Before You Become a Politician

No, this isn’t about me. This is about federal politics. I never had an inclination for higher levels of politics, those other arenas, other battles, nor the lofty separation of politician from the electorate such roles entail. But some of it is relevant to those who want to enter municipal politics; indeed to all levels of politics. It’s a letter from the former leader of the Liberal … (more–>)

The mote and the beam

“Hide witch hide, the good folks come to burn thee; Their keen enjoyment hid behind a Gothic mask of duty.” Jefferson Starship: Mau Mau (Blows Against the Empire, 1970) I was thinking about those lines recently. They seemed appropriate given the events in town since last spring. I was also thinking about what Gord Hume wrote in 2011: “Explosive internet columns, blogs, and opinion pieces that … (more–>)

Canada Post writes its own obituary

Headline news this week: Canada Post moves to end home delivery. End home delivery? For me, both as  a writer, a lay historian, and growing up in an era where letters were important for communication, business, family and for art, that’s just crazy. I mean really, seriously, way-more-insane-than-the-OLG crazy. But, in an age of declining letter writing – where the tyranny of the Twitterverse is reducing our … (more–>)

What’s it all about, Alfie?

“What’s it all about, Alfie?” sings Cilla Black in the title song for the eponymous 1966 movie. But it could be the anthem for the human race, or at least those with a philosophical bent. “What’s it all about?” is certainly a question that springs to my mind daily as I listen to the news, read a paper or surf the internet.* What “it” is all … (more–>)

Christmas Creep in August

On August 22, we got the Sears “Christmas Wish” catalogue delivered to our home. It was a sunny, hot day that almost reached 30C. The sprinkler was watering the garden while we enjoyed a cold beer on the porch, sitting in shorts and T-shirts. The last thing I wanted on my mind was winter. But there it was, two pounds of wildly-inappropriate seasonal shopping choices, refusing … (more–>)

Believing is Seeing

“He who permits himself to tell a lie once,” wrote Thomas Jefferson (in a letter to his nephew, Peter Carr, from Paris, France, 1785), “finds it much easier to do it a second and third time, till at length it becomes habitual; he tells lies without attending to it, and truths without the world’s believing him. This falsehood of tongue leads to that of the heart, … (more–>)

How should a municipality deal with cigarette litter?

I was sitting on a decorative rock on the landscaping west of Loblaws, this weekend, waiting while Susan was inside and amusing myself at the bad driving habits of our city visitors in the parking lot. I happened to look down and saw what little, rough grass there was, was almost totally buried in cigarette butts. Toxic, non-decaying, environmentally hazardous and socially hostile cigarette butts. Ugh. … (more–>)

But is it news?

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford seems to get more than his fair share of headlines these days, most of them negative. The stories that follow are full of allegation, innuendo and “unnamed sources.” Gripping tabloid stuff. Real time soap opera. But is it news? Most of these stories seem based on a simplistic media prejudgment of the man. Ford: bad. Stories that belittle, humiliate, denigrate and ultimately … (more–>)

Quackery and Big Bucks Infect Health Canada

Health Canada has allowed an increasing number of useless “alternative” healthcare (alternative TO healthcare in most cases) products to be sold in Canada over the last decade, despite the lack of proper (or in some cases, any) research data to prove their claims, effectiveness or safety. Most recently, however, Health Canada went further into pseudoscience and licensed homeopathic vaccines, proving that the agency has bowed to … (more–>)

Understanding the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act

Another of the Acts that direct municipal governance is the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act. While considerably shorter than the previously-discussed Municipal Act – eight pages, 15 sections and less than 3,500 words – it is of perhaps equal importance. While it may seem vague to outsiders, it was written to clearly identify the nature of a conflict in black and white. The Act allows no grey … (more–>)

Propaganda, PR and Spin

What is propaganda? The word gets thrown around easily by people who obviously mean “anything we dislike or don’t agree with.” It’s a pejorative often used by a small group to describe anything official that any level of government puts out, no matter how benign or factual. Libertarians, for example, often grouse that government information about, say the efficacy of flu shots or the safety of … (more–>)

Musings on representational democracy

Representational democracy, says Wikipedia, is “…founded on the principle of elected people representing a group of people, as opposed to direct democracy. All modern Western style democracies are various types of representative democracies…” And so is Canada, and by extension so is the Town of Collingwood; small cog it may be in the great machinery of democratic government. We elect people to represent us, to make … (more–>)

The Art of Worldly Wisdom

Published in 1647, The Art of Worldly Wisdom is a collection of 300 aphorisms about life, behaviour, politics, morality, faith, philosophy and society. One comment, on Amazon.ca called it, somewhat unfairly to Machiavelli, “Machiavelli with a soul.” I have been reading it of late as part of my ongoing study of Machiavelli. It was written by Balthasar Gracian (1601-1658), a Spanish-born Jesuit priest, and titled in … (more–>)

Is Tar Baby the new N-Word?

As far back as I can recall, the term “tar baby” was a metaphor in common political parlance for a “sticky situation.” It has no racial meaning in that context, any more than saying “honey trap” or “sticky wicket.” Both have similar, but not synonymous meanings. But in the last decade, “tar-baby” has become the new N-word on the political stage.* The tar-baby theme is common … (more–>)

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