Wednesday, November 26, 2014



Let me tell you two stories, one more a horror than a tale, before my argument that Canada would be a fairer tax regime if the feds, abetted in its errors by the provinces, actually compensated us fully for our health costs and charity contributions.
Several years ago, returning happily from a Florida vacation, I descended on April Fool's Day into three months of hell in two American and two Toronto hospitals. I described it in a Toronto Sun series and some blogs.
What I never detailed was that TIC Travel Insurance refused to pay $85,000 in charges from West Virginia hospitals, air ambulance, paramedics and specialists, including a $55 x-ray charge from some jerk who was the first to send collection agencies after me.
TIC never told me about the refusal, just the health ministry who told me five months later. When the case by TIC finally shredded (like the tissues I was billed for in the U.S. hospitals) due to the support of my doctors and an assault of my letters, I had been out of  hospital for six months and had learned to walk again.
As I consulted my doctors and lawyers, they warned me about writing too much about it in case I gave ammunition to TIC and indeed the entire industry which is notorious for welshing and bluffing.
 The only thing that comforted me during the ordeal was my assumption that I would have a hell of an income tax deduction. I must have been more delirious than I thought because as most of us know when we're not impriosned in hospital beds, I would have been lucky to recover $22,000 of the $85,000. Thanks to the dunderheads of the CRA and their federal masters.
It was several years before that when for a number of reasons, including a generous mood that uncharacteristically lasted,  I had one of those years where you end up donating far more to the United Way, cancer, heart, Salvation Army, churches, hospitals, marathons etc. than you realize.
 I have a freelance income, so for years I have gone to accountants for filing our income tax after I spend long evenings sifting and sorting and adding and hunting odd pieces of paper. Besides, the gobbledygook laughingly provided by the Canada Revenue Agency as a "helpful guide" becomes as obscure as my high school Latin whenever I leave the beaten track of calculations.
So that April I showed up at the accountant's and waited with pleased anticipation as he fingered his computer and calculator and even an adding machine to tell me how much more Mary and I would be  getting back.
 How dumb can you be in a country where politicians seize half of every dollar you earn.!
The gloomy result was that both of us owed thousands. I had forgotten, of course, that just like the percentage games with health care receipts, you only get a slice back of charity contributions.
 Of course the pols treat political donations more kindly and give a better break if  you're dumb enough to contribute, say, to the bloody socialists. But not to the Sally Ann which does more for the poor of Canada than the NDP.
Let me propose what you and I can do about this.
 For starters, no political contributions.
Second, we demand that for the self-employed and pensioners who pay their own health insurance premiums, we are allowed to deduct the full amount without any weasel percentages.
And while the feds are at it, complete reimbursement of dental charges. They are too high, a disgrace throughout the country. As a result,  insurance companies wiggle out of paying in full for every procedure or just don't pay at all.
Why should these changes be made?
Because it is in the interest of the country that as many people as possible have health insurance. For pensioners like me who continued the company plan, it is a large cost, in my case around $5,400 annually. That causes people to cancel the plans, which is not helpful or healthy for the country or for them.
Then there are all those dental bills that aren't covered, yet OHIP saves money whenever people avoid having a ruined mouth that pump poison into the system.
As for charitable giving, the present limits are a farce. The federal rules should be tough enough so that every charity must prove its public benefit beyond doubt. And when it does, surely then it is to the advantage of us all that it can get all the private donations possible to continue its beneficial work.
It doesn't happen now because the CRA is Scrooge 365 days a year. and not just on Christmas Eve.
I laugh whenever accountants,  CRA and business magazines remind us of the "wonderful" way we can avoid capital gains tax by donating the stock directly to the charity. So we don't have to pay the capital gains on half of the increase in the value of the stock. And we get a charity deduction for the full amount, what we paid to buy the stock plus the amount the stock increased.
Now if only that charity deduction was treated differently than all the others you get from the church or the United Way. But it isn't. So in the process of avoiding the capital gains, you also donate all the money you spent acquiring the stock. Good for the charity, and the CRA looks benevolent, but since charity donations are gutted by those percentage limits, you aren't as well off as you should be for your charity.
The lord helps those who help themselves is an expression that has reverberated through the ages. But in Canada, the CRA and its political masters are dumb enough - as the financial overlords of taxation - to interfere with those who want to help themselves, and others at the same time, when it comes to health and charity.
It is obvious that if we weren't cheated on the value of our contributions, premiums and payments, solid middle class Canucks would spend more in these areas.
That would be good for the people, good for the country, but not, apparently for the politicians and their collection agency.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014



Wish Don Hunt, the inscrutable but genial giant, had told me about playing catch with Fidel Castro. I would have told him about getting drunk with Fidel while smoking Cohibas as we stood and teetered  on a couch at the Canadian Embassy.
But Don's gone now, along with 85 years of living, including all those decades of newspapering at the Telegram and Sun and a couple of American papers when it was a lot more fun.
And his stories are gone too. which is a pity, because it was a grand life when he was the solid but quieter foundation for the grand schemes of Doug and Peter.
At the celebration - which is what we call a wake these days - at St. George's Golf Club the other night, midst the crying and reminiscences about dad and grandpa and the squirming kids who didn't  understand how the family order had been shaken to its Etobicoke roots, I caught hints of anecdotes that will never be fleshed out.
Like the mistress of George the 41st.  And what Reagan said to him upstairs at the White House confessing to Iran-Contra. Like all journalists with a life as rich as a good Christmas cake,  Hunt had many stories, which he didn't always share.
As a collector and spinner of yarns, I was envious. Much to the alarm of one editor, my son Mark once wrote in the Sun that the family didn't mind me continually telling stories about the business because they wanted to see how they turned out this time.
 Hunt's Castro story came in the old pre-Jays days when the Toronto Maple Leafs, a good Triple-A club, were in spring training and went calling on Cuba in the  pre-Batista days. Hunt, then a sports reporter, fancied himself a basketball player and golfer so he was not bashful about fooling around with some Cubans hanging around the national team and tossed a few balls with some bearded chap.
Before his revolution, Fidel was the son of a wealthy plantation owner and had failed at his first revolt but was known in his country, a great nursery for good ballplayers, as a pitcher who was considered a good prospect by major league scouts if he only learned how to throw a curve.
He never did, except in communist propaganda, so he turned to other pursuits and threw out Fulgencia Batista and his Mob supporters, claiming as a murderous dictator that he was more moral than the murderous despot he replaced.
In several encounters with Fidel, I only played catch with him in a verbal sense. As we teetered on that couch, for example, I was grilling him on his country's military adventures in Africa while he pretended his soldiers had never crossed the ocean.
Hunt had many stories which he shared occasionally with the family. I wish he had written a book, his version of his founding of the Sun with Doug Creighton and Peter Worthington. There has never been a stranger mix of personalities in journalism.
I tried to describe the birth to the wake but it's a futile task unless the audience really understands what a wacky business newspapering really is especially when it involved our 62 Day Oners on Nov. 1, 1971.
We had sold out the initial press run of 60,000. The city was amazed and we pretended not to be surprised and grateful.
The first edition included our first of countless promotions. Come to the Sun with a balloon with a coupon inside and you won a trip. I have no idea as to where, and since most of us had a hard time finding our new home on the battered fourth floor of the Eclipse building, I couldn't figure out how a prize winner would even find our office that was a day old.
I was at City Hall trying to persuade Harry Rogers, the city property commissioner, to give us an office or desk or something there since the Globe reporters had stolen the Telegram office and refused to give me the key to theirs.
Rogers stonewalled me, even though we both laughed at the fact that the Globe reporters were so dumb they didn't know the ceiling in the old Tely office had leaked for six years.
So I talked myself by the receptionist and told Mayor William Dennison to order Rogers to give us the office. He stalled, but I hung in long enough for him to remember that he had been a trustee on the school board when my father was chairman (that used to be important.)
I phoned the Sun from this first satellite office to have Hunt inform me that instead of just joking about the balloon contest, I had to run it. I looked down into the square and there was Bert Petlock, a demon Tely police reporter now doing PR, blowing up balloons from a  cylinder of helium and sticking them under a tattered net. Obviously Bert had a new client who made balloons.
Hunt said find someone important to launch the balloons so Norm Betts can get a picture for Tuesday.
So I talked myself by that receptionist again and told the major he had to launch some balloons. This time he really resisted but I reminded him that I used to let him curl in the Tely house league.
Down we went to a cold nearly empty square. Just Petlock and me inflatingp balloons, surrounded by a dozen kids on bikes like vultures watching a kill. I pointed out they should be in school.  Dennison stood as a lonely figure to one side.
"What do I say," he asked me? "I'll make up something fine for the paper," I told him, "don't worry about it."
So he grabbed one end of the net, muttered something about launching these balloons for some cause that he didn't quite understand, and pulled it off.
The balloons just sat there. The kids pounced. About half of them grabbed balloons off the stone squares while I screamed they had to let them fly first and started peddling madly south looking for an Eclipse building.
I phoned Hunt, the general manager, promotion director, head accountant and president of our syndicate. (All of us had several jobs.) He took the news rather calmly that I hadn't thought to bellow out rules first. We decided that the trip prize would be given out an hour or so later and not to any urchins on a bike.
Those days were so busy and zany that I never did find out if we gave out the trip because I had a lot more to do. I headed up to Queen's Park to search for an office or a desk there which I only got by pretending that I would enlist the help of the new premier, Bill Davis (whom I had never met.)
And then I wrote my second column.
The Sun became famous for its promotions which flowered under Hunt's early direction  We would take over SkyDome or Woodbine for the day. Mary and I often would go with 50 trip winners to various tropical islands. Great fun! It almost made me forget the disaster for Hunt and me on the first day the Sun shone out of the Eclipse building.

Sunday, November 23, 2014



It's too soon for a full-throated defence of Christ-mass.
Let's hope it's not necessary.
It's to be hoped that all the idiots who think there is something awful about an open glorious celebration of the day and the season will mind their mouths more this year since when they speak they betray their ignorance about the wonderful message of peace and goodwill that permeates Christmas and also ignore its important position in the histories of our families and the country.
What triggers this is a page in the National Post titled "Perils of Perception." It's based on an Ipsos Reid global survey. I'm a fan of that polling outfit since the days when John Wright, a grand Pooh-bah of Ipsos Global Public Affairs, and I used to sum up each year in  long broadcasts on CFRB when it was still the giant and respected radio station.
Thanks to perceptive conversations with Wright, Larry Zolf and Jay Del Mah of the CBC, I was remarkably accurate in predicting elections and public moods.  They knew how to cut through the politically correct BS to what people really were thinking.
Wright sifted these latest polling results and said they meant "Canadians are flying blind in a cloud of misperception."
Misperceptions? By other Canadians, but not you? Bet you get them wrong too.
Canada was one of 14 countries where the publics were asked about their neighbours in such areas as religion and age.
We were almost as bad as those in France and Belgium about estimating the percentage of Muslims in our population. Canadians said it was 20%. It's actually 2%. An over-estimate mistake of 18%.
Only Americans were worse than us when it came to estimating the numbers of Christians. Canadians said the Christian population in Canada was 48.5%  It's actually 69%. An under-estimate mistake of 20.5%.
Only Italy and Poland goofed more in estimating their numbers over 65 years of age. Canadians said 39% of the country was over 65 when it's actually 14% due to all the immigration of younger people. That over-estimate mistake is 25%.
Several messages flow out of these figures that should influence how our politicians should act.
Let's start with Christmas. We have renamed the concerts in our schools, the celebration trees in our squares, our greetings and cards, and banned manger depictions. We have shoved Jewish and Muslim language and customs into our celebrations and accepted Kwanzaa, a "black" celebration dreamed up by a minor American prof several decades ago.
Yet consider the figures. On the side of an unabashed Christmas celebration, we have 69% of the country. The opposition is rooted, perhaps, in the 2% of Canadian Muslims and the 1.1% saying they are Jewish in religion or ethnicity.
The reason I added "perhaps" is because of all my Jewish friends who have adopted some of the customs of Christmas and are a little baffled and even embarrassed about the elevation of Hanukkah which they regarded as a minor celebration.
(Then there was my friend who burned down his mansion when he lit the candle central to the tradition. The joke is that now his friends who think about moving phone to ask if he can come over to celebrate Hanukkah with them.)
By the time we add in all the atheists, agnostics and people who really don't give a damn, and remember that Kwanzaa was supposedly an addition to a centuries-old season and wasn't intended to replace it, it seems we have about 80% for Christmas, perhaps 3% against, and the rest too busy shopping and drinking and partying to care much either way.
Oh shit, I forgot the shrivelled principals and trustees, gutless politicians and the activists who are never happier than when they are making us wear a barbed-wire T-shirt of their principles. There may be only a thousand or so of them at the worst of times but they figure they're more important than the millions.
Let me remind you that I have never believed in religious schools. I think our taxes should support only one secular school system but that Jews, Catholics, Muslims or Baal-worshippers should be given time in public facilities to teach whatever religious views they desire.
I have no desire to force religion on anyone but surely the major religious celebration of most of the country need not be harassed and be allowed to speak its name. It should be made easy for minorities to opt out but the majority, remember, have rights too.
Let's not forget that figure that too many Canadians think that 39% of the country are pensioners. Yikes! No wonder I have read and heard recently of the rather militant philosophy that the elderly in this country are doing just fine, thank you very much, and there is no need to help them in taxation.
What BS! Obviously the fear is that there are now so many old farts around, the country will go bankrupt if they get even a feeble increase in benefits. So help the young and let the oldies wither, you know those who built the country and made it possible for the young to exist.
Wright may have it wrong when he says Canadians are "flying blind in a cloud of misperception." I think such groups as unionists, activists, socialists, and bankers know damn well what the real demographic figures are and ignore or misrepresent them to suit their selfish purposes.
Maybe they should watch Scrooge again.
And the rest of us should stop feeling so smug about how smart and worldly we are - especially compared to the U.S. - when it comes to demographics.
Turns out there is much we don't know about ourselves, even thinking, for example that 39% of us are immigrants when it's actually 21%.
Generous compared to the world, but substantially lower than our mental picture. We really are flying blind. Bring on the guide dogs, the real stats, not the ones made up by the liars who figure and the figures who lie.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014



I hold a battered pair of giant scissors. I suspect that when they were bought seven decades or so ago, they were called paper shears. Etched by acid on one blade, and almost obliterated by wear, is the name "Bob Webber."
I know nothing about Webber except that years before I joined the vanished and beloved Telegram he wrote a column there under the byline Thomas Richard Henry. a formal version of Tom, Dick and Harry.'
That's an expression first used, apparently, in 1657, by writers when they wanted  to talk about a group of ordinary people, if you want to put it cruelly, nobodies.
Politicians now rely on polls to tell them what people think. Ad agencies once said - there's probably a new saying - let's run it up the flag pole and see if anyone salutes. But back in Webber's day, ordinary souls you wanted to talk about were grouped under Tom, Dick and Harry. And if some budding feminist wanted to turn Harry into Harriet, most wouldn't know why.
I don't know how I came to possess the shears at the old Tely building at Bay and Melinda. But I brought them to the new building near Front and Spadina now misused by the Globe, and then to the weird first quarters of the Sun, and then to City Hall and various Sun offices, and now I try to cut out clippings of interesting stories with them at home. They haven't been sharp for years.
I often have visualized  Webber reading the locals, weeklies, exchanges and various magazines armed with the scissors and cutting out grist for his paper mill which would appear in fat paragraphs separated by three dots. He gave credit, of course, since plagiarism is just for the lazy, or for the idiots who want to pretend they're the fount of all interesting observations.
The item or three dot columnists have a higher readership according to newspaper surveys than columns on one topic, something Doug Creighton used to remind me of on a regular basis.
A great, amiable, tough publisher! But when I was tasked with writing a daily column, and a extra one when the brass had one of their brainstorms about special sections, any time I could stretch a paragraph into a full column I did. Even though I knew that Doug, bless 'em, was right. In a busy world, tidbit columns look more appealing than an essay or a full rant.
Often a columnist is just taking one more kick at a familiar can, returning to the prey for just one more comment on something they've harangued readers about for years.
So here, in honour of J. Douglas Creighton, and the Bob Webber who was just a memory when we both arrived at the old Tely, is a three dot column.

                                                     .        .         .

    We al seek relief from bad news. So all the papers reported with glee that the Yukon has miniature drunk tanks to help birds, generally Bohemian waxwings, sober up after gorging so much on fermented berries, they can't fly straight, or crooked either. The Post added that drunkeness is not unusual in the animal world. In Sweden, moose eat fermented apples and charge into towns. A herd of elephants in India drank a village's store of rice wine and killed three and destroyed 60 homes in a rampage. I can vouch for what happens when animals get high on spoiled fruit. I endure deafening belligerent crows at my cottage after they eat the rotting apples under my old tree and clusters of very gamy wild grapes. on a fence. As a boy I fed preserves that had gone bad to our chickens which staggered blindly around while my Baptist grandparents worried about avian disease.

                                       .                    .                 .

        What didn't get enough publicity is the latest report on the hundreds of millions being made in Ontario thanks to us being overcharged on Hydro. It's been going on for decades thanks to Hydro being the gang that couldn't shoot straight when it came to facts, fuses and schemes. The provincially-owned Ontario Power Generation had a net profit of $119 million for the three months ending Sept. 30. Hydro One, which owns the electricity transmission system and delivers power, sort of, to most of rural Ontario, said it grossed $1.556 billion for that period, up from the $1.542 billion it made a year ago. Net profit was "only" $173 million, down from $218 million. Actually the Star said $218 billion, but the reporter there can be excused because with Hydro it's hard to tell millions from billions with a billing system so wrong that it cost more than $40 million to fix. Or maybe it really  was $40 billion. And maybe it's not fixed.

                                                   .                .                   .

   Pedestrian deaths are up, so now TV has noticed all the distracted walkers, particularly teenagers, who wander through intersections and Stop signs with music blasting in their ears while texting or transfixed on a smart phone telling them what their best friend is wearing.  Let's not just blame the young. In my comfortable area of Etobicoke, a young mother or nanny pushing a giant stroller through turning cars at an intersection while dragging a dog and talking on the phone is a common sight.  Driving the side streets around Bloor and Royal York, and I would imagine similar areas in Toronto and other cities, especially at night, has become a gauntlet of danger due to all the people dressed in dark clothes wandering along listening to their music.and aggressively competing with cars for space. Maybe they should select organ music for their funeral at the same time.  One night I came across an unconscious teenager in the middle of the road near my house and called 911 but it turned out she was just drunk and had fallen on her head from her bike and wasn't wearing a helmet. Oh that's all right, I thought, I was worried she was hit by a car or a cyclist because no one obeys the Stop sign there which is only a block from a junior school. Sounds bizarre, I know, but I think a law covering extreme examples of distracted walking is needed as much as the current one against driving while holding a cell phone. Not just to protect the pedestrians, to protect also the rest of us from all the hassles if we run them down.



Friday, November 7, 2014



The wind was cold and the waves rough but I continued to fish. Why? Because there are few opportunities left for me where I can catch or grow what I then can eat with added pleasure.
I had bought lots of minnows for a change. Since no one was around at Burnt Point, there was nothing to stop me from fishing for hours. No interruptions, just peace,  listening to classical music, daydreaming, letting the hassles of big city life from traffic to taxes to inane pols leach out of my system.
Let's not forget, either, the red tape traps, the fogs rising from bureaucratic swamps of print which seldom make it plain just what in hell you can or cannot do.
As a boy, I grew all the vegetables my sisters and grandmother ate, tended the Leghorns in the back pen, fished, and went berry picking. More a necessity than a pleasure. I know there are adults who find all that a restful hobby but I'm grateful to put most of that behind me, especially the weeds and chicken shit.
Yet in a tiny echo from my past, I still stew rhubarb from a huge patch and apple sauce from an ancient dwarf Mac. I still fish for pleasure and for food, and have done so around the world, from the upper Amazon to the Cook Islands.
My Kawarthas reverie is broken by a big plump smallmouth bass chomping my bait and dancing out of the water.   A struggle follows. Best fish of the year if I could land it. And I did. Then another. I already could taste the fillets, and had already tasted the fun.
 Then a big pike ripped at my hook.  It tore a hole in the net but I finally landed it using my dubious skills. I grumbled to myself because there never used to be pike in this stretch of the Trent River.
Since most of us would rather catch muskie than pike, the fewer pike around the better since they eat each other's young. But you don't keep fish you don't eat and I didn't want to deal with all those bones. Yet I thought I would measure before I released it. It was over 36" (90 cm) but it was hard to be sure since it lunged at me every time I brought the tape measure close to its head.
Fish activity slowed and the sun sank like a fiery rock. Then there was another bass, short but fat. Maybe a foot (30 cm). Couldn't remember the minimum bass size but I didn't toss it back immediately because added to the others it would make a grand meal for Mary and me and company.
Left it swimming in a pail and ransacked the cottage for my booklet of fishing rules. Nope. So I did a quick Google hit on an old laptop. Endless government propaganda about the reasons for fishing regs but nothing simple and obvious about real size figures. So I released the bass and Mary and I had a delicious meal by ourselves.
Later, I plunged back into the mysteries of Ontario fishing rules and found they were still as confusing as ever. This has bugged me for years. I blogged about it on Nov. 13, 2008 titled Fishing For Understanding And Bass, and then again on Jan.  29, 2009 titled A Guide To Ontario Fishing, which I intended to be sarcastic because it outlined the defence and justifications for the incomprehensible fishing rules by the natural resources ministry and its minister Donna Cansfield.
After I found that my cousin David Prescott and I had broken regulations involving pickerel - even though he is a banker expert on small print and actually understands all the rules of golf - I complained to ministry officials that there wouldn't be so many breaking the rules on purpose or accidentally around my point if the rules were clear and succinct and not infested with the rationalization and BS.
Ironically, when Cansfield, whom I know as a veteran Etobicoke politician, sent me the official ministry response to my complaint, she added in pen at the end of the letter that she agreed with my complaint. I first raised it with her at a Sun salmon derby opening where I helped her land a chinnook around 10 kg. (23 pounds), by far the largest fish she had ever caught.
The ministry policy wonks have partitioned the province as if it were a jigsaw puzzle. Fish size vary, and so do seasons, between lakes and rivers even if they're just a few kilometres apart. Yet surely, as I've said to the minister and officials, there can be some general rules that you can stick in with your tackle so you don't have to guess.
For example, I think you can keep a bass in some areas if it's 10 inches long but it must be 12" in other areas. Then there are several lengths for muskie. Pickerel lengths and numbers seem to change every few years. It doesn't help either when the ministry adds weasel words that warn regulations keep changing and it's up to us to keep up.  And it doesn't help either that if you haven't found the latest booklet of regulations, you can download it from the Internet if you have the time and paper for the 104 pages.
Surely they can develop basic size and season rules for most species. The current conflicting muddle reads like every ministry expert has different rules about fish in their own fief. The Internet is an ideal place for ministries and agencies to give snapshots of their rules and procedures but too often what you get is a cross between a dog's breakfast and a litter box.
Remember the old GE slogan delivered on TV by someone named Ronald Reagan about "progress is our most important product." Unfortunately, governments made that "process is our most important product." And process, of course, even in the age of the computer, runs on paper, endless pages of endless reports. Making sense of it all, heck just keeping track of it all, is difficult.
The other day I went hunting on the Internet for the current parking fines in Toronto. Never did find one list even though the city claims it really is Internet savvy. As I wrote in another blog, a few years ago I tried to find the rules for parking if you have an Accessible (disabled) permit.  The Internet info was garbled, but then that matched the official answering the phone that day at City Hall.
Of course the Canadian Revenue Agency is the champ of obscurity. And when it really wants to get cute, it leaves such a grey area that it is free to interpret the issue whatever way the official dealing with the matter that day feels like.
The trouble is, our bureaucracies produce signage, instructions and bylaws written and approved by officials who already know the answers and what is legal and desired.  Where are the test panels of ordinary citizens who can survey the Niagara of outflow and say that when red tape is clear as mud and takes far too long to figure out?
It's only in very old movies and books that we have the barefoot boy with bamboo pole and a worm on a hook and string catching the bass and frying it without consulting a 104-page book of rules composed by experts who if we let them would have a different regulation for every river.
I daydream about those days some times when I fish. Some days it's just simpler to throw the fish back than trying to figure out if it is legal.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014



This grand occasion has been happening since 1993.  I have always had awe and respect for the wonderful people whose names enter this pantheon of achievement in the daily struggle.
Strides have been made in this battle for access and inclusion. Yet more has to be done. The clues were everywhere at the luncheon. A nice celebration but all there in the Royal York have a wish list of needs that have still not been met.
David Crombie has chaired the selection committee from the start. The founder and inspiration for it all is Vim Kochhar, the retired senator, who was honoured to his surprise by the Hall this year. Together they say that by promoting the accomplishments of the inductees, a broader message is  spread about all those striving to succeed - to work and play and go to school and raise families - just like those of us without physical disabilities.
We must all do more to remove the barriers, and believe me, hurdles are there despite decades of supposed caring.
If you think this is just rhetoric from a creaky editor who has been a committee member since it began, consider what this year's inductees faced, these shining examples of not letting adversity shove you into a corner. And then think of what their next generation still face!
Sudarshan Gautam has no arms but climbed Mt. Everest without prosthetics. Mark Wafer has only 20% hearing and struggled before becoming a success with Tim Hortons outlets and hiring more than 100 people with disabilities. Elisabeth Walker-Young was a paralympic swimming champion and is now a major sports administrator despite being born with partial arms. Chris Williamson is virtually blind but is one of the most decorated in para-alpine skiing. (The audience was not told but what wowed the selection committee was he told his vital guide skier the day of a major event it was  OK to partner with another skier who had just lost his helper.)
They join a richness of names and successes. Edwin Baker who founded the CNIB. Athletes like Whipper Billy Watson, Bob Rumball, Jack Donohue and Vicki Keith who moved beyond wrestling, football, basketball and marathon swimming. Jeff Healey in jazz, Cliff Chadderton with the War Amps, Linc Alexander, Rick Hansen, Chantel Petitclerc...
All this is captured in a colourful book titled Glowing Hearts V  - A Celebration of Excellence, which should be in every Canadian public library. I'm going to check that it is, and if I don't, I'm sure one of the co-authors, Jeff Tiessen, who is also in the Hall, will.
But let's return to my theme that much more has to be done despite politicians paying lip service to this since 1980. (Can you imagine how much more would get done if we had more disabled people in politics? They would concentrate on issues rather than just re-election.)
Joanne Smith was an apt choice as MC of the luncheon because she has been inducted into the Hall and was host and producer for 10 years of a CBC TV program called Moving On.  At 19, her spinal cord was damaged in a car accident and her career in modelling and broadcasting was shadowed. She rode on into the sun sitting tall in her wheelchair and became a popular figure with the CBC and other media.
Smith insists that we have to get to the point where a disability is noticed and accepted as just another "individual difference." She told me about her battles to get ramps even when Toronto refuses to allow one because of the building code. For six years she couldn't get an accessibility ramp at her local coffee shop, not because of the shop but because of red tape.
My experience is trivial compared to hers but three years ago I was hunting for ramps too. My three months in four hospitals left me not even able to stand. The Ex almost ended my first steps. Even though the CNE loaned me a power wheelchair as a past president,  I was continually being trapped by not enough ramps and too many heavy doors. Several times I manoeuvred  into positions on elevators from which I needed help to extricate, much to open anger of mothers with strollers.
So I had a tiny experience for a few months with what Smith and the others in wheelchairs face daily.
She told me about her terrible experiences with her crucial accessible parking permit because her car is racier than the usual vans and sedans with the permits.
She is so fed up with getting parking tickets, despite her displaying the accessible permit that allows her wide latitude in parking, that she no longer fights them. Last time she renewed her licence she had to pay $600 in fines.
She told me of the time she returned to her car and found a tag on the windshield and her permit sign stolen from inside. She drove around and around and found the offending cop who not only admitted he gave her the ticket and that he broke in and stole her permit, he wouldn't cancel the ticket or give the permit back.
I told her that years ago I was having lunch with David Onley  (honoured in the Hall ) and kidded him about the permit that allowed him to park right in front of the restaurant. There was nothing funny about the response of our former lieutenant -governer.   He told me about when his car had been towed because cops didn't check his windshield and about the difficulty for him and others in retrieving cars from the pound when their vital wheelchairs are in the trunk.
I told the then police chief who ordered a second check of the windshield for a permit before a vehicle is towed.  There was also a constable whom disabled people could call to have tickets cancelled. But he died and according to Smith has not been replaced.
You would imagine that police and parking officers would go out of their way not to screw around with cars with accessible permits because the permits are of such a help to disabled people that some wouldn't be able to move around the city for jobs and medical appointments without one.
I know. Because of Mary's difficulty with walking, we have had one for years. I made a great effort to learn exactly where we couldn't park - finding out wasn't easy - but only found out that the permit didn't allow you to park in a "No Stopping" zone when I received a $60 ticket marked 5.59 p.m. when the parking prohibition expired one minute later.
The cops at 22 division said they could no longer do anything about tags but agreed with me that some mean jerk had written the ticket.
I was telling Smith that Mary the other day ventured forth with a walker to go from Yonge and Bloor to Bay and Bloor and found it an exhausting obstacle course. I told her that when I was learning to walk again, I found that many major streets were filled with fiendish obstructions strewn there by a stupid city and stupider merchants.
But then, I now have put the wheelchair and walker aside. There are many of our neighbours who can't. We should do more to help them. And it would be nice if the police service - if it really wants to be called a service and not a force - were of service to the disabled and not target them when they want to complete their quota of tickets for the shift.

Saturday, November 1, 2014



All Hallow's Eve is the best time to celebrate the birth of the Toronto Sun. Around us, there are enough legends in their own mind, walking dead, and accountant vampires to populate Park Lawn Cemetery. The flood of nostalgia through the survivors is a powerful life force.
I drive carefully through the rain, watching for chocolate-crazed dads and darting tots. All around me are "ghoulies and ghosties and long-legged beasties, and things that go bump in the night." Danger on slick streets. And danger ahead at the restaurant."Good Lord," I think, "deliver me" from whatever Donato is going to do now.
The sequence gets lost in the telling but on Oct. 30, 1971,  I supervised a hung-over skeleton staff and put out the final edition of the Toronto Telegram, an historic, combative and innovative large newspaper that continually beat its rival, the Toronto Star, because it lacked our soul.
Then on the Sunday, 62 of the Tely's 1,200-member staff put together the first edition of the Toronto Sun, which was only possible because of new technology and a lot of hard, even inspired work. It appeared Nov. 1 and was an instant success. Indeed, despite traumatic years where staff was crushed, for example, under Quebecor's jackboot heel, it is now the flagship of the largest newspaper chain in the land.
Which I knew would be one topic at our reunion dinner. After all, at the head of it all now is Paul Godfrey, a man of many parts, liked by some, like me, hated by some, like those who thought that in a devious reincarnation he sold us down the St. Lawrence to the separatists.
But first I would have to find out what Donato was up to. After all, all I knew was the sanctimonious crap in the Star, and a cover-your-ass mealy-mouthed defence in the Sun itself, about the latest fallout from a Donato cartoon. The authors of that explanation/apology must have trained at the Star.
Seems NDP leader Tom Mulcair is upset about a Donato cartoon just before the election where Olivia Chow for good reason got creamed. Of course he does "upset" well. It's the only thing he does well.
Chow is wearing a Mao tunic standing on the coattails of a Jack Layton suit. Nothing unusual there. Donato dislikes the NDP and always draws the socialists in communist garb. And the only reason she was even considered a mayoral candidate is that she had been married to the NDP leader  who became the saint in death that he wasn't in life.
Face it, dear reader, Chow and Layton lost most of their votes and motions and deserved to because most voters and fellow politicians prefer the alternatives.
It all began with the Toronto chapter of the Chinese Canadian National Council complaining about the 'racist' cartoon because Donato depicted Chow with slanted glasses and eyes.
That council is always complaining about something. I tangled with them often, a couple of times over Donato cartoons. They do outrage almost as well as Mulcair because it's about the only time they're noticed. They're not really a major outfit, or that representative.
Of course the Star rode to battle because those goody-goody editors dislike the fun and good reads of the Sun. The usual suspects were called upon. After all, this was an unexpected golden opportunity to attack Godfrey and Postmedia buying Sunmedia, a deal they hope to block at the federal level.
John Honderich, the holier-than-thou head of its board of directors, should concentrate on getting the share price much higher to compensate all the stupid investors silly enough to buy his stock. Instead, he wastes his time to take a jealous swipe at Godfrey, who now runs the larger operation and has defended Donato this time, and in the past.
No need to deal with what Heather Malice wrote. She hates the Sun even though she worked there and it resurrected her career after it crashed at the Financial Post.
The complaints say the cartoon was racist, sexist and offensive. So now cartoonist can't ridicule women? So now cartoonists must produce characters scrubbed of any ethnic characteristic? Since cartoonists routinely exaggerate weight, height, eyes, nose and mannerisms, these critics with their special agendas argue that the artists now have to stop this technique which dates back to cave days and produce only vanilla images?
Is this really what these yahoos want? I suppose Honderich, Malice and the council would have preferred a bland Donato offering that showed a WASP figure of indeterminate sex brushing off a Santa suit while a choir hummed Kumbaya. Donato didn't goof. They did for a candidate who ran a feeble third. Chow's best role in politics is defeated candidate.
Turned out at the restaurant that we discussed the cartoon for about 30 seconds.
After all, Dianne and Andy Donato have been through countless skirmishes over art and cartoons.
 Yvonne Crittenden as a tough reporter and reviewer spent years cheering from the front trench as her husband Peter Worthington waded from law suits to police investigations to controversies.
 As Editor I spent at least 15 years supposedly approving Donato's cartoons and also having to defend him because he pricked the pompous with his pen.  He caused me more grief and more joy than anyone with whom I worked in the news business. Even when I was allegedly his boss. he could be difficult but all great artists are.
 The final member of our group, Mary, my loyal wife, knows the business is wacky and no wimps can  prosper. She knows brawlers are loved only when they're on your side.
Together, we formed an indomitable core against the usual suspects mouthing the usual arguments against the usual imagined slights. We ignored the Star, lefty politicians and councils desperate to keep their funding and titles because we didn't want to ruin our appetites. Besides, it was all rather deja vu because they were mouthing antique arguments.
We concentrated instead on the wine, grumbled about the racket in the Kennedy Public House and indeed most noisy restaurants today, figured Godfrey just had to be better than what had happened at the Sun recently, and heard Yvonne relate new anecdotes about Peter which just added to the legend of the most remarkable newsman I've ever worked with.
I told them that Godfrey had phoned me the night before the announcement of the Post purchase and invited me to the press conference. I was the only Day Oner there. I hope it's the last such occasion. I remember previous ones, like Quebecor's, when Godfrey and others thought it was a good idea if I,  who was there for another reason dressed as Santa, kicked everything off by announcing this Christmas gift for the staff. Pierre-Karl Peladeau balked at the last minute, then joked he started his Sun life firing Santa. Unfortunately, all the other firings that followed weren't as funny.
The annual birth celebration we've had for several decades is never an ordinary affair.  Several years ago, Worthington checked out of hospital with blood still oozing out of a tube in his chest just to be at our dinner. Last year Donato fell on his head and arrived at the dinner directly from the ER exaggerating all his ghastly stitches. He got 17 but suggested a round number like 20 sounded better.
All I know is that the council, the Star and the NDP haven't even inflicted a paper cut on him. Nor should they! You would think that at least those who pretend to be real journalists would not copycat the politically-correct czars and instead defend the rights of cartoonists to be tough and even rough in their message. And that means not making a Canadian of Chinese ancestry look like a safer Barbie-doll-type target.
I love a good cartoon. I wonder if the present careful management at the Star would run some of the cartoons that Dunc Macpherson produced for them when he was one of the best in the world. After all, I can remember his tirades at the press club bar about his dealings with  gutless Star editors, and they actually had more steel in them then than the present crop when facing the PC wimps.
A good newspaper has a good cartoonist, crusading columnists and editors and reporters, a razor-sharp editorial and an attitude, a mystique, that if you're not making at least one national leader mad that day, you're not doing a good job.
Go get 'em, Andy. Just keep falling on your ear, never on your sword. Keep comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable, especially the Star.