Yearly Archive: 2019

Roots and wings

While searching for a book on my shelves the other day, I realized I still owned some of the earliest books I ever bought or was given. That either makes me a hoarder, or someone who zealously keeps what’s always mattered. Among them was The Adventures of Danny Meadow Mouse, one of dozens of animal tales by Thornton W. Burgess. I was fascinated by the natural world and learned to read on this series with its subtle lessons about morals. At twelve, I received the greatest gift of all from my father: The Concise Oxford Dictionary. I now own several dictionaries, but that first one remains...

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The unmaking of a city

Walk anywhere in downtown Toronto from Bloor Street south to Lake Ontario, from Spadina in the west to the Don Valley Parkway in the east, and all you can see are cranes building condominiums. In the few blocks around me, there must be ten condos at various stages of completion. The scariest is The One, an 85-storey behemoth at Yonge and Bloor. Two years along and they’re still digging. The footprint seems too small to have enough elevators. Two blocks north on Yorkville Avenue the recently laid roadway interlock is being ruined by cement trucks. All of these monsters, stuffed into...

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Sic transit gloria mundi

When I joined the Bank of Nova Scotia in Toronto in 1976, my office on the executive floor must have measured 500 sq ft. I had a desk the size of a car, a credenza, several chairs, and some bookcases. Any noise in the area was muffled by thick carpets and heavy curtains. The room where visitors waited for their appointment was called the “slumber room” as if it were part of a funeral home. Men wore suit jackets and ties throughout the day. Contrast that staid environment with the 200 or so Scotiabankers marching in Sunday’s Pride Parade. The circle in the...

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Prognosis negative

As if the current federal Conservative leader Andrew Scheer doesn’t have enough problems, he’s now being hobbled by the growing unpopularity of his Ontario counterpart, Doug Ford, the guy who has just taken the summer off. The Ontario Legislature rose last week and won’t return until October 28, four months from now. Somehow that all seems to fit a man who barely works a five-day week even when the Legislature is sitting. Andrew Scheer’s major issue is his image. No one I talk to seems able to warm to him. He doesn’t have leadership qualities, say some. He’s weak, say others....

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No reveries, please

Remember when, not so long ago, you went into a coffee shop, ordered your favourite brew, and sat down. Maybe you were at a common table with half a dozen others. Maybe a conversation was launched. Maybe there was a noisy fellow with whom a lively discussion ensued. Or maybe you just stared out the window and watched the passing parade, lost in your own thoughts. If there were a discussion, maybe you learned something. Or you got riled. Perhaps an idea sprang into your head or a solution arrived to a problem that had been hounding you. Even bettter, you might...

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The favoured few

Usually, at this time of year, we go birding on the Toronto Islands. We take the ferry to Ward’s Island and spend the day walking to Hanlan’s Point for the return trip to the mainland. With a packed lunch along the way, there are glorious warbler sightings. During the week, we have the place pretty much to ourselves. Not this year. Not last year. The water’s been too high. At times, the Islands have been closed to such meanderings. But not closed to residents. For them, there are sandbags and other protective measures for about 600 residents who usually live an idyllic life with year-round...

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Black and white and dying all over

Just when you thought a bad idea couldn’t get worse, it did. In the 2018 federal budget, $50 million was designated to hire professional journalists to buttress local news coverage. On its face, the concept might appeal to some; use public money to tell the public what’s going on around the corner. But, can you really have a free press if it’s bought and paid for by Ottawa? Not by my definition. Now, how does Ottawa foul things up even more? Why by creating a sketchy committee to advise who should enjoy the tax measures proposed in the 2019 budget. Lo and behold, the...

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Fear of flying

Talk about déjà vu all over again. Pickering Airport is back in the news. It first became an issue during the 1972 federal election after the Liberal government of Pierre Trudeau planned to build a passenger airport east of Toronto. Toronto International Airport would soon be stretched to the limit, they claimed. (The Pearson name wasn’t adopted until 1984.) Plus, construction was under way on Mirabel Airport north of Montreal. Maybe the Liberals thought Torontonians might like a new airport, too. I was working for Opposition Leader Robert Stanfield. He asked me to write a research paper and make a recommendation. I did so,...

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