Tuesday, October 30, 2018



Canadians are blessed with so much fresh water flowing around us and from the tap that it is baffling and embarrassing that we spend billions on bottled water that then clogs garbage with empties.
I have to admit that my wife and related offshoots buy and guzzle bottled water despite my unveiled antagonism.
I also admit the purchase cost is a pittance. It's the principle that counts with me, and the garbage left behind. It's such a stupid idea to throw away even small change on bottled water which is often only our tap water run through filters by giant corporations and then marketed using computer-generated nonsense names.
Now there are municipalities around the world which have toyed with bans and have stopped providing bottled water at civic functions. They should go all the way and not just dip a toe into the issue.
My boyhood was spent in a town in the Bruce Peninsula which we boasted was famous for its deep artesian wells flowing with the sweet necessity of life. There was even a small brewery that boasted of its water before it was swallowed by a giant that concentrated more on distribution than taste.
When I returned to T.O, the populace would have giggled at the idea of buying bottled water. Then came preening bottled water from exotic locations and grumbling from activists about fluoridation (an important health improvement despite the silly poison claims.)
I remember only two major stories about southern Ontario drinking water (although the north had major problems on reserves) which meant that what came out of our taps here has never really been an issue.
We had the awful scandal about lengthy water pollution that ruined people in Walkerton (ironically the capital of the Bruce) and official mutterings from a radicalized city health department where a lefty listing himself as a doctor (his doctorate was in African studies) warned pregnant women and others that it would be best not to use Toronto tap water.
His warning didn't fill Toronto's councillors with alarm but it sort of roosted there ticking. Then I pointed out as a columnist in a private conversation with the head politician over the water supply that he as a chemical engineer and the engineers involved with the pumping stations from the lake were leaving themselves vulnerable to professional challenges of their credentials if the issue turned from a tickle to a flood.
Which led Metro Chairman Paul Godfrey, who apparently went on to work in baseball and publishing, to lead the charge to spend $135,000 on a major scientific study of the quality and safety of Toronto tap water compared to various bottled waters which were then mostly imported.
The results put to rest for all time any health claims that Toronto tap water was bad for you. In fact, in taste and quality it was rated superior to every bottled water sold in the city including the effete Perrier.
(Which reminds me of the chap who looked after all the drinking water for Expo '67 VIPs. This included the water that all the kings and PMs brought from their homelands so they wouldn't get tourist tummy. He showed me some of the giant bottles which actually had little "things" floating in them.)
But back to my recommendation that the new city council ban all bottled water from our store shelves on the grounds that city tap water costs less, may occasionally be safer,  and is environmentally friendly because it doesn't jam our landfills and suck zillions of litres out of our ground water supply.
It would be so simple to do. It would save us money and hassle. Among the minor benefits would be that I would no longer have to lug the unused bottles of water home when I close the cottage for the winter. It hurts my back even as I fume about the fact it's just a dumb fad.

Monday, October 29, 2018



Why have we allowed politicians, pollsters and foreign salesmen to transform our telephones from a vital part of our lives to a nuisance?
My childhood was spent in a home without a phone. I spent a couple of decades in journalism searching daily for pay phones before cell phones became common.
So there are few people who appreciate a phone more than I do. I spent too many nights in exotic locations trying to get a line back to the office from the latest crisis not to love the fact that I can walk into a hotel room on the other side of the world and actually dial Toronto and get through in seconds.
But the wondrous convenience of it all has been ruined by the barrage of crank calls, particularly that one that comes early every morning and there's never anyone there.
I realize there are do-not-call lists and various ways to block unwanted calls but the practitioners seem to slither around the latest shield as if they have taken lessons from the serpent in the Garden of Eden. Why should we have to buy options to block calls or have call display, or buy answering machines and let devices protect us? It's like hiring someone to stand at the door to deal with visitors.
I have neighbours and friends who are ditching their land lines because it's cheaper and they can guard their cell phones better from intrusion. But I am sure that any temporary protection is going to vanish like deodorant on a hot day.
As proof that the Robo Call menace is only going to get worse, I suggest you check the various outfits on the Internet promising to unleash a tsunami of canned calls for customers for only 0.7 cents a minute.
Of course I hang up immediately, as I'm sure most people do.
Yet I think I'm also going to organize a group with important initials to pledge they will never vote for any party or politician that use Robo Calls.  In our spare time, we will lobby for Robo Calls to be made illegal. It's bad enough when there's a real politician calling and not just a computer.
I have known John Tory since he was a kid radio reporter who came before meetings to ask my advice on what were the important issues on which he should concentrate.
If I had received one more Robo Call from Tory, I would not have voted for him, even though his major opponent had silly policies that were not improved from having been raised first decades ago.
To be brutally frank, I would make illegal ALL telephone calls for votes from politicians or parties. Just end political telephone solicitations. Let  them spread their message in pamphlets delivered by campaign workers or by Canada Post at a special rate. Ensure these pamphlets have real meat, real policies in them. not just the usual bunkum and puff pastries. Have real confrontations in election debates, like the dozens I moderated in the 1970s and 1980s in Nathan Phillips Square and on the community Rogers channel which has disappeared.
The easiest way for politicians, pollsters and companies to contact people with the least hassle is by email. We can just skim over the nonsense without wasting much time. Except I find the Internet in general to be so unreliable, so filled with routine glitches, that when the cut-rate brokerage outfits run by two giant Canadian banks kept crashing for days, it was not considered that unusual. In fact, TD officials seemed miffed when I complained.
I have a son working for a giant computer company who just spent eight hours trying to get his special computer to work again and grumbled that it happens weekly if not daily.
So I think any system that depends totally on computers is not going to work, just as this dream of driverless cars is going to go through a long nightmare stage. We have to have the post office as a backup (and believe it or not, I think our postal service works just fine.)
We have climbed to a peak of annoyance and we don't want to go higher. Limiting commercial and political use of our private telephone lines just has to happen or there is going to be a stampede back to smoke signals.
I realize there are arrogant outfits that think they have a right to bother me. They claim they are "allowed" to because they have done business with me in the past. I would squash their calls first. As I said on Facebook recently (FB certainly ditched the post in a hurry, not wanting to offend Rogers I guess) what is the point  in Rogers calling me every few days when I already buy most of their services? Then there are the calls from Bell. You would think its officials would not do anything to poke customers when their rates are so high.
If Rogers and Bell really want to sell more, they should improve their services and lower their costs. As it is, they are sinking into oblivion because technology and competition is drowning them in quick sand. I doubt that in a few years they will be getting the same monthly dollars from me. Only laziness has stopped me from cutting already.
Technology has overwhelmed our politicians and agencies like the CRTC. We have become a city  where most people no longer answer their door in the evening (some times never) but we have also become one where electronic intrusion by con artists is routine on our telephones and Internet.
Official spam is allowed to flourish by the politicians who think they will piggyback their way to the next election victory by bugging the hell out of anyone who is too stupid not to immediately hang up.
But what about pollsters, you ask? As someone who has spent many hours pouring over polls, that does concern me because I find polls interesting and useful.
I have trouble separating the real polls from the scam ones over the phone but if the real pollsters were given a special low postal rate, not only would the mailed polls be able to contain more questions, there could be more supporting material too. You don't get that on a call.
It is ludicrous that we have huge rooms in foreign lands filled with unintelligible people trying to sell us duct cleaning on the telephone, and exotic towers filled with hackers infiltrating our emails with dangerous solicitations, and our authorities say there is nothing they can do, that is when they aren't phoning and emailing with their latest scam.
I drove by the house recently where I lived as a boy in the small town of Chesley. It was a sleepy peaceful scene.  And I luxuriated in it for half an hour. Then I headed back to Toronto and my cell phone rang. The electronic madness had returned.



Once upon a time, believe it or not, the federal government made it illegal to call yourself Canadian on the forms of StatsCan, particularly at census time.
I challenged this at provincial and federal human rights tribunals which ignored me on their grounds that I was just the Editor of the Toronto Sun and tabloids really didn't count with the Establishment.
Except the not-so-secret weapon of the Toronto Sun was columnist Doug Fisher, who before computers was the trusted memory of official Ottawa.
 Fisher had been a MP thanks to being the giant killer who defeated C.D. Howe, one of the most powerful pols ever to walk the Commons. Then he became a columnist feared and respected by every political leader in the land, particularly on immigration and native issues, and as a librarian by training, had the best files on any issue you could think of to buttress his opinions.
I was at many a party in Ottawa where leaders like Jean Chretien talked about Fisher's files as one of the best resources in the country.
The politically correct armies were just getting rolling but when it came to issues as sensitive as Indian/native/indigenous affairs, no one dared tackle Fisher even when he pointed out that the PC police were often full of crap and as a result too much money was spent and wasted on and by native leaders.
I began a Count Me Canadian campaign, in editorials, columns, speeches and electronic appearances, saying that Canadian should be allowed to call themselves exactly that when official federal questions involved ethnic origin.
With broadsides from Fisher and some immigrant leaders, we won, the census bureaucrats actually crediting the Sun for the change. So Canada as the next century approached actually went from fines for Canadians who dared call themselves Canadian on forms (we had to write it in) to formal recognition that as a country that was actually older than half the countries in the world, it was O.K. to say it was our origin. We no longer had to say our family originated in failed foreign regimes that specialized in driving their people to seek their fortunes elsewhere.
I hadn't thought of the issue for years. But I just read a letter-to-the editor complaining that the writer had to complete a form in which listing Canadian as an ethnic origin was not allowed.
Do we really have to go through this war again? Do we really have to go back to one of the sturdy roots for the good change, the great campaign by John Diefenbaker around 1960 to end hyphenated Canadianism?
Look at my family history. My father was born just two years after Confederation and came here from Cornwall a decade later. My mother came here from Holland in 1909. More than a century later, I visit the smuggler's coves of Cornwall and the canals of Rotterdam that my father and mother left behind and enjoy myself but don't really feel kinship.
Since Mary's parents came nearly a century ago, my three sons have our century-old roots in England/Holland/Slovenia, but their base, their source, is Canadian, not some hybrid gruel loved only by academics and those who boost the mosaic rather than the melting pot because they have more power (and grants) when they divide with hyphens fashioned as swords more than links.
Whenever I write about this, I still smell the stench from the past when ethnic origin and religion mattered more than the capability of the person in question. It's really not that long ago that politicians and businessmen found it necessary to fib about their history, and I'm not just talking about serial liars like Donald Trump who pretends he doesn't have German ancestors.
Religion doesn't count any more. Orange Toronto died a long time ago. Roman Catholicism may have been an issue in the mayoral election of 1972,  and it did take the city 146 years to elect its first Roman Catholic mayor in Art Eggleton in 1980, but we have just gone through a number of elections when religion wasn't important.
Or so they say.
I would just as soon not return to the days when our officials forced us to remember foreign roots that should instead be lost in the mists of history.
Count Me Canadian on every question about my ancestry or I will shove a bushel of forms down the throat of every official/professor/politician who wants to drag the baggage of other lands into this, the best country in the world. (Sorry, but the daily gush of patriotism south of the border is a tad infectious even though it must be obvious that we Canadians are much better and have a much nicer country.)