Saturday, October 31, 2015



It's rather stupid and misleading for our politicians and traffic engineers to pretend they are trying to improve the city's traffic flow when bike lanes, traffic lights and prohibition signs increase like snow in a January storm.
Once upon a time, to use the nice expression that has now been replaced by "in the day," Toronto was famous for how it handled its traffic. Experts came from around the world to study our roads, and the Metro roads boss, Sam Cass, was noted as the expert who contributed to the major traffic handbook used internationally.
Toronto used to boast that it had the first major computerized system in the world for the smart timing of traffic lights. I notice that some forgettable American city claims that it was the first to time its lights but if it really was, they must have used alarm clocks because they were decades before the invention of the computer.
I thought bitterly of this the other day as for the fourth morning in a row, I drove east on The Queensway from Park Lawn through six sets of lights that were choking two heavy lanes of traffic because of their timing.
It was the kind of traffic jams that results from an accident or road repair. But there was nothing blocking the traffic except for the stupid way the lights were cycling.
Unfortunately, for various reasons, I had no alternative but to use The Queensway. Once I got to Sunnyside, the jams intensified, but then I expected that because the traffic started to congeal there ten years or so ago.
The stupid gLiberals and leftist councillors insist that we use the TTC, and of course we should. But the reason that most people in Toronto don't use transit is because of where they are going, or the time of day, or the fact that they don't walk very well, or because it's difficult to deliver goods by subway or streetcar.
Then there is a problem that has snuck up on us, the fact that the politicians and the bureaucrats have created a monster in parking downtown and around special destinations like hospitals.
There are parts of the central city where all No Parking signs have migrated into No Parking AND No Stopping zones so if you pull over to use your cell phone, or let a person out, you can be ticketed. You can only stop at the curb to collect or discharge a passenger in a No Standing zone or in a white No Parking zone.
Believe me, I have been hassled by parking enforcers outside St. Joseph's Hospital, Jane St. and Royal York subway stations, Toronto General Hospital etc., even though Mary has a handicapped parking sign and doesn't find it easy to walk a block from the nearest oasis of legal parking.
One jerk tried to confiscate the sign and muttered about thousands in fine. I blistered his ears, demanded his name, and said I would love to publicize an incident where a man couldn't stop to collect his wife who doesn't walk that well in an area that was relatively free of traffic.
If the No Parking sign has the black octagon, that means it is also a No Stopping sign. And without us really noticing, there are many major streets in Toronto where you can't stop. The authorities got punch drunk with power on this ticket ploy because I can show you minor side streets where you also can't stop legally at the curb.
And when I say you can't stop, I mean that you can't sit in your car for even a few seconds with the motor running and the flashers going. It doesn't matter if you have a disabled parking sign and you are unloading wheelchairs. That bugs me more than the hospitals like St. Joseph's that charge you for those disabled parking spots and plaster the dictum to pay right on the sign marking the disabled spot,
Signs now infest areas to prevent easy passage. There are parts of Toronto where you can drive for blocks without being able to make a left turn. The measles of Stop signs has infected the city.
Our traffic has become so bad, we should get an achievement medal for speeding.
After my four days of hell on The Queensway, I went downtown on the subway. My trips were away from rush hour but the only seats I found were side seats were I had to jam between fat ladies with the usual accoutrement of purses and other protruding objects.
I sat there, below the traffic jams, pleased I didn't have to do the expensive treasure hunt for parking, but then there was some incomprehensible announcement about a delay.
I had plenty of time to contemplate why most of my relatives and friends have moved out to escape the daily hassles of just going a few blocks.
I am glad that the millennials say they are happy with all the condos downtown where they can walk to their work and their pleasures. No need for a car, they say, just a bike will do.
How nice for them! Let them write or phone and tell me how they're doing because thanks to the dunderheads at City Hall, where they parking is free and overpaid boss officials can afford downtown living and walk to work and forget those of us in the suburbs, I don't intend to visit that much, even if they figure out how to run the traffic lights again.

Friday, October 16, 2015



Went to vote in the advance poll in Etobicoke Lakeshore and gave up because of the tedious and amateurish approach to the identificaton of voters as if the officials for a day feared an influx of terrorists and frauds.
It should take just a few seconds to check proof of identity. There's no need to turn it into an occupation. With only one choice, it just takes a few seconds to mark the ballot. It just takes a few seconds to deposit it.
What gives with all the marathon delays? What's the point of voters' cards if they're not also used for identity?
So I was just one of many who had no intention of wasting an hour or more when I can vote in 10 minutes on election day providing the election officials settle down and demonstrate more sense.
Judging from the stories across the country, the advance polls were screwed up because the people guarding the ballot boxes would have lost a race to a turtle ... and not just the chocolate kind.
Ironically, this will hurt the Conservatives because there will be a perception that it is the government in charge of elections, not an independent arm's-length body which generally is as thick as oak planks in handling the public.
 Nope, you can't blame Harper for this.
 I have had conversations with the chiefs in counting the provincial and federal votes and always regarded them as bureaucrats crippled by the fear of PR failure from doing a quick and simple task.
I think our elections now are the most honest in our history. The fraud that was so prevalent, for starters in Quebec and the Maritimes - the ballot for a bottle days - seems to have been weaned out of the system. Unfortunately the patronage remains!
I  speak from experience. My first federal election was thrown out by the Yukon Supreme Court because it  ruled that 10% of the ballots, including mine, were illegal, improper or outright frauds.
My stories on this were printed in Time magazine and throughout North America.
The United States seems to have improved too from the days when it was alleged that JFK became president only because of the vote corruption in Chicago.
Now the hassles and hurdles over identification in the U.S. are seen, and accurately too, as a Republican gambit to limit the black vote. As the media and Democrats have pointed out, the amount of fraud in recent elections is remarkably low and doesn't justify the red tape barriers being thrown up against the registration of minority voters.
It is to be hoped that voters here don't just throw up their hands and not vote as the charges, muck and  insults fly, and it becomes difficult to remember just what Justin Trudeau is in favour of other than the teaching of his course in drama in hight school.  (I may have been in all the school plays but I never thought a credit in drama was that useful in life, or that teaching drama was good training for a PM.)
In my home riding of Etobicoke Lakeshore, it is particularly important to pay attention because the New Democrats have resorted to one of the oldest tricks in the chicanery business of elections. Their candidate is Phil Trotter who was raised in Montreal. I would assume that any similarity between his name and that of the incumbent, Tory MP Bernard Trottier, is totally intentional.
I would imagine that Ruth and Terry Grier, who represented the riding at all levels for the NDP,  are embarrassed by that, although I can cite other examples from the NDPers and Liberals about picking candidates who just happen to have a similar name to the favourite and would appear before them on the ballot to fool those not watching too carefully.
Another curious sidelight is the emergence of former mayors in the campaign with Rob Ford clutching at Stephen Harper, who went to Richview Collegiate in Ford territory, and Hazel McCallion calling Harper a liar in support of the Liberal dynasty.
Much as I've been critical of Ford over the years, two points should be remembered. He was never convicted or even charged in all this nonsense in Toronto, and his cancer certainly is dramatic proof that his entire system, including his thinking, was under assault by a deadly killer.
Of course Hazel can't say that since she was convicted on a municipal conflict of interest charge raised in the Sun by me, and found guilty again on appeal, and similar charges kept being made against her.
Indeed, I would argue that if the Liberal mouthpiece, the Star, had undertaken the same scrutiny of her activities as it did of his, the Liberals would now be fleeing in horror from any endorsement.
Trust me, many political veterans don't put Hazel on any podium because they know her feet of clay extend to her neck.
As for the Fords reminding everyone that they are Harper supporters, there's not much the prime minister can do about that. You don't insult your friends even if you don't really like the way the Ford brothers operate.
 I was writing the autobiography of Ontario Conservative Kelso Roberts, who was leader in three different races to be premier. I said undercover cops had spotted him giving a big hello to a notorious gambler when he was AG.  His reply was he didn't know who the man was and a true gentleman always responds pleasantly when someone greets him.
Perhaps I shouldn't used that anecdote because Roberts was a courtly gentleman, and there are damn few of those in today's politics. But you sure don't get to be PM by being rude to people who say they support you even if they come with evil baggage.
All three major leaders have demonstrated that regularly since the Liberals and New Democrats have just as many black sheep, motor mouths and flimsy losers as the Tories, and I include the candidates with the supporters. More than a dozen candidates have been forced to quit by their parties since all this began, and then there are those who quietly quit.
But then, as the Bible said, let he who is without sin cast the first stone. It may be that the latest thinking is that this incident was not in the original Gospel but was added four centuries later.
But we all understand the compelling moral message as we sort out the cheaters and charlatans and decent people over their head from those whom we think just might do a decent job in representing us.
When someone is trumpeting in TV ads that another politician is lying, check their record before you believe them.

Saturday, October 10, 2015



 I phoned a friend the other day who has been elected in numerous city and provincial elections and asked just who this James Maloney was who is running as the Liberal in Etobicoke Lakeshore.
 He's been around the Liberal fringes forever, he said, and was pressed into service when the first candidate quietly quit and the party had to scramble for a new body in May.
But what does he do, I said. Well, I think he's a lawyer and law is the family business, my friend said. Obviously he hasn't made much of an impression on my friend and me after our decades of living in Etobicoke Lakeshore and being active in the community.
 I told him that the only bit of personal info I get from his literature is that he received a Queen's Diamond Jubilee media.
 Didn't everyone, my friend said.
 Not quite! It is an honour. But I got one, and the previous Confederation medal, and so did my friend, and while we appreciate the recognition of our work and volunteer service, it is not exactly at the head of the list when we write out our biographies.
 So I Googled all James Maloneys to see if like some no-name grocery products, there is some value in this one.  Still don't know, and his service filling out the civic term when Peter Milczyn quit as an undistinquished councillor to win as a Liberal MPP didn't seem to impress anyone.
 There is a picture of the no-name guy with Jean Augustine, the former Liberal MP for the riding. That would be impressive except her performance never matched the promise.
 Augustine billed herself as the first African- Canadian to be elected to the House, ignoring the fact that such a term is shunned by most black Canadians who are happy to go the Diefenbaker route and drop hyphens.
Augustine left elected politics when her friends arranged for her to be the first provincial Fairness commissioner. If you don't know what that entails, join the large club who thinks it's just another excuse to give a Liberal a lucrative grand-sounding post.
At least the party really sought Augustine. Maloney, and too many others in the country, are just running because their party wants to have a candidate in every riding.
Unfortunately, as the last election demonstrated, all sorts of new MPs, particularly NDPers from Quebec, even a pub operator who did it as a lark, had no idea what the job really entailed. At least one didn't realize he had to go to some big formal house in Ottawa and be background for the leaders in Question Period.
 I remember a star candidate dropping out at the last minute in 1972 in East York and David Collenette, then just a minor guy working for the party while trying to figure out his future, was told he had to run as a sacrifical lamb.
When he got elected thanks to Trudeau-mania, I wrote a column gleefully pointing out that he hadn't been a real candidate. Collenette wrote an angry letter to the Sun which Peter Worthington ran with a grin because it was such a hatchet job on me. He went on to become a Liberal star as a major minister in several portfolios, and a friend who occasionally still digs at me.
 But generally that surprise doesn't happen, and the sacrifices turned backbenchers rust unnoticed in the nooks and crannies of Ottawa unless they dare to suggest they might vote against the leader and some junior reporters actually talk to them.
 If Maloney did retrieve the riding from the Tories, and the three major parties have all won there, although Michael Ignatieff famously lost there, we can look forward, or so the homogenized literature produced by party central says, to $125 billion being spend on local infrastructure.
That is nonsense, of course. It's just an empty promise. Even the Liberals know they couldn't find the money for all  that if they did get elected. Just another reason I'm voting Conservative.
What a tragedy it is that our elections have taken on a farcical fringe because most local candidates have become so minor in determining the final vote, maybe winning 5% of the ballots, that it matters  little that the average bored voter in Etobicoke Lakeshore knows nothing about the Liberal candidate, except this one got a medal in the name of the Queen.
I must confess that they would know little more about the incumbent Tory MP, Bernard Trottier, who also pumps out literature prepared at party central. At least he's with the right party that would protect  the middle class more than the Liberals pretend they would. As for the NDP, pray for the country if they win to prey on us!
 And so it is across the land, anonymous candidates rather than star candidates. For every confrontation between an Adam Vaughan and a Olivia Chow, there are a dozen who are more like Trottier vs. Maloney. A battle between ghosts pleading with us to notice them.
And it matters little just what they say because it all comes down to three men and what the public thinks of them and their clutch and grab of promises,, not the men and women who emerge from the shadows every four years to tell us how really really really active they are in serving us even if we aren't quite sure who they are.
Why some of them even get a medal!