Thursday, August 20, 2015



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



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