Ford whether he participates and 25% said he shouldn't attend. I think a poll with a larger sampling would show that most people are indifferent to this issue since at least 85% are not homosexual, and the hot issue of discrimination by City Hall cooled off years ago.
I would argue that Rob Ford's approach to taxes would be of more interest and have more impact on foreign observers than his approach to a propaganda parade. But Florida thinks a thriving gay community signals a community open to all kinds and ideas and that it will stimulate involvement from everyone from eggheads to eccentrics to entrepreneurs.
Well, it got him here. It's up to you to decide which he is. And our thriving gay community is not going to wither because of Ford.
Doesn't anyone at the Star edit this guff? Or are the editors just so grateful that someone shares their view that Ford is evil and the paper must do all things possible to stop the mayor from gaining in the polls that they will run this tortured hyperbole that the mayor's slight is as important as the tax and  unemployment rates and the cost of office space for those who dare to contemplate work in a downtown that has been warped by "experts" like Florida.

Sunday, April 29, 2012



You really knew you had made it when you rode the elevator at Simpson's and dined under the Art Deco arches and four great chandeliers of the Arcadian Court.
And now it has been born again to live outside of our memories as an events venue.
When I journeyed as a kid with only coins in his pocket to Eaton's and Simpson's to do my shopping (the department store giants facing off across Queen St. offered the best shopping in the land) I dined on a hot dog, Honey Dew and soft ice cream cone at a nook at the start of the tunnel that went to the bargain annex of Eaton's. All for a buck or less.
The Arcadian Court, where grandmothers took their daughters and granddaughters to train them for society, and husbands were tolerated if they wore a suit and tie, was so far above me, it could have been in the stratosphere.
And it had been that way since the store thumbed its nose at the looming Depression and opened the largest retail restaurant around in 1929.
 Everything about it was grand, even the acoustics, so the TSO and even Liberace did radio broadcasts from there. It was designed for the carriage trade who still all lived in Rosedale.
I knew I had made it in journalism, sort of, not when I got my first fedora at Sammy Taft's on Spadina, like the cop reporters, but when I made it to the Court, and not just to the Court but to one of its private dining rooms.
I was a member of the Metro Citizens' Safety Council which got a deal there as part of Simpson's charity. (It was a strange setting for one of the council's most famous projects, RIDE, where I moved the motion to approve it as a trial as Reduce Impaired Driving in Etobicoke.)
I will never forget my first meal there. I was partnered with Phil Givens, who before his funeral packed a giant synagogue had been mayor, Liberal MP, MPP,  police commission head, and finally, judge. Even though Phil was one of the fastest in shooting from the lip, voters had rejected him to repeat as mayor because too many thought he had bought the Archer sculpture for Nathan Phillips Square out of $125,000 in taxes when it had been private money. Then Pierre Trudeau refused to make him a minister, distrusting his bouncy big-city roots. Phil, who had come to my wedding, used to phone me from Ottawa to complain about the PM's constant cold shoulder.
Phil announced that of course he was having the chicken pot pie. Any person in Toronto who knew anything always had the chicken pie. So I had it too. (I always did, and chicken pot pie became one of my favourite meals. (Costco has a great one, overflowing with flavour ... and calories.)
Phil dug below its crust with gusto. "I love this pie," he said, poking at a large piece. I looked carefully and said with alarm, "Phil, that's a piece of glass."
Phil snorted in disbelief. But it was, a big shard of glass.
I called the waiter. "You have given the mayor a chicken pie with glass in it." He said nothing, took it away, and reappeared with another serving. So I asked to see the maitre d'.  He dismissed it as a rare accident but never really apologized to one of the most famous Torontonians.
Phil laughed it off. I burned. The next day in my Page 4 column in the Toronto Sun, I wrote about the glass in the pie. Apparently no one from Simpson's was among my hundreds of thousands of readers because no one called Phil or me or the Sun to deny or say sorry.
Just a minor incident at a big restaurant that in some years served more than a million meals. But I can't say I was that surprised when Simpson's disappeared, along with the safety council, and then the fabled restaurant was closed by the Bay because of lack of business.  The little things can kill you as quickly as swallowing glass.

Friday, April 27, 2012



The line about the heavenly voice is from Revelation, the last book of the Bible that scared the hell out of me when I was a boy.
That voice turned out to be harps. In my case, it was a priceless 300-year-old violin played by the superstar with a first name that is as unique as the rest of him.
I felt I was sitting at the foot of a musical god. My son Mark's subscription seats to the Toronto Symphony are in the front row directly below the guests when they perform. So I could almost reach out and touch the heavy boots and braces of Itzhak Perlman, crippled by polio 60 years ago when he was four, who clumped out with awkward arm canes that makes his ascent up the one step to a platform a precarious balancing act where I felt for one terrible movement he would fall.
But Peter Oundjian, the TSO conductor, knows all about the master because he studied violin under Perlman. And when he didn't reach out as Perlman seemed suspended and about to crash to the polished wood, I put aside the fear that Perlman would topple to my feet.
There is a nice bit of stage business when the conductor carried Perlman's violin and bow as Perlman dragged himself through the orchestra to his chair and then, when he makes it, Oundjian hands over his violin and bow and Perlman hands over the conductor's baton as he reaches the platform needed because he plays while seated.
Then Perlman immersed himself as the orchestra plays the first of Ludwig Van Beethoven's Violin Concerto in D Major Op. 61, the giant's only violin concerto, Beethoven played the violin as a boy and never did it well. When Perlman first wanted to play the violin, he was only three, so no one would be his teacher because they said he couldn't even hold the instrument. So he taught himself.
Now he has graduated from that toy violin to the Soil Stradivairus made in 1714, which was warmed up for him by the previous owner, Yehudi Menuhin.
This superstar mugs as well as he plays. He grimaces as if in the throes of sex, his face contorting as if it was a melting mask. I would love to see a TV program where the camera just concentrates on his face but since the concerto lasts 42 minutes, I doubt it will ever happen.
Fortunately, from my vantage point, I could see the twitch of every muscle as the music poured over me, sweet and high or then rasping as if the old instrument was clearing its throat.
Just wonderful! Ironically, as Mary and I drove home, Classical 96 played the same concerto. I hoped it would be an encore from Perlman but it was some lesser player.
There can be disadvantages when you are that close to that action.
 I recall sitting in the front row at a West End performance of Chorus Line and the dancers' sweat occasionally hit me.
 I recall covering a speech by John Diefenbaker from the front row and found that the prime minister may have been a great orator but he spit a lot.
Mary and I arrived late at a chamber music concert in Budapest staged just for the elite newspaper conference where I was a delegate and found that for some strange reason, the only seats left were in the front row. Unfortunately the superstar French flautist, Jean-Pierre Rampal, had a terrible head cold. I felt I was suspended between Rampal's snuffles and sneezes and his hanky.
But nothing like that marred Itzhak Perlman's start of a rare week's stay in Toronto of concerts and coaching of young violinists.
Truly a night. Two standing ovations (real ones instead of those offered by dumb audiences who would cheer the breaking of a wet bag) where Perlman dragged himself back to the front and centre, and then another one which he acknowledged from just outside the stage door.
 No doubt he was exhausted. But I was exhilarated.
Dr. Samuel Johnson once said: "Had I learned to fiddle, I should have done nothing else." This admiration for the violin came from a man still famous after several hundred years as one of the most renowned Renaissance men of letters ever in Britain, an author moving easily from poetry to essays to criticism to biography.
The countless listeners over the decades of the pearls of notes flowing from Perlman's "fiddle" know exactly what Dr. Johnson meant.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012



My face burned. I worried about tears.
Miss Thompson, the Grade 5 teacher, had asked me to stay after my class clattered off to lunch. I must have done something wrong. After all, she didn't call me Johnny.
 Miss Thompson cleared her throat and shuffled stuff around on her big battered desk. She looked funny. "John", she said, "the crotch is gone out of your breeches. It's not decent. Tell your Grandmother that if they're not fixed, you can't come back."
 She seemed as upset as I became. I walked the four blocks to our little home by the CN tracks where the passenger trains came twice a day. You could tell time from their whistles. It almost seemed they were coming into the house.
 I was sicker with each step. What would I say? After all, I was only 9 and never really talked to Grandma.
 Grandma and Grandpa had taken in us orphans after their daughter died of leukemia. They hadn't approved of the wedding. Their favourite girl had married a man more than twice her age, and not a Christian as far as they could tell.
 I was told by my sisters that my father had been a doctor everyone liked in Toronto . They said he drank and smoked. And that was a big problem because Grandma and Grandpa hated that. Grandpa had left Holland after working in a distillery. He had become a born-again Christian who thought gin was the devil's work. So he had to come to Canada and a small town because Bols was the only employer in the suburb of Rotterdam and he couldn't find Christian work there.
 He was trained as a stationary engineer but he couldn't understand enough English to get his papers here. So he worked in the big furniture factory, a tiny man hoisting up big desks to put on the final finish, and became a deacon, shouting out his amens from the fifth pew in the plain Baptist Church on the hill. We read a chapter from the Bible after every meal, except for the Songs of Solomon,  and knelt beside the kitchen chairs in prayer. Church was the only thing he did beside his vegetables.
And now his girl, who had gone to Toronto Bible College, had married a man who never went to church. When Aunt Jean came in from the farm at Williamsford, I heard them talking about what they said was a May-December wedding that would not have worked if they had lived.
 Dad had nicked himself during an operation and refused to have his arm cut off when it got infected. He said his night nurse saved his life. So he married her. Then he died, exhausted by house calls during a flu epidemic. Then Mom died of blood cancer, although when Grandma was really mad, she said Mom had got ill when I was born.
Grandma was old and tired and cranky. Her body hurt. Her legs had varicose veins which bled every few months while we searched for Dr. Morgan to come. Since Grandpa never had much to pay him, Dr. Morgan took his time. Grandma probably dreamed of being back on the neat streets and canals of Holland but she never talked to us about anything except the Scriptures and behaving.
 Grandpa never said much because he was worn out from the heavy lifting at the factory but we were too poor for him to stop even when he was 72. But then no one in the town ever stopped working. On a few rare evenings, when Grandma had been agreeable, he would talk sadly about the old country. He never said but he missed his family. Once he confessed, and looked guilty, he and his brothers when they were young had fed the goat slops from the distillery and Billy had kept ramming a wall until he knocked himself out.
 My grandparents never talked about the big city where we were born. They never talked about the relatives who lived there. Leaving our town of 1,800 to go to what the neighbour called the Big Smoke was not something they wanted to do even when my aunt living there said they would drive the four hours up and bring us back for a visit. Grandpa said all those people bothered him.
My sisters and I memorized all the wonderful things in the catalogues that we used to use in the outhouse before a toilet was put inside. Joyce even said how nice it would be to go to Eatons and Simpsons but Grandma said Heinmillers down on the main street was just fine for us.
 I was careful going into the house for fear that Grandma would notice my torn breeks too. (Boys never called them breeches. ) At the least that would bring slaps or maybe Grandma would tell my reluctant Grandpa to give me the strap.  I certainly wouldn’t be able to go out on Saturday afternoon to play (actually I snuck into the Roxy theatre for movies that were yelled about from the pulpit the next day.)
 I knew saying that they had just worn out and that I hadn’t wrecked them wouldn’t work. And there was no way that my good breeks that I could wear only for visiting and church were used enough for school. The breeks were never comfortable. They scratched and pricked and had knee laces which were supposed to hold your socks up but didn't. There was now a cold draft, well you know, down there, and if you slid, snow came up, and it was really cold.
 And now I had this problem that looked like the end of my world.
 My sisters and I sat there eating the boiled potatoes and cabbage that we grew on the land squeezed between us and the tracks. We bought little at the store. There were thick slices of the brown bread which Grandma baked in the wood stove that also heated the house, sort of, and the water. The bread was good for a week but then it became so hard, you could use a slice as a tack hammer. We hated the bread when it got stale and the cabbage with the dead insects between the leaves.
We looked forward to the rare Sunday visitor when we would eat a chicken from the pen out back. Grandpa would choose the chicken at the bottom of the pecking order that was really thin and had started bleeding at the neck. He would grumble that Leghorns were great for eggs but there sure wasn’t much meat on them.
 We seldom talked much at the table because Grandma would frown. But Joanne and Joyce figured something was wrong with me and asked why in whispers. They decided they had to save me because Grandma would be mad at everyone if she found out. They snuck out into the back kitchen and poked through a rag box for any scrap that was grey. Then we went up to my tiny bedroom which was away from the stove and was so cold in winter that frost etched lace on the inside of the window. They tried to sew in patches but the needle kept getting lost in the coarse corduroy.
 "We need a darning needle, " Joyce, the big sister,  said. Only Grandma had them. Grandma demanded what Joyce had done with the one she was given last week. Joyce had to listen to a talking to on waste but got a big needle. They stitched in some strips that almost matched. The ends hung down, however, along with a cobweb of threads.
We tried pulling and breaking but the cocoon of patches threatened to come apart. We needed scissors, and in our house real big scissors were not for children. So Joanne screwed up her courage and asked Grandma, fibbing that she had a picture of Princess Margaret that she wanted to cut out of an old newspaper for her scrapbook. Grandma handed them over with a frown. At least she didn't want to see the page.
My sisters tugged and trimmed. I said the best stuff would have to be at the front and top so when Miss Thompson looked down, she wouldn't see the tangle. Finally they were done. I tugged on the pants and did up the fly. That was hard because now the buttons and the button holes didn’t match without a fight. Then I walked carefully down the stairs, afraid that any jerk would snap a thread.
 Out into the cold. The steaming draft horses plodded by on their hourly routine of dragging a sleigh full of sawdust from the sawmill to the furnace that heated the Krug Bros. factory. Normally I would sneak in behind and ride a runner, the fastest way to school if the driver didn't spot you. I couldn't risk that today.
 Down the hill I went, sort of knock-kneed. Past the driving shed where the farmers stabled their teams and sleighs in winter when they came to town. The horses stood patiently in the dark, searching for hay, stamping their hoofs, rippling their skin in the cold. I always went in to pat one, but there was no time because I was moving as slowly and stiffly as a turtle. I couldn’t be late today.
 No snowball fights in the schoolyard. I didn't dare. Through the heavy scuffed doors of the Boys’ Entrance into Chesley's old school. Along the dark cloakroom ripe with wet scarves and chewed mittens and soaked rubber boots. It was like running one of those things we were taught about Indians, a gauntlet. Our cloakroom was a gauntlet of bad smells. When it was filled with kids, everyone was pushing and shoving because scarves and boots got mixed together in a tangle and there was always one kid missing one glove or stinky rubber boot.
 If the teacher was mad at you, you had to stand there in the dark and listen to your friends dimly recite on the other side of the wall plastered with coats. And if she was really mad, it was the principal's office. Mr. Sanderson looked like he could be God. No one dared much if Mr. Sanderson was watching. Because he believed in the strap. He would hit you so hard, his shirt buttons would pop off.
 Then the classroom, with its picture of the king looking stern, and some drawings by the girls who always got gold stars on their scribblers when the inspector came and the teacher got really nervous and repeated an old lesson. I sort of tiptoed to my desk. I was in the first row because Miss Thompson always put the boys who she said acted up where she could watch them.
 So far, so good. The lessons began. My crotch started to sweat and itch under all the ragged ends. The classroom was always warm in winter because the big furnace somewhere in the basement where we weren't allowed to go either made the school too hot or too cold. And all the women teachers preferred too hot. An hour passed. I started to relax. I might make it to 4. And then something might save me in the evening. After all, they talked in Sunday School about miracles. And I had been good. Lately!
 Then came Current Events, my favourite. Each morning at 8 I listened to Jim Hunter far away in Toronto and memorized all the fires and floods and sinkings. And if Mr. Hunter didn't have good stuff, I made it up. Miss Thompson didn't know because she didn't listen to CFRB but to CFOS in Owen Sound.
I kept my hand down because I was afraid what would happen if I stood only a few feet from her. This puzzled her. ''Why Johnny," Miss Thompson said, "you have no news. You always do." "No," I said, sinking lower behind my desk.
 "John", she said, "you know in this school we always stand when we talk to the teacher," My chums smirked in anticipation. I had told Rod Matheson and he had blabbed to all the boys. They knew of the fragile state of my breeks. I slowly rose. Flowers growing in a greenhouse would have beaten me. I squeezed my legs together so tightly I could feel the lumpy darning on my long socks. I tried staying behind the desk but it would be suspicious if I didn't stand straight.
 "Miss Thompson," I lied, "the radio didn't work this morning. I have no news." No one rescued me by raising a hand. By now my chums were choking back laughs, but even a loud giggle would have meant the cloakroom.
 Suddenly I could see that Miss Thompson remembered. She surveyed me slowly. From the bottom of the breeks to my crotch and then up, no back, then up and over the sweater that I wore for the entire year to my sweaty face and the bristle of my brush cut. And I waited. And all the boys waited. Then she turned to the blackboard, thank God, and said she expected more participation in Current Events tomorrow. My crisis had passed, for now.
 That night my sisters tackled my breeks again. But we were all afraid to tinker too much with a cloth concoction that had survived its first test. For a few days I moved carefully, scuttling across the playground like a crayfish in the Saugeen River beside the school. Then I was tackled in a snowball fight and as I rolled in the snow with my shrieking attacker, I heard a tear.
 ‘Damn it,” I said, and then some worse words while my friends shrank at the profanity, looking around for a teacher.. But it was only my knee. No problem. It wasn’t in the delicate place that the girls giggled about when my chum Rod boldly told on me to a clutch of them one noon. My sisters and I could deal easily with a patch like that.
Finally after months of careful manoeuvring,  it was spring and I was released from the scratchy prison of the breeks to the short pants where I seemed almost naked by comparison. By fall, I was too big for my britches and almost too big for the Sunday pants. And then came the glories of long pants and a belt, and farewell to suspenders and those stiff descendants of pantaloons and those stockings that always drooped. Hated by all boys and loved, apparently, by all moms, and one grandmother.
So I found salvation that Grade 5 only through the miracle of time. And my faithful sisters, ready to risk the wrath of Hades just to help out a smelly kid. Saved by time, and the insistence then that all girls had to take Home Ec.

Sunday, April 22, 2012



Even the "halo" effect where those being polled give the answer they think makes them look best  - which pollsters admit skews too many polls - didn't help gay activists who insist that Toronto Mayor Rob Ford must attend the gay parade.
Only 44% of those polled said he should participate in the Pride Parade or related events. Hardly the deafening roar of support for the parade that homosexual activists and trendy media commentators say exists.
Ford is going to the cottage, again, and so far won't participate in any way, a stand that 25% agree with. And then there are the 29% who says it's all up to Ford.
I suspect that deep down where your feelings really live, there are more Canadians than that who dislike gay parades and those demanding that politicians show support for a minority life style.
I have had mixed emotions about pride parades since Mary and I wandered into the famous one in Manhattan on a business trip. My belief that homosexuals should be treated the same as anyone else, not persecuted, ran smack into my dislike of seeing dangling balls and bouncing tits by the thousands, and really really queer behaviour, when all we wanted to do was to window shop and have a frosty beer.
I wrote a Sun editorial years ago that toleration should replace discrimination in dealing with homosexuality. It prompted an angry phone call from Svend Robinson, then a NDP MP and famous homosexual activist.  Turned out he hadn't actually read the editorial. So I read it to him, word by word, and asked him to tell me what exactly he objected to. He finally conceded that he really didn't have a a problem. It seemed he expected to have a problem with anything that appeared in the Sun on this issue.
I really don't care what gays do in private, providing they don't scare the pets, or anyone else, when in public. And missionary work is out. Just like we don't expect our educators to promote sexual intercourse between boys and girls, misguided lessons explaining same-sex intercourse should also be banned.
And that is why Ford and me and others dislike the Pride Parade. It is nothing more than a promotion of gay sex, a flaunting of the sexual bits in such manners that it would bring arrest on most streets on any other day.
I arrived at City Hall as a kid reporter with a bit of an in with mayors. My father had been the family doctor for Leslie Saunders and chairman of the school board on which Bill Dennison served as a trustee. For much of my 50 years in journalism, I got to see mayors in every situation including when they were drunk. In this first-name relationship, seven became good friends. For example Phil Givens was a guest at my wedding and I was a guest at one of Art Eggleton's weddings. I wrote Nathan Phillips' memoirs and speeches for Don Summerville with whom I went to every Leaf home game and most days to the Central Y. I have served on boards and committees with David Miller, David Crombie and Ford. I'm not boasting, just stating the foundation that I have a good idea of what many of our last 14 mayors really think, not just what they say. The gay issue has really only come out of the closet in the last 30 years. And the media, driven slightly nuts by the 24-hours news cycle, has become during the same period like vampires sucking the neck of a mayor on any issue from dandruff to development. There is no way that Allan Lamport or Summerville would have been bullied into parade participation. Phillips and Dennison would have used their decades of experience to deflect pressure. Givens and Crombie were too adept in debate to be trapped like Ford's beached whale incomprehensibility. Eggleton, Toronto's longest serving mayor, became famous for his refusal to have anything to do with a Lesbian and Gay Pride Week, intriguing when you know that Eggs, apparently so stodgy and careful,was actually rather horny.
Then we come to the last five mayors, who collectively don't measure up to those who ruled before. June Rowlands was a typical Grit, supporting the gay week but not marching in the parade. Barbara Hall was the first mayor to march but she and Miller are such flamboyant supporters of the left, where homosexual support is greatest, it's a wonder they didn't dye their private parts and strut.
Oh yes, there's Mel Lastman who did his damnedest to avoid anything to do with homosexuals when he was mayor of a suburb more conservative than the hot radicalism downtown.
Yet when he became mayor of the amalgamated city, he went overboard, capering along the route, shooting a squirt gun at everyone, revelling in the pictures of his performance. But then Mel, who isn't much of a reader, only "reads" his pictures in the papers. Mel never saw a parade where he didn't want to be the lead drum major. And he wasn't given to deep philosophizing about the obvious phallic symbolism of ejecting water pistols.
We should be grateful that Bad Boy kept his pants on. Thank heavens no aide told him that if he dropped them, he would be world famous, or is that infamous.
I would imagine Ford will stick to his principles, because of his able understanding of the true feelings of Ford Nation and the suburbs, and roast his weenie at the cottage, not on Yonge St.

Thursday, April 5, 2012



A reminder to two politicians of more than average size: There already is a casino in downtown Toronto.
Mayor Rob Ford should remember the CNE casino because he used to be on the CNE board. I thought the provincial finance minister, Dwight Duncan, was more clued in on Toronto affairs but he obviously needs a reminder.
When both have talked about a Toronto casino, possibly at Ontario Place, there is no mention of the present CNE casino.
The CNE casino operates each August and September before Labour Day and is expected to produce about $3.5 million in net revenues for the Ex this year.
But it could easily produce many millions more starting this Victoria Day if it ran daily until Thanksgiving.
 It could operate while municipal and provincial politicians, plus John Tory's advisory committee on the future of Ontario Place, twiddle their toes and their  tonsils on the subject.
I do know a bit about this issue because I moved the original motion for a casino at the Ex. chaired the committee in charge when the casino began, and met with provincial officials about it when I was CNE president and vice-chair of the landlord, the Exhibition Place governors.
And I did so knowing that Toronto voters overwhelmingly rejected a city casino in a 1997 referendum. There is also an ancient council motion rejecting a Toronto casino.
However, several important facts must be considered when you assess those rejections. The council vote came without any debate on the subject. And there was no real study or debate before the referendum. It was hardly a major election issue.
 The most important fact is that the Not In My Backyard argument has dominated any anti-casino sentiments. The NIMBY forces raise the spectre of the traffic, noise, rowdies and drunks spilling out into residential areas from an evil place. Do you really want a casino on the next street, they ask?
There is no such problem with the casino at the Ex, which is allowed under the provincial regs governing fairs. After all, since 1879, the CNE grounds has hosted countless fairs, shows, and just about everything else from races for planes to stock cars.
Anyone in Parkdale knows that they are moving in near a major festival grounds. Now its residents presently generate a few complaints about the Ex, mainly the noise of the air show, but some of that is  due to the fact that a stupid brewery once gave away free cases of beer to anyone who complained about its concerts. No wonder there were complaints!
There are regular meetings between officials at Queen's Park and the Ex brass. I can assure you as a participant in several of those meetings that not only has there been no complaints or problems with the casino, the provincial authorities thought the CNE casino was well run.
They advised, however, that the Ex not be too flamboyant about its promotion because they didn't want to rouse any criticism. The main recommendation was for the Ex to hire many paid-duty Toronto police to act as security and to ensure there were no incidents.
So the CNE casino has been hassle free and it would be easy to expand and provide jobs during a period when there are many young people around due to school vacations.
Of course the province would want to grab more than its share of the increased revenue. A compromise would be to give the province half of the profit for subway construction, one-quarter to Ontario Place to fund its renewal and one-quarter to the CNE which is now independent from its landlord, Exhibition Place, which runs the grounds and buildings for the city.
Why would Queen's Park go for such a deal? Because it has been the main banker for Toronto's subway construction for decades, and it also owns Ontario Place which has lost a fortune since it opened in 1971.
The mayor has never opposed a Toronto casino because of all the jobs and revenue it would provide. Duncan also likes the idea. However Ford wants the site to be at Woodbine as an extension of its track and slots parlour (which just happens to be in the ward he represented as a councillor.)
Nuts to that. The best site is the Ex/Ontario Place. It is well served with roads and transit. It is easy to expand into a larger festival centre, a huge attraction for visitors, by creating additional land in the lake using fill from subway construction. After all, the city has been creating land in the lake for more than a century.
Councillors are now talking about a referendum question about a casino being included on the ballot in the next municipal election in late 2014.
Why not expand the CNE casino right now for four months and do so for the three summers before the election? Then voters would be able to determine better whether they want to scrap the casino, or shorten or lengthen the months of its operation.
I bet the majority would feel that there's no reason to go out of town to gamble when they can do it so easily at the Ex.