Happy Canada Day
The Canada Day 2020 holiday weather is perfect! It’s just that the parks will be fairly empty, and the few strollers should be individuals and family groups keeping a respectful distance from one another. Since mid-March, the whole year has felt like living the film Groundhog Day. As one of Andrea’s WhatsApp group friends observed, “In this stay-home time, what difference does it make if Sunday falls on Monday?”
The people who seem to be adjusting best are those who are comfortable in their own skin, who maintain a regular routine, see opportunity in the time to improve themselves, their home, or do things that normally stay on the perpetual back burner.
Mother Nature seemed to conspire to get Canadians to do the right things by providing spring weather that kept people inside despite themselves. Right into May, I’d get some fresh air in the back yard wearing my winter coat, scarf, gloves and hat. When, I wondered, would spring ever start? But it did. Andrea and I have planted, pruned and decorated the back yard garden, but in this bizarre COVID-19 year, its appreciative audience may consist of squirrels, birds, the occasional curious skunk, and our cat, Merlin.
Adjusting to the COVID-19 year
With the start of a new decade came the rising realization that something was seriously wrong in China with a new virus that seemed to have no cure and spread rapidly. As the spring of 2020 rapidly dissolved into summer weather (at last), we almost forget that the news event of the new decade started with the central Chinese city of Wuhan, and then seemed to spread to cruise boats.
Andrea and I normally attend a round of Chinese functions at the time of the Chinese lunar new year. With Chinese restaurants and Chinese people being either avoided or shunned, and often worse, we resolved to show our support to the Chinese-Canadian community, and attend the functions to which we were invited in the first quarter of the year. And we did, without harm or effect. A few large Chinese social functions scheduled for February were cancelled: at least one of them normally serving upwards of 1,000 people. Back then in mid-winter, one wondered whether our Chinese-Canadian community was being overly cautious. With the perspective of a few months of hindsight, one can see they were being careful, responsible and prudent.
The shut-down begins
Just before the general shut-down, life was pretty busy. The first weekend of March began with a family funeral, at which Andrea and I did our best to minimize our contact and maximize what would, within days, become known as ‘social distancing.’ The following day, the Ontario Liberal Party Leadership Convention began at the International Centre in Mississauga. I picked up one of my Riding Association colleagues on the Friday. We registered, cast what would turn out to be our only ballot, did a minimum of socializing with friends at the event, skipped all the receptions, and went home. We were not being anti-social at the time, but just careful. We went the next morning for the speeches and the vote counting of the first and only ballot. By this time, people were talking about COVID-19, but nobody knew anybody who had it, and the the phenomenon of the asymptomatic ‘super-spreader’ was then unknown. They announced that our Candidate, Steven Del Duca, had won on the first ballot, and my group bade a polite and expedient adieu to an event I would have otherwise enjoyed for a few more hours.
In the weeks that unwound, we are not aware that anybody at either the family funeral or the OLP Leadership Convention tested positive for the virus. They were close to the last large events of their type that happened before the world shut down in the following week.
For me, it happened after Wednesday hockey. As I was getting dressed to play goal, a few of the guys rolled in talking about the ongoing Prospectors and Developers Convention in Toronto, and how a few people had tested positive. I asked if any of them had encountered anyone who was there. No, they said, they’d just heard it from others.
“Good,” I thought to myself, “I don’t need to run out of here and I’ll play this game.”
On the ice in goal, it occurred to me that a hockey rink was a pretty strong environment for any exhalation-borne disease to propagate, and I was glad to be in goal, away from the players’ benches. After the game, one of the guys asked me if I’d be available for a game with his group that Saturday night.
“Well, two things,” I said to him. “Yes, I have nothing on Saturday night, which makes me available, but we’d better talk tomorrow or Friday, because I am not sure if we’ll be playing.”
Sure enough, when we spoke the following day, he told me that the City of Mississauga had called and cancelled all his ice time for the balance of the year. I said I was on one hand disappointed because I was in peak condition for hockey, and on the other hand, I was a bit relieved. The previous day, the stay-home period was mandated across Canada, and the country-wide shutdown began.
The family’s signature cats
Though not from COVID-19, we suffered our losses in the family. Our younger cat, Bebe, had developed a very aggressive form of cancer in early March, and she met her merciful end on March 23rd, with her human Mummy and Daddy at her side. She had always been a healthy little cat, and we were not prepared for her very quick passing. At least Andrea and I could be together and at home during the mourning period that follows the loss of a loved member of the family, whether they talk on two legs or four.
The house was, and remains, emptier without our little Bebe cat on patrol, checking her territory, cuddling with Andrea on and off all day, and talking to us at key points. Particularly when I was elected, people often remembered our two cats who adorned every Christmas card: Obi-Wan (1999 – 2005) and Bebe (2005 – 2020). Now they are both gone, though alive in spirit and memory. Merlin, who adopted me at Pet Valu in Meadowvale in late February of 2016, remained healthy.
The following week, Andrea’s older brother passed away, also suddenly, from heart problems in Guyana. The funeral had to happen quickly and without the family members from Canada and the USA. We participated by video.
The days that re-occur daily
And then life settled into the stay-home pattern: shopping once every eight or ten days; no more in-person visitors; and the days sort of folded into one another such that one of Andrea’s relatives observed on their family WhatsApp chat group, “During this time, what difference does it make if Sunday should fall on Monday?” We started a blog page on Andrea’s family we site to record what was happening from week to week. We tracked what we had for dinner on each day, because the event of dinner seemed to mark the transition from the work day to personal time. We watched old movies on TV, learned how to use Zoom, called our friends and discovered we were all living more or less the same day each day, and took it one day at a time.
And it was cold! Into May, I had not put away my winter jacket, gloves, hat and scarf. Merlin would go outside and wander about, and I would sit in the gazebo to keep him company and get a bit of morning air – cold morning air. My own theory was that Mother Nature was doing her part to help Canadians maintain social distancing by making it uncomfortable and inconvenient to be outside together. In May, when new COVID-19 cases in major Canadian cities began to rise again, it turned out that my theory held water: as soon as it was warm and sunny enough for people to congregate too close together, they did just that, largely without masks or other protection. We just stayed home.
The garden provides a ray of sunshine
From what was indoors and had survived the winter, and from what we had in storage, much of the annual summer garden got started in April and May, when the weather permitted. It took a few careful visits to the Longo’s garden centre near where we live and to our favourite nursery (all suitably masked) to get the balance of the flowers and garden soil to finish the job. This year the garden is a bit more sparse and economical, but it’s there.
As May drew to a close, and the first wave of summer heat descended, I tried my summertime outdoor office again in the gazebo, where I had studied for my Canadian Securities Course in 2019. I can bring out a portable table, set up the computer, bring out a cordless phone, my cell, and all my books and notes, and I largely set up. The Wi-Fi from the house can be a little spotty in that corner of the garden. This year, the songs of the resident families of Robins are more evident due to the still-unearthly quiet in the neighbourhood. Merlin and I had not been able to get to the neighbourhood park for our walk not so much due to the virus, as we seldom encounter anyone at the park, but because the park was either too cold or too wet to make the 600-metre stroll enjoyable for me or for 17-year-old Merlin, who remains a healthy, active and handsome cat.
Andrea didn’t want to run the risk of grocery shopping, so we found a great substitute. Longo’s has high-speed Wi-Fi for its shoppers, so after I have run down the list, I go over to the fresh meat and fish counters, plug my Bluetooth headset in, use the video function of WhatsApp, and let her virtually shop with me for a few minutes. It has worked out perfectly.
At the stores, we never yielded to the compulsion to hoard at any stage. Sure enough, paper products were back in abundance, and soon on sale. The same for such items as chicken and dried pasta. Our local Longo’s became a progressively weirder place to visit, as the shoppers increasingly were masked (as was I after the first two trips). On Twitter, I observed that if I had showed up at the grocery store pre-COVID-19 attired in the mask I now wore, I would likely have encountered a skeptical police officer by the time I got down the second aisle. Now, I am just another masked face pushing a shopping cart.
Flour and yeast were products that we had purchased a few weeks before the run on the stores began, and we were fine for our yeast supply through the spring. Flour supplies were sporadic for a while as the whole world seemed to start baking. Yeast vanished for nearly three months. In the end, Longo’s offered a 20 kg bag of unbleached flour for $18.79, and one such purchase solved our flour supply for the indefinite future. It’s about equal to eight of the normal bags we buy. A friend of mine found yeast at their summer place near Niagara, and the next day (as it always happens), we saw yeast also at Longo’s: in 450 gram packages, again nearly eight times what was in a single bottle we generally bought. Now we are good to bake anything we want for most of the rest of the year.
And so life goes on. We continue to be careful and to stay apart from the family, friends and other people we’d normally have over for dinner and visit. That part hasn’t changed from the year of the Spanish Flu a century ago. At that time, some 500 million people were infected, and that corona virus killed more people than the recently-completed Great War of 1914 to 1918.
Happy anniversary, Praise Cathedral
One of my favourite annual events was the first Sunday of May, simultaneously the anniversary of both the Hindu Heritage Centre in Streetsville, and Praise Cathedral Worship Centre in Meadowvale. Speaking among the Praise congregation is always fun! Lead Pastor and Bishop, Lennox Walker is a superb speaker, so it means setting aside the traditional slightly-understated address for a few minutes of pure rhetorical fun with a group of people whose company I have always enjoyed.
This year of 2020, with COVID-19 having closed the churches – all of them – my anniversary greetings were recorded in late April in our back yard gazebo. And by the way, it was cold that day!
So Happy 15th Anniversary Praise Cathedral. You are a credit to the community and a foundation to our thriving black and Caribbean neighbours and culture. I am proud to have helped the church get its services onto the web from day one of the stray-home period with its web site. Andrea and I look forward to being with our good friends in person, and safely, once again at Praise Cathedral, just near the Meadowvale GO station.
The trans Canada energy corridor we need to build
Survey data shows half of all Canadians support the Trans Mountain pipeline. Canadians instinctively grasp the need and the wisdom of linking what powers our economy, as well as what it produces.
The first corridor across Canada was the Canadian Pacific Railway, to move people. Over the decades, the railway was augmented by roads. Long-haul people movement has mostly gravitated to the air; short-distance travel to the roads. Railways today mostly move freight and natural resources east-west, linking producers and consumers.
After moving people, freight, agricultural products, wood and minerals, comes energy: overwhelmingly oil, gas and electricity. These strategic Canadian resources originate far from where they are consumed and lack a Canadian east-west corridor.
It makes little sense to burn oil (in locomotives) to move oil from Alberta and Saskatchewan producers, to western shipping ports and eastern refineries, where it is converted to usable products. The least-risky, and lowest-cost way to move the oil and gas Canadians will produce, consume, and need for generations is through a dedicated pipeline. Canada needs that ‘energy railway’ to ship Canadian oil and gas to Pacific markets and expand existing pipeline capacity to central Canada markets.
Long-term, sustainable economic development means not the reduction of carbon emissions to zero, but to carbon emissions below the ability of the surrounding environment to rapidly absorb them.
Urban transit’s steady shift from oil to other fuels, such as electricity, natural gas, and hydrogen won’t displace oil, nor should it. Oil will power inter-regional and interprovincial transit and shipping, aircraft, heavy machinery, commercial, industrial and construction equipment. Oil will still be used for plastics, lubricants and other applications. Natural gas will heat existing homes for generations.
To replace oil, urban transportation and other applications will shift to electricity. Nearly 85 percent of Ontario’s electricity comes from Candu nuclear reactors and hydroelectric dams, mostly generated far from where it is consumed. Saskatchewan, Alberta and Nova Scotia will shift their electricity generation fuel from coal to renewables, and possibly nuclear. The pan-Canadian challenge lies in sharing power generation capacity for its efficient use, and not ‘stranding’ electricity because it can’t be transmitted to where it is needed.
Few Canadians realize there is no high-capacity electricity corridor to transmit electricity between western and eastern Canada through Canadian territory. A utility executive once summed up the Manitoba-to-Ontario electricity transmission capacity issue to me as “trying to power your house by sending electricity through a piano wire.” Manitoba has an electricity capacity surplus. Getting Manitoba power to southern Ontario, mostly for summer peak needs, means re-routing electricity south of the Great Lakes, through the USA, before connecting back into the Ontario power grid.
We need to send oil and gas back and forth between eastern and western Canada and transmit electricity in both directions.
Internal politics was a factor in building the Canadian Pacific Railway in the 19th century. Post-Confederation in the 1860s and 1870s, the Government of Canada saw a victorious Union army that was the equal of any European army of its day move west across the Mississippi River to knit together the east and west coasts of the United States across the prairies. What, they wondered in Ottawa, was to stop the U.S. Army from turning north and taking what is now western Canada?
America was exhausted, physically and financially, by the Civil War of 1861 to 1865. A third war with Britain within a century wasn’t a risk that the U.S. Congress of that day would entertain or could afford. But fear of that potential invasion was one of the forces that spurred Canada to draw people to the west and stitch the new country together with an iron road.
Canada’s indigenous nations need a 21st century energy corridor to broaden their economic engagement with Canada and the provinces. Public ownership of the Trans Mountain pipeline means Canadian federal and provincial governments can do with oil, gas and electricity what Canadians did with people, freight, agricultural products and natural resources. A trans-Canada energy corridor is a national and not a regional priority, as strategic to Canada’s long-term well-being in the 21st century as a transcontinental railway was in the 19th.
Province rams election bill through
One level of government messing around in another level of government’s jurisdiction and operations almost always ends badly. Nonetheless, Ontario has chosen this path to force its Bill 5 through the Legislature. The bill’s two operative parts:
- Cancels region-wide elections for the influential post of Chair of Peel Region. The same cancellation affects York, Niagara and Muskoka regions;
- Imposes a 25-member city council on the City of Toronto, negating a thorough process that chose a 47-ward system for that city.
Bill 5 was time-allocated to truncate debate in the Legislature. It was not referred to a Legislative standing committee to hear outside output. No amendments were sought or were accepted. The government did not campaign on the bill, and its introduction came halfway through the municipal election period.
From time to time, the Province does step into matters of local government. Most recently in Peel Region, it happened when the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board was manifestly unable to resolve serious deficiencies. After months of effort to work with the Board and its trustees, Ontario sent in a supervisor to head the Board. Within a bit more than a year, the Board had been handed back to its trustees for governance. When the Province has historically stepped into local governance, it has been for a strong reason, and to fix something that had visibly gone wrong, and then only when no other option would work.
A federal or provincial Bill becomes law once it has cleared third reading. Bill 5 has passed at third reading. After this, the Governor General (for federal bills) or Lieutenant Governor (provincial bills) must ‘proclaim’ the Bill in the name of the Queen. At this point, the bill is law.
What has never been made clear, however, is how the bill itself will work. This ‘nitty-gritty’ detail comes in the form of regulations which specify how the bill’s provisions will work. What are the regulations that govern Bill 5? Not published as of August 14.
Cities are ‘creatures of the Province.’ This means that the legal basis on which cities operate is dictated by provincial legislation, mostly the Ontario Municipal Act and the Ontario Municipal Elections Act. The City of Toronto has its own specific act: the City of Toronto Act. It is sensible for Ontario’s 400 + municipalities to operate on a common framework, and for each municipality to choose its council in a manner compatible to other provincial towns and cities.
Canadian courts are properly cautious about a challenge to a bill passed (regardless of what you think of the government or its process) by a provincial legislature or by our federal Parliament. As such, the threshold for a court to strike down legislation is a steep one.
But is it possible?
The City of Toronto is considering a challenge. The candidates for the position of Chair in the four affected regions lack the financial resources to do so. Here are some considerations the courts may be asked to weigh:
- Consent of the Governed: Those affected by laws are expected to have a say in what those laws are, and how they work. The Premier never mentioned the measures in Bill 5 while seeking his party’s leadership. The measures in Bill 5 were never mentioned by the government in its election. Affecting municipal elections was not part of the government’s Throne Speech (its legislative agenda). No opportunity to offer input at committee was available. The affected parties were not merely unsupportive, but solidly opposed to the proposals in Bill 5. Will the courts accept an argument that Bill 5 does not have the ‘Consent of the Governed?’
- Arbitrariness: Nowhere else in Canada are municipal ward (or provincial riding) boundaries drawn on the same population basis as federal ridings. Were such a looney idea widespread, the Atlantic provinces would each have about two dozen provincial representatives. Halifax would have a mayor and four city councillors. Montreal, with its urban community of nearly two dozen cities and 1.75 million people, would be governed by a mayor and about 18 councillors. The population size of federal ridings is a one-size that may fit the federal government, but is impractical at every other level. Cities themselves, and not their upper-tier governments, need to be able to choose how many people it takes to operate as effective and responsive organizational entities;
- Unworkability: May a government use its legally-elected majority to redefine how an election proceeds when it is half over, and do so by means unspecified in the legislation? How do candidates switch wards (in Toronto), or wind up campaigns already well underway? How are expenses reconciled and reimbursed?
- Outside Provincial scope: The Province was not asked by any city to undertake this reorganization initiative. Ontario (and the other provinces) may properly undertake to ensure that municipalities function, and elect their representatives, according to the accepted terms of a level playing field. But the Province is indisputably interfering in an independent level of government’s functioning, and doing so in a manner that will cause maximum confusion, and very possibly, injustice.
Perhaps there are other legal considerations that Toronto – or other plaintiffs – may user to challenge the Province.
The precedent created by Bill 5 would allow, for example, the Province to declare that Mississauga would, after 2022, be governed by a mayor and six councillors; Brampton by a mayor and five councillors; and Caledon by a mayor and one councillor. The Province could, as the original author of the various regional acts, arbitrarily dissolve entire regions without consultation, and create megacities modelled on federal riding boundaries. That, in fact, was actually done by the Harris government in the late 1990s. When federal riding boundaries change in the future, would this then cascade into changes in municipal boundaries?
By cancelling the election of the chairs of four Ontario regions (Peel, York, Niagara and Muskoka) while allowing regional chair elections in other regions (Halton, and others), is the Province saying that it alone reserves the right to change the terms of those regional elections as well, or simply to take upon itself the power to appoint all regional chairs? The various acts governing cities and the regions don’t envision this possibility, but don’t preclude or forbid it either.
Bill 5 is both bad legislation, and dangerous legislation.
Moving on with life
My former MPP Constituency Office in Meadowvale closed in late June of 2018. We have returned the keys to our landlord. The Legislature has taken back its property. If you are looking at this site to reach the new Member of Provincial Parliament for Mississauga-Streetsville, the Constituency Office address and telephone number may have changed.
My former staff and I have, for the past 15 years, enjoyed the privilege and responsibility of serving our neighbours in Lisgar, Meadowvale and Streetsville. Life continues. We thank the many friends we made during our years of service for their contributions to making our northwest corner of Mississauga a better and stronger community.
I listened to suggestions, and am considering some options during a short breather after the hectic life I lead as the local Member of Provincial Parliament for Lisgar, Meadowvale and Streetsville.
Please do not send e-mail to our former Constituency Office e-mail addresses any longer. My former MPP e-mail address no longer works. I welcome your e-mails and letters. To get the postal address for personal mail to Bob Delaney, please request Bob’s postal address at the e-mail address below.
You can still reach former MPP Bob Delaney by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.