Tuesday, November 26, 2013



How's the weather your way?  We had a dump of snow Friday through Saturday:  30-45 cm (12-18")!

On the Saturday morning I made the good decision to not take my bicycle out when I went to the St. Peter's Christmas Bazaar, so I didn't have to push it home through the increasing mush. 

It was beautiful.  The crabapples hanging on the tree had oversize, white elf caps.  So did the golden apples left hanging on the one apple tree.  Two makeshift tents over the last rows of Chinese cabbage sagged under the weight of snow.  I still haven't plowed my way to the garden to see if there's anything left of the cabbages.  I should have brought them in and steamed them for the freezer.  My error.

Overnight the busy area where we live was quiet.  That's the most amazing part of heavy snow.  That the noise of a four lane major traffic "artery" can be clamped off.  We actually woke in the middle of the night thinking there was something wrong. It was just the lack of sound.

On Monday morning, life got busy again, of course.

And I was reminded of some of the hazards of snowcover for pedestrians.

Road slush thrown up by cars is a given ... it's almost a game to yell and swear after a driver who boots it around the busy corner nearest us. 

The real estate office near us doesn't get its parking lot snow clearing guy to also clear the sidewalks around its building.  The two sidewalks are on major city streets, accessways from two major bus routes.  The real estate agency wants us to see it as family and people friendly ... I see it as absolutely unconcerned with the people who pass its building to get to a nearby medical building. (the owner of the medical building isn't that great on sidewalk clearing either).  Both businesses probably have most of their clients drive in.

The real hazard, two blocks away, is the bridge over the river.  With every snow dump we have the giant road plows shove piles of snow onto the sidewalks along the bridge.  This snow dump, the piles were less than 30 cm from the top rail.  The snow is lumpy and uneven, a foot can go through suddenly so the daring crosser is up to a thigh.  And a slip could easily crash a person into 60 km/hour traffic or plunge one into black, freezing, fast moving water 20 metres down.

I turned back from the bridge, struggled back along the two blocks of road snow piled on the sidewalks and took a bus from my corner about 6 blocks to the grocery store. 

But there were a lot of footprints along the high bridge snow.  People without fear of heights and water, or people braver than I, or people with no money to buy bus tickets had crossed the bridge. 

And these days, with another bridge closed, this bridge is the nearest alternate river crossing. 

Year after year the City knows that snow clearing crews gets busy when there is a big snowfall.  Year after year, the sidewalks of this bridge are not cleared simultaneously to the road being cleared.  The problem shouldn't be a surprise.

I think that the City just doesn't care about pedestrians or bicyclists.  This same Oxford Street was completely rebuilt 4 years ago with no bike lanes.

Beautiful snow to road hazard.


Best regards to all,

Why's Woman


Monday, November 18, 2013

CropLife Canada appoints Conservative Federal Minister as CEO ... huh?

Hello everyone,

I hope this note finds you well. 

Lately, I've been doing more reading on the topic of honeybees and neonicotinoid pesticides.  Regular readers know I'm organic all the way, and terribly worried about bee deaths and declines in other pollinators.  Get out there and garden, is my way to go. 

I'm waiting for a report to come out from the Ontario Bee Health Working Group; I've reread the interim report of the Pesticide Management Regulatory Agency, that confirmed (easily) that neonicotinoid pesticides are killing bees.  Public comment on this report is open until December 12. The PMRA interim report  - near the end of the text section - has a link to where to comment.

Amidst all this, into my e-mailbox dropped a media release from Sierra Club of Canada, dated Nov. 15 - http://www.sierraclub.ca/

In November, the agriculture industry trade association, CropLife,  named Federal Conservative member of parliament Ted Menzies as its new President and CEO.  CropLife has been front and centre fighting against organizations which would like to see a ban on neonicotinoid pesticides.

As the Sierra Club press release says, in the italicized following:

Because of dangerously weak federal ethics and lobbying rules, Mr. Menzies is allowed to become President and CEO of a federally regulated company that lobbies the federal government regularly.  Mr. Menzies should be very aware that there are two ethics rules that apply to him in his new job.  Under section 33 of the Conflict of Interest Act, he is prohibited form acting in any way that takes 'improper advantage' of his time as a Cabinet minister, and subsection 34 (2) prohibits him from giving 'advice to his or her client, business associate or employer using infromation that was obtained in his or her capaciity as a public office holder and is not available to the public.

Whether or not Mr. Menzies 'technically' does any lobbying, his position as President and CEO of CropLife clearly opens government doors and provides valuable insight on the internal working of the Harper government.

"Are we supposed to believe Mr. Menzies will lock himself in his new office and not take calls or check his email," said Mr. [John] Bennett [National Campaign Director, Sierra Club of Canada].

This is allowed?  Huh?  How? 

Is this Federal Conservative MP getting paid for a second job?  How does he have time to do a second job? 

Can you say "conflict of interest" boys and girls?

You can write John Bennett of Sierra Club at Executive.Director@sierraclub.ca or check out its website at www.sierraclub.ca ... or, like I did, write the politician of our choice and ask her or him to check into this and ask why it's allowed.  

As I've said before, biased all the way, that's me.  And this blog post may even get me a troll.

Bring it.

Best regards, as always!

Why's Woman

Monday, November 11, 2013

Wearing of the Poppy

Hello everyone,

I hope this blustery, rainy day finds you well.  I hope this Remembrance Day finds you well.

Today I had errands at City Hall, and so stopped by Victoria Park (London, Ontario) to hear at least some of the Remembrance Day service.  The entire intersection and four corners were filled with people.

I'm of two minds about Remembrance Day.  I'm in agreement with a day of remembrance for people who have died in or fought in wars and that there is a need to remember their efforts.  My late father was a member of the British Army for 14 years, stationed in Egypt, Malta and Palestine/Isreal.  More particularly, I think we more often need to remember that violence is a resourcelessness (as Ursula Franklin has said). I don't mind if you think me hopelessly naive in my political/power analysis when I ask, about any conflict: why can't they just figure out how to get along, or share?

As I observed the crowd at London's cenotaph, I had the cynical thought in my head that over the last ten years there's been a lot of positive spin put to Canada's military.  They've done well in the publicity department.  It's all praise and no one's criticizing.  Steve (Canada's prime minster Harper) will be pleased.

I've felt uneasy about all the hype about brave military families left at home, service, sacrifice ... servility.  

And then, a couple of days ago, I heard former Prime Minister Joe Clark commenting on Canada's military having gone from a respected peacekeeping role to a combatant role.

And today, I ran across a piece on the Guardian Newspaper's on-line website.  Written by a 91 year old poverty activist and Royal Air Force veteran, Harry Leslie Smith's piece dovetails with my own concerns.  

I leave you with my best regards, and the words of Mr. Smith.


Why's Woman

This year, I will wear a poppy for the last time
The Guardian Newspaper on-line edition - http://www.theguardian.com,

I will remember friends and comrades in private next year, as the solemnity of remembrance has been twisted into a justification for conflict

Over the last 10 years the sepia tone of November has become blood-soaked with paper poppies festooning the lapels of our politicians, newsreaders and business leaders. The most fortunate in our society have turned the solemnity of remembrance for fallen soldiers in ancient wars into a justification for our most recent armed conflicts. The American civil war's General Sherman once said that "war is hell", but unfortunately today's politicians in Britain use past wars to bolster our flagging belief in national austerity or to compel us to surrender our rights as citizens, in the name of the public good.

Still, this year I shall wear the poppy as I have done for many years. I wear it because I am from that last generation who remember a war that encompassed the entire world. I wear the poppy because I can recall when Britain was actually threatened with a real invasion and how its citizens stood at the ready to defend her shores. But most importantly, I wear the poppy to commemorate those of my childhood friends and comrades who did not survive the second world war and those who came home physically and emotionally wounded from horrific battles that no poet or journalist could describe.

However, I am afraid it will be the last time that I will bear witness to those soldiers, airmen and sailors who are no more, at my local cenotaph. From now on, I will lament their passing in private because my despair is for those who live in this present world. I will no longer allow my obligation as a veteran to remember those who died in the great wars to be co-opted by current or former politicians to justify our folly in Iraq, our morally dubious war on terror and our elimination of one's right to privacy.

Come 2014 when the government marks the beginning of the first world war with quotes from Rupert Brooke, Rudyard Kipling and other great jingoists from our past empire, I will declare myself a conscientious objector. We must remember that the historical past of this country is not like an episode of Downton Abbey where the rich are portrayed as thoughtful, benevolent masters to poor folk who need the guiding hand of the ruling classes to live a proper life.

I can tell you it didn't happen that way because I was born nine years after the first world war began. I can attest that life for most people was spent in abject poverty where one laboured under brutal working conditions for little pay and lived in houses not fit to kennel a dog today. We must remember that the war was fought by the working classes who comprised 80% of Britain's population in 1913.

This is why I find that the government's intention to spend £50m to dress the slaughter of close to a million British soldiers in the 1914-18 conflict as a fight for freedom and democracy profane. Too many of the dead, from that horrendous war, didn't know real freedom because they were poor and were never truly represented by their members of parliament.

My uncle and many of my relatives died in that war and they weren't officers or NCOs; they were simple Tommies. They were like the hundreds of thousands of other boys who were sent to their slaughter by a government that didn't care to represent their citizens if they were working poor and under-educated. My family members took the king's shilling because they had little choice, whereas many others from similar economic backgrounds were strong-armed into enlisting by war propaganda or press-ganged into military service by their employers.

For many of you 1914 probably seems like a long time ago but I'll be 91 next year, so it feels recent. Today, we have allowed monolithic corporate institutions to set our national agenda. We have allowed vitriol to replace earnest debate and we have somehow deluded ourselves into thinking that wealth is wisdom. But by far the worst error we have made as a people is to think ourselves as taxpayers first and citizens second.

Next year, I won't wear the poppy but I will until my last breath remember the past and the struggles my generation made to build this country into a civilised state for the working and middle classes. If we are to survive as a progressive nation we have to start tending to our living because the wounded: our poor, our underemployed youth, our hard-pressed middle class and our struggling seniors shouldn't be left to die on the battleground of modern life.

Harry Leslie Smith is a survivor of the Great Depression, a second world war RAF veteran and at 90 an activist for the poor and for the preservation of social democracy. He has authored numerous books about Britain during the Great Depression, the second world war and postwar austerity
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