Musings by Rod McQueen Blog

Our daily dread

Canadians are so nice, goes the myth, so courteous. Indeed, there are regular occasions when we do act in thoughtful ways. If you follow someone into a mall or through a workplace doorway, chances are that they held the door so it did not swing shut in your face. I’m of an age now where young people regularly offer me their seat on the subway. I always decline. I’m not over the hill yet, but their kindness is welcome. However, put those same gracious Canadians behind the wheel and instantly they become irate road warriors. Pedestrians don’t get the right...

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We don’t need no education

As someone proudly born in Guelph, every couple of months I read the online obituaries in what is now called the Guelph Mercury Tribune. While Guelph has more than quadrupled to 130,000 since I left long ago, I usually know someone among the deceased. This time, I knew two people who recently died, both of them high school teachers from my days at John F. Ross Collegiate: Bill Scott and Cathy Crack. The first thing I noticed is that Scott was just seven years older than I, Crack only five years older. At the time, they seemed far more mature....

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From Torino to Toronto

Have you noticed how many everyday transactions used to involve people but no longer do? The first major self-serve was pumping your own gas. ATMs dispense cash and online sites accept bill payments as well as allow trades in your RRSP. Grocery and drug stores all have self-service checkouts. In Royal Bank Plaza and two other Toronto locations, new Cake Boss vending machines dispense slices or complete cakes. Not so at Eataly, the eat, shop and learn emporium that opened this past week at Bay and Bloor Streets in Toronto. Even with the hordes that descended on the place, helpful...

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The invisible man

The caucus of the Conservative Party of Canada has decided not to pass judgment on Andrew Scheer. That was kind of them; he might not have passed muster. Instead, he will go on a “listening tour” to find out what Canadians think about him, the campaign and his policies. First, what did he do right? Well, he increased the party’s share of the popular vote by 2.5 percentage points from 2015 and added 26 seats. But, with all Justin Trudeau’s shenanigans, the election was Scheer’s to win … and he didn’t. What did he do wrong? The first television ads...

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Counting on it

In the 1972 federal election, the Liberal Party and the Progressive Conservative Party (as it was then known) were a couple of percentage points apart in the popular vote. So, too, in the number of seats won, 109-107, in favour of the Liberals. In this most recent election, the popular vote was even tighter. The Conservative Party of Canada (as it is now known) was one percentage point ahead of the Liberal Party and won 121 seats. The “loser” Liberals got 157 seats. A close-run thing on that earlier occasion resulted in a near tie in seats; an even closer...

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A life’s work

Hugh Segal has had his share of frustrations and elations. Growing up poor in Montréal taught him how tough life can be and turned him into caring Canadian. A visit to his school by the Right Honourable John Diefenbaker inspired him to believe that politics was a noble calling where change was possible. By the time he was in university, he was active with other students in the Progressive Conservative Party. In 1972, at twenty-two, he ran in Ottawa Centre, not a riding Tories usually won. He lost, but only by about 1,200 votes. I was working for Robert Stanfield at...

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Chicken feed

Canada’s first Chick-fil-A, the number one chicken restaurant in the U.S., opened a block away from me in downtown Toronto a month ago. For the first week, there was chaos on the sidewalk outside because of protests by the LGBTQ community who believe Chick-fil-A’s founding family is homophobic. The rest of the world didn’t care. Whenever I happened to walk by, the lineup of slavering customers began inside, stretched outside across the front windows, wound around the corner of the shop and continued some distance down the side street. After a week or so, the protesters disappeared but the lineups remained, so I patiently waited...

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Time for them to go

Is the regular baseball season over? I can only hope so. I’ve been a member of two different Blue Jays subscriber groups since that first day at Exhibition Stadium in 1977 so I have seen some bad years, but none was as awful as the most recent. Fans cheered more heartily at a well-caught foul ball in the stands than anything that happened on the field. Before the season began, there was a lot of hype about the impact rookies would have. Well the oldsters disappeared and the young-uns joined and we’d lose seven in a row, or twelve out of the last...

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The old face of society

When I was growing up in Guelph, Ont., there were no touring song or dance groups who came to town. Kitchener Auditorium, fifteen miles away, attracted the travelling rock and roll shows with the likes of The Everly Brothers and Buddy Holly but not every teenager in Guelph could afford to go. Instead, Guelphites made their own entertainment. The Guelph Light Opera Company would produce Gilbert and Sullivan or Brigadoon. And through the 1950s and into the 1960s the Guelph Kiwanis Club held an annual minstrel show. The fund-raising event, in the auditorium of Guelph Collegiate and Vocational Institute, ran three or four nights and was...

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The silence of the lambs

The Toronto International Film Festival officially opened last night with a Canadian documentary, Once Were Brothers, about Robbie Robertson and The Band. But the build-up to the annual affair has been going on for days with a media blitz and pop-up trucks trying out operations in locations around the city. One I saw was fitting, a jewellery company, another was not so welcome, a vaping firm with a backdoor on a enclosed van that you had to be nineteen to enter. I did not go inside but can imagine comfy tub chairs, trial intakes of some nicotine-laced concoction and a sales rep saying how...

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Metro notebook

Saw the Blue Jays beat Texas 3-0 on a silky evening with a temperature of 22C even at 10:30. The team is finally competitive, winning two-thirds of their last fifteen games. Previously, they were losing two-thirds of the time. Fans wear their Jays shirts like memory markers since most of the players represented are long gone: Josh Donaldson, Roy Halladay, Jose Bautista, Robbie Alomar, and Russ Martin. At least the t-shirt quality lasts through multiple washings. A Jays employee stationed near the dugout is great with the kids, helping them try for souvenir baseballs and allowing them to sneak up a few...

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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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