All posts by curtis72

09 Apr

IceDogs Road Trip to Hamilton

Observations, pictures and even some video from Saturday’s road trip to Hamilton as the Niagara IceDogs took on the Hamilton Bulldogs in Game 2 of their OHL Eastern Conference Semifinal series:

1. In order to secure my place on the bus, I pedalled down to the IceDogs office first thing on Tuesday morning, only to have to wait for Brianne, because only she can handle the road trips. Just like only Matt can handle the complex task of printing the date on a media pass for when a customer like me wants to bring his DSLR camera to the game. For such a small office, things seem to be a little too territorial around there.

1a. While waiting for Brianne, I listened as Nino, other staffer, processed a phone order for tickets with the customer’s credit card they had on file. Yet when I tried to pay for the road trip to Peterborough last year with a credit card they also had on file, Brianne said she had to see the card and forced me to make a special trip to the Meridian Center. What gives?

1b. Also while waiting, someone came in looking for tickets. As she explained that she was going to be late for work because she had to make the extra stop, I said, “Get Bones to write you a permission slip.”

1c. When she came in, Brianne still recognized me even though it had been more than five months since the Meridian Center last saw my shadow. I know this is a small town, but I was mildly surprised given the number of people she must deal with on a daily basis.

2. Not that downtown St. Catharines is anything like the danger zone that downtown Winnipeg is, but I was still pleased that the buses were leaving from Fairview Mall instead of the Jack or the Meridian Center as they have in past road trips.

2a. For those keeping score, this was my eighth IceDogs road trip over the past four seasons.

3. There were five full busloads of fans and in order to keep it “affordable,” they used school buses instead of regular tour buses. As a result, the cost was only $25 – $18 for the ticket and $7 for the transportation. As I would find out, you get what you pay for.

4. Despite getting there 20 minutes before our scheduled departure time, I was among the last to arrive. As I’ve long since discovered, people here are notorious early birds.

5. Seated in my immediate vicinity were several teenage drunkettes who joined many others in cracking open their favorite beverage as soon as we hit the road.

As one of them said, the “no food or drink” sign only applies Monday to Friday.

6. After getting off the lap of her friend seated next to me, one of the drunkettes decided she would rather sit on the floor than take the last available seat near the back of the bus. Then she complained that she was feeling seasick as we were going over the Burlington Skyway. Being on the floor of a rickety old school bus rolling along at 60+ mph while you’re slightly inebriated will do it every time.

7. Following a short, but annoying ride being forced to listen to the immature ramblings of said teenagers, the driver let us off at the York Boulevard entrance, where two arena staffers opened the door for us.

There were no bag searches, no one got frisked, no wands and no free rectal exam from rude rent-a-cops. Just two friendly guys who scanned our tickets and said “Enjoy the game, eh.” The way it ought to be. All while our mayor, instead of holding their feet to the fire for not cleaning the place properly, wants to turn over an extra $11,000 to SMG to install metal detectors at the Meridian Center.

8. Shots around the concourse at the FirstOntario Center, formerly known as the Copps Coliseum:

9. Circling the concourse, I was appalled at the concession prices. They wanted $5.25 for a hot dog, $8 for a footlong, $10 for chicken fingers and fries, $6 for popcorn, $5 for a chocolate bar, $5 for a canned drink and $2.50 for coffee. At Pizza Pizza, a slice of pizza was $5.25, while a whole pizza was $26. For those so inclined, the cheapest beer was $9.75 and wine was $12.50.

It was no different at their souvenir store, where jerseys were $130 and caps were $30, each even more than the exorbitant prices the IceDogs charge. On the surface, the prices may not seem that unusually high except for the fact that this is junior hockey, which has a substantially lower price point than the NHL.

10. The Budweiser King Club, where you could sit in a lounge and watch a band perform:

11. I spotted this gentleman who had a jersey with the name of the IceDogs’ mascot on it. For the record, the Bulldogs’ mascot is called Bruiser and was a cheap knock-off of Bones, who is truly the best mascot of any team I’ve seen in any sport at any level.

12. Like the ticket scanners, the ushers were very friendly and helpful to those who needed their services. But for those of us who didn’t, they stood to the side, let people pass freely and didn’t feel the need to run after you if you walked past them or, even worse, dared to stop and look at your ticket to make sure you were in the right place. Whereas the IceDogs have the best mascot in sports, they have the worst ushers.

13. Scenes around the stands. As is standard operating procedure, the upper deck at this NHL-size arena is closed and covered with a black curtain. As the Bulldogs’ owner admitted in print recently, having an abnormally large facility for junior hockey is the reason this year’s Memorial Cup will be held in the capital of the Farmers’ Republic of Saskatchewan instead of in Hamilton.

13a. Did you catch that guy with a backpack? Try getting that past the rent-a-cops at the Meridian Center.

14. While roaming the stands taking pictures, finding a clean seat to sit in was surprisingly difficult. One seat had gum stuck to it and several others had some sort of dried liquid on them.

15. Some people from one of the buses watching their heroes during the warmup. For those wondering, the IceDogs wear those special Meridian Center jerseys for the warmup both at home and on the road.

16. Performing the national anthem was some little girl and kudos to the crowd for drowning out that horrible abomination in the line the Liberals changed.

16a. Dear Andrew Scheer: I know there will be a lot on your plate, but please make restoring the old wording of our national anthem a top priority of your new government in 2019. I’m sick of being embarrassed in the eyes of the world. Sometimes I feel like putting a bag over my head with “Don’t blame me, I didn’t vote Liberal” written on it.

17. Even though it wasn’t a home game, having developed a familiarity and fondness of sorts for Hamilton, I didn’t feel like it was a road game either.

18. The view I had from my seat:

19. The IceDogs’ faithful greeting their heroes before the start of the game:

20. Did you remember that the Hamilton Bulldogs were previously the Belleville Bulls, the visiting team for the historic home opener at the Meridian Center?

21. As they do at the Meridian Center, the IceDogs contingent reacted with a collective “Who Cares?” to the announcement of Hamilton’s first goal early in the first period. One Hamilton fan seated at ice level answered with a sign “We Do.”

22. After the visitors tied the score later in the first period, the IceDogs fans yelled “Yes! Yes! Yes!”, which appears to be a special playoff tradition having its roots in the world of wrestling:

So naturally, the Hamilton fans shouted back, “No! No! No!”

23. Despite the relatively short length of time since Hamilton has been back in the OHL, there is clearly a healthy and growing rivalry between the fans.

24. I find it odd how vocal IceDogs fans are on the road, yet at home, the place is so quiet that many call their home rink the Meditation Center.

25. I noticed this small contingent of fans known as the “Golden City Brigade” on its feet waving flags all night long. Dedication. Or something.

26. Hamilton’s Brandon Saigeon’s surname is pronounced “say-john” and is apparently not connected with the capital of the former South Vietnam currently known as Ho Chi Minh City.

27. Late in the first period, IceDogs defenseman Elijah Roberts, last seen at the Meridian Center trying to imitate Serge Savard’s spinerama move, first ran into an official when coming out of his own end, then lost the puck after colliding with a teammate, resulting in a good scoring opportunity for Hamilton. To say the least, that’s no way to impress scouts. Focus on the fundamentals, kid.

28. While doing my business in the washroom during the first intermission, I noticed that the tops of the urinals seem to be favorite places to hold beer cans and phones. The beer cans are especially ironic since the beer was what likely brought their owners there in the first place. As I’ve heard it said, you don’t buy beer, you just rent it.

28a. I still appreciate the fact that most people were washing their hands after answering the call of nature. Once again, this is not the SPRM.

29. Also during the first intermission, someone did a serious double-take after spotting my “Make Speech Free Again” hat.

30. Sadly, the same teenage drunkettes who were sitting next to me on the bus were also seated next to me during the game. After each of them polished off three beers, they returned after the first intermission with “food” to complete their gastronomic misadventures, to say nothing of their financial illiteracy.

One of them brought back a tray of nachos with cheese-colored melted plastic, an old Winnipeg Arena classic that set her back $6.50. The drunkette to my immediate right had an order of ketchup with some fries that she spent most of the period with.

31. Once again, as I have come to expect from people in this part of the world, everyone who passed by my seat was very courteous and said “thank you” each time.

32. The second intermission promotion was “Hungry Hungry Hippos” where four teams of two crawled around on the ice trying to scoop up as many pucks as they could.

The pair in the bottom left hand corner was the eventual winner and for their efforts, took home passes to the NHL Hall of Political Correctness.

33. Early in the third period, the IceDogs tied the score at 2-2 on a power play as a result of Hamilton’s second too many men on the ice penalty of the game. Even at this level, that shouldn’t happen once in a game, let alone twice.

34. In the final minute of regulation time, the IceDogs fans began the “cheeseburger” chant. For those who are unaware, when at home, if the IceDogs score in the final minute of the third period, everyone in attendance gets a free cheeseburger courtesy of Wendy’s.

35. On the bus after the overtime loss, fans were griping about the officials, but when your team gets outshot 50-23, it’s not the officials fault that they lost. It was only Stephen Dhillon’s heroic efforts that kept the game close.

35a. I continue to find it interesting how understanding fans are about the mistakes the players make, yet that same understanding never applies to the officials, who are also in the developmental stages of their careers.

36. Hamilton has not been drawing well, but on that night, they had 6,021 in attendance. In addition, the 50/50 winner took home $6,345.

37. Waiting on the bus after the game, many Hamilton fans were taunting us with chants of “Let’s go Bulldogs!” and “Yes! Yes! Yes!”

38. There were no fights during the game, but one did break out at the Salvation Army Booth Center across the street, prompting someone to say, “Let’s get out of this cesspool.” Trust me, you don’t know what a cesspool is until you’ve spent time in the degenerate capital of the SPRM.

39. As I have come to expect in this part of the world, each of us thanked the driver as we disembarked at Fairview Mall. Once again, this is not the SPRM.

05 Apr

Another Doug Ford Rally in St. Catharines

A few takeaways from Doug Ford’s second appearance in St. Catharines in recent weeks:

1. The fact that Ford came back so soon after his last rally here might very well be an indication that the party is going to put on a major push to eject the stubborn Jim Bradley from office. Now all we need is a candidate …

2. Seated in front of me was someone who couldn’t stop gushing about Sandie Bellows, the only one who has stepped forward to seek the nomination here. I only wish I shared his enthusiasm for our prospective new MPP. If she is indeed successful in garnering the nomination, I will probably vote for her, though very reluctantly.

3. Once again, my “Make Speech Free Again” hat drew plenty of raves, including from someone who instantly recognized it as coming from Gab. Good news is travelling fast.

4. It was good to see a full house in double the size of the room he was speaking in last time.

5. I took note that once again, I didn’t have to pass through any security to get up close and personal with the next premier of Ontario, but I do need a free rectal exam for the privilege of attending a junior hockey game. Some people think that makes sense. I am not one of them.

6. Chuck McShane, the PC candidate in Niagara Falls, came around introducing himself to many in the crowd including yours truly. He impressed me as the kind of person who would have been better suited sitting next to Cliff and Norm in the Cheers bar discussing whether or not Wile E. Coyote is the second coming of the Antichrist.

7. During his speech, Ford mentioned that Wynne has stopped listening to the grassroots. Funny, but that’s exactly what happened with Patrick Brown. Remember him?

01 Apr

Random Thoughts – Rochester, Sean Avery’s Book, Endless Winter and More

1. Last week, I had the opportunity to visit Rochester, GSNY and came away very impressed. For those of you who aren’t friends of mine on Facebook, check my album for a small sampling of the 700+ pictures I took on the day, many of which will be ending up on my road photos site.

Rochester reminded me very much of Minneapolis, a city I have a lingering fondness for, and those of you who have been there might also get that impression from seeing the pictures. Parking was oddly difficult there and once we found a parking garage that was not full, we had to drive up to the sixth level to find an empty space. I never knew downtown Rochester was such a hot spot.

Interestingly, though out-of-state plates are commonplace around Niagara Falls and Buffalo, I only spotted three such plates on the day and my tour guide’s van was the only one I saw from Ontario.

While there, I noticed Amtrak trains running in opposite directions and upon further investigation, I learned that the Maple Leaf line stops at both St. Catharines and Rochester as part of a daily run between the Center of the Universe and New York City. I have a feeling it is a train I might be on at some point in the future.

2. I recently finished reading Offside, a book written by Sean Avery, one of the NHL’s most obnoxious agitators of all time. Though there was no one better at what he did, he is a much better storyteller than a hockey player and I mean that very much as a professional compliment. But if you can read his book and still call yourself a fan of the NHL, let’s just say you’re a lot more tolerant of misbehaving players than I am. Long gone are the days when the players were just regular guys.

2a. I don’t fault Avery for this, but his publisher should be seriously embarrassed by the number of spelling errors the editors missed in that book.

3. I don’t know about you, but I’m getting sick of the winter that won’t end. And yes, I have become acclimatized to my new home. This would be a heat wave by Old Country standards, but I’m not in the Old Country anymore, something I remain very grateful for.

4. Speaking of the Old Country, tomorrow, Easter Monday, is a special day there that’s informally known as G.E.M. – Government Employees Monday. You see, that’s a day off for the government and public sector workers, a group that represents about 98% of the workforce in Manitoba. Here, only the privileged few get the day off, but there, it’s seriously embarrassing for those who have to suffer the indignity of going to work that day.

5. My “Make Speech Free Again” hat continues to draw positive attention on both sides of the river wherever I wear it, including from the future premier of Ontario. You can get yours at https://shop.gab.ai.

6. Does anyone miss Patrick Brown?

7. On the writing front, my first mystery entitled The Protector is currently with my editor. Here is the synopsis that I’ve got in mind for the back cover:

He had no choice. It had to be done.

Still, it grated on him as he sped down the dark, deserted highway back to the city. He didn’t want it to come to this. Lord knows he tried everything he could to avoid it.

They had become so close. Like brother and sister. Mentor to pupil.

He had done so much to help her over the years. He had practically become part of the family. She had hit rock bottom more than once and it was only his loving care and support that kept her going. But in the end, she had become another traitor to him. This was the thanks he got for all he had done for her and her daughter. Even at this point, with all the evidence he had, he still had a hard time believing she could turn on him this way. But there was no doubt. He had seen the proof with his own failing eyes.

Inspector Diane Wilson is summoned to lead a team to help locate a vulnerable senior who had gone missing. It soon turns into a murder case when her nearly unrecognizable body is found washed ashore along the sandy beaches of Lake Winnipeg in the sleepy cottage town of Gimli, Manitoba. As she digs deeper, she butts heads with a devious and diabolical adversary who targets anyone who stands in his way.

While my editor works on the mystery, I’m making some serious headway on my next book, a memoir of my fan experiences with the IceDogs tentatively entitled Tales from the Dog Pound: Chronicling the junior hockey fan experience. Some will like it. Others won’t. Among those in the latter category will be the IceDogs ushers, Meridian Center management and Brendan Perlini’s family.

19 Mar

Return to the Universe’s Center – East Chinatown, Riverdale Farm

Pictures and observations from my most recent tour of the universe’s center:

0. Foremost among the reasons for my visit yesterday was the late Carli Ward’s 36th birthday. Given how she loved trains and taking pictures, it was a perfect way to commemorate the occasion.

1. Not surprisingly, given that it was a Sunday, I pretty much had the bus to myself on the way to Burlington. Though only five of us got on in St. Catharines, two got on at the Beamsville stop, which is two more than the number that normally board there, even during the week. More unusual was that, on the way back, a woman asked the driver if he was stopping at Beamsville. I suppose it’s becoming a case of build it and they will come.

2. Believe it or not, they actually put up a shelter at Nash and Barton. With a bench inside, no less. Heavens to Murgatroyd, what’s this world coming to?

2a. Could an official park and ride at Fairview Mall be next? Nah.

3. In the shelter on Barton Street was an ad promoting the final month of a frog display at the Royal Botanical Gardens, saying it was a “ribbeting experience.” That’s something I would have been proud to come up with.

4. Even more rare than a passenger boarding at Beamsville was someone requesting a stop at Fairview Street and Maple Avenue. When the passenger wasn’t waiting by the door when the driver pulled up to the curb, for some reason he got all huffy and yelled out “Who’s getting off?” as the woman was coming down the stairs, something he should have been able to see from the camera. Who peed in his Corn Flakes?

5. If you were the driver of an SUV with the license plate BSAX 672, consider yourself very fortunate that you didn’t end up with a double-decker GO bus up your backside. Make a note to yourself: royally cutting off a speeding bus is not a terribly good idea.

6. Not only is the new Burlington GO station fully functional, but there’s even a Tim Hortons there now.

Though it wasn’t open in the morning nor in the afternoon on the way back, it did appear to at least be ready to open.

7. Had there been someone in a wheelchair looking to board the train at Burlington, he or she would have been out of luck as the train stopped at a point where neither door of the designated accessibility coach opened on the ramp.

8. Inside the car I was in was an ad from Air Transat promoting flights to London. With the egregious human rights abuses taking place in the UK where its fascist government is jailing its own citizens for speaking out against the invasion of their country by Middle Eastern migrants, why on Earth would anyone want to go there? Not to mention the fact that anyone with political leanings to the right of Lenin wouldn’t even be allowed in the country.

8a. Once again, can we please stop calling these migrants “refugees”? As I’ve heard it said, if you come here demanding the same culture and ideology you “fled” from, you’re not a refugee.

9. The young punk who got on at Bronte and snoozed most of the way to Union obviously hadn’t bathed or showered in the last couple of weeks. The pungent odor was camouflaged somewhat by the aromatic bag someone brought on board at Clarkson. I’m not sure which one was worse.

10. On the subway, I noticed an ad from an immigration lawyer offering help with getting a visa. These days, why bother going through the legal channels when you can just walk across the border and have the government bend over backwards to shower you with all sorts of free benefits and services those of us who were born here can’t get?

11. On the bus I took after getting off at the College station, I was surprised that the rear doors did not open automatically the way they do on most buses I’ve seen around this part of the world. But at least they did open without a fight, unlike the case in the Old Country.

12. Scenes around East Chinatown. Not to be confused with the regular Chinatown on Spadina.

13. While taking pictures around the area, one guy angrily asked me “You’re not pointing that at me are you?” It’s a camera, not a gun.

14. To say the least, the sight of a Caucasian in this neighborhood stands out like a sore thumb and one that isn’t entirely welcome among the locals.

15. Graffiti, more euphemistically referred to as “street art,” in and around the area:

16. Take a load off:

17. Did you ever think we would need signs like this? What a time to be alive.

18. Noodles must be in short supply, since you only get one with certain dishes. Same with dumplings apparently.

19. If I was looking for a burrito, why would I come to Chinatown?

20. Free deliver for all your furnitures …

21. For those of you with more than one household …

22. It’s somehow fitting to have Jack Layton Way running alongside an old jail, since that’s where all of his political opponents would have ended up had Mr. Chow ever become prime minister.

23. On the way to nearby Riverdale Farm, I couldn’t help but notice this attention-starved joggerette who decided to run on a busy road, eschewing the dedicated trail only a few steps away that follows the Don River. But if she was on the trail, she wouldn’t be noticed. And that’s the whole point with people like this.

24. The poultry at Riverdale Farm weren’t terribly eager to pose for pictures, but I did manage to get a few shots of them, including this one:

25. Also spotted at Riverdale Farm was a kid with a Chipman toque. Oh, if he only knew …

26. I don’t mean to be disrespectful of family or religious traditions, but these red lanterns had the look of those Budweiser goal lights that go off when your favorite team scores. Perhaps here, they light up when someone in the family dies.

27. An interesting inscription on a marker at Necropolis Cemetery …

28. This restaurant wasn’t looking for braves. They wanted a “chief” …

29. Some serious dish-heads in this block. From past experience, the one on the far right and the middle one in on the far left is getting Bell, the two on the middle right are getting Shaw Direct and the others are getting DirecTV, otherwise known as “Dave.”

30. On the street, I passed by a small group of retired postal workers protesting against finance minister Bill Morneau’s proposed Bill C-27. I admit to being unaware of the specifics, but Morneau isn’t the problem. His boss is. And the legion of ignorant Canadians who voted for him.

31. Scenes along Dundas Street:

32. At Yonge-Dundas Square:

33. Spotted on Yonge Street was a woman wearing a skirt split wide open right at the crotch. To borrow a line from a long-lost friend, no visuals please.

34. This restaurant appeared to be awfully popular:

35. Seated nearby at Union Station was a guy shaking his leg for no apparent reason. Kind of like a slightly mentally challenged former colleague of mine used to do while blankly staring at the screen trying to wrap his brain around a relatively simple task.

36. Also seated nearby was a flighty woman with dark red hair down to her waist and wearing a bright, florescent red jacket that screamed “I want attention!”

37. With all the noise and commotion going on, the most important qualification for anyone working at the McDonald’s in Union Station is having a loud, booming voice.

38. The couple seated across the aisle from me on the bus headed back to St. Catharines was all giddy over seeing the Burlington IKEA store. Geez, it’s not that big of a deal. There are four of them in the GTA and a pick-up and order point in St. Catharines.

39. I listened as one Falls-bound woman with an army of kids in tow was giving telephone support for an employee scheduling application. Apparently the entire bus needed to know that “Chicana” will be working a full shift and won’t be getting off until 4:30, replacing “Zara.” Poor Kristen won’t be working her shift because she fell down some stairs and someone named Kristana clocked out at 9:36 the other day despite having left at 9:00. Shame, shame.

40. Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.

13 Mar

Thoughts on the Ontario PC Leadership

Thoughts on the recently concluded Ontario PC leadership race:

1. Congratulations to our new leader and future premier Doug Ford, who I saw and heard speak here in St. Catharines at the Holiday Inn on Thursday evening as he was wrapping up his campaign tour. The more I’ve seen of him, the more I like and I certainly don’t regret marking him as #1 on my ballot. As he said, come June, the party’s over with the taxpayers’ money.

1a. When shaking my hand as he was making his way up to the podium, Ford noticed and liked my new “Make Speech Free Again” cap, which I recently acquired from the Gab store.

1b. I now have more followers on Gab than I do on the dying bird, a platform I’ve been on for several years longer.

2. Though I did not mark her as #1, I was very impressed by Tanya Granic Allen and I suspect she has a bright future ahead of her under a future government led by Ford.

3. Despite having the big name, being endorsed by so many federal and provincial caucus members and getting a disproportionate amount of favorable media coverage, Caroline Mulroney’s showing can only be described as a major flop, given that she barely finished ahead of Granic Allen, a virtual unknown before the start of the campaign. Not only did she show poorly overall, but she didn’t even win in the riding she’ll be running in.

4. To her credit, Mulroney was out on knocking on doors and rallying under the new leader the next day after her crushing defeat, which is more than I can say for Christine Elliott. The presumed frontrunner who expected to win, Elliott kept preaching unity as the campaign heated up in the final days leading up to the voting deadline, but after suffering her third defeat in as many tries at the leadership, she instead went home and sulked. Just like she did when she lost to Patrick Brown in 2015. Once she was finished moping, she managed to pull herself together enough to offer her public support for Ford, but her childish, almost Hillary-like behavior made me even more pleased that Ford won.

5. Ford’s victory certainly represents a stinging rejection of Patrick Brown’s Liberal-lite policies. As I’ve heard it said, there’s no point in having a conservative party if they’re not conservative.

6. It is notable that more votes were cast in Kathleen Wynne’s riding of Don Valley West than in any other in the province. As Brown once said, there are no safe Liberal seats.

7. Having secured a good leader, St. Catharines needs a candidate to run against the ghost of Jim Bradley. One who is a real conservative and not a small-l liberal. As Ford said, we don’t need liberals of a different banner. None of the current crop of so-called conservative councilors who seemingly can’t find the intestinal fortitude to say no to our ultra-Liberal mayor’s virtue signaling need apply.

8. With all the voting taking place online, why on Earth did it take so long for the results to be tabulated? Heck, I could have put together a database and written a few queries and reports from scratch in the time it took them to comb through the data.

17 Feb

Dear Patrick Brown

Dear Mr. Brown:

Like many others, I was disturbed by the recent allegations of sexual misconduct made against you. I was equally disturbed by the rush to judgment among the masses. Sadly, it has become all too commonplace in today’s climate.

I will continue to presume your innocence until proven otherwise. It is a presumption we should all enjoy should we find ourselves under the same or similar circumstances that you do. Moreover, I wish you all the best in your efforts to clear your name and punish those who have allegedly defamed you.

But I don’t want you back as the leader of the Ontario PC Party.

Long before those allegations came to light, your performance has left many party members like myself feeling very much betrayed as you turned your back on the key principles you campaigned on in your 2015 leadership bid.

I listened as you attacked rival Christine Elliott for being Liberal-lite, only to watch as you turned the party in that very direction upon becoming leader. You attacked former leader Tim Hudak for announcing his plan for mass civil service job cuts without consultation, yet you surprised us all when you announced your support for a wildly unpopular carbon tax. Furthermore, you whipped your caucus into supporting a provincial equivalent of the hated and divisive M-103 motion introduced by the federal Liberals, a party you had been emulating more than attacking.

More recently, interim leader Vic Fedeli has identified significant “rot” within the party. As the leader for the past two years, this is something you bear ultimate responsibility for.

Now that your name is in the process of being cleared, I can absolutely understand wanting to get your job back. You’ve been scorned and you want to get right back on the horse. But your entry into the leadership race makes it a circus, one in which no one will benefit, least of all you.

I thank you for your efforts in leading the party, including all you have done to attract new members, but for the good of the party and our province, I strongly urge you to withdraw from the race at once. Based solely on your performance, you have not earned the right to continue to lead the party. I would suggest instead focusing your boundless energy, a trait I have come to greatly admire ever since first meeting you here in St. Catharines, on representing your constituents at Queen’s Park and throwing your support behind the new leader as the provincial election grows near.

17 Feb

Observations Around Town

1. Walking down King Street, I blew off a bum who asked me for money in between puffs on his cigarette. He seemed quite peeved when I noted that he had money for smokes, but no money for food. I must have hurt his feelings. I guess I’m just not compassionate enough. Good thing I haven’t signed our mayor’s compassionate city charter.

2. Walking through the Farmer’s Market, one of the vendors offered me a free sample of some foul-smelling goop she was brewing in a stew pot. As they say in Texas, El Paso.

3. Far too many believe these are words to live by …

4. Walking past empty buildings like this, I can’t help but remark how much our mayor likes posing for selfies with new business owners, yet he’s nowhere to be seen when stores close down.

5. Maybe it’s just me, but this looks like a place I’d want to escape from, not escape to:

6. Some off-color scenery in the core area:

7. Needs a little body work …

8. Beer gas?

9. It’s only flat on the bottom …

10. This car wash on Welland Avenue had a longer line than at a Tim Hortons drive thru:

11. Computers with intellectual disabilities?

12. Free to a good home. Slight wear.

 

15 Feb

Touring Welland and Port Colborne

Pictures and observations from yesterday’s tour of Welland and Port Colborne:

1. Believe it or not, you actually have to pay to park in downtown Welland. No disrespect to Welland, but it’s not exactly a high-traffic tourist destination like the Falls or NOTL. Given its relatively out-of-the-way location, they ought to consider paying you to park there.

2. Looking over the list of names inscribed atop the entrance to the Welland courthouse, it struck me that there was a very distinct gender imbalance. No doubt, once they discover it, the Liberals will be out there at once to cover up such a blasphemous public display.

3. Even more political incorrectness on display in downtown Welland with this “Indian Head Massage.” What is this world coming to?

4. Dude on a scooter whose beard is as thick as his gut:

5. Chapters 641 and 642 of “You think they use enough salt in this part of the world?”

6. Other scenes in downtown Welland:

7. Given the surroundings, this bit of graffiti is rather redundant:

8. Call it a hunch, but I think this architect might get a little more scrutiny than the average Joe when he goes over the river:

9. A place for passing children to rest:

10. Sadly, too many did and continue to “vote for evil”:

11. Take advantage of their buy-back “progam”:

12. Goats welcome. Or maybe just one.

13. Icicles on the side of a house:

14. One house that has had at least one visit from the Welland Fire Department:

15. A proud client of Budget Windows and Blinds:

16. Faux fox on a porch:

17. One humble domicile in a particularly bad state of disrepair:

18. If for some reason you need to boil gas …

19. Just dispose of your unwanted bakery products on the street …

20. Scenes from Guerrilla Park:

21. Someone in this house on Netherby Road must be getting nagged a lot and loving it …

22. Just like Niagara Falls, Port Colborne also has a zipline now. Based on the list of rules, I’m guessing their clientele is not quite as upscale as the touristy crowd they draw at the Falls:

23. Other scenes around snowy Sugarloaf Harbor:

24. There was a posted sign indicating a $300 fine for parking in a handicapped spot, yet the fine can be as high as $5,000 if you dare to bring a skateboard to the pavilion. It should be the other way around if you ask me, but who am I to judge the powers that be in Port Colborne?

25. Another $5,000-worthy fine if you ask me …

26. The CSL Welland mired in ice …

27. Do they only catch tiny fish? Or just not very many fish?

28. As I’ve said before, people in this part of the world have no idea what real cold weather is all about. And aren’t they lucky. For the record, it was +4 when I was there.

29. If the church is messy, why don’t they clean it up?

30. Any guesses as to how long that chimney will stay up?

 

07 Feb

Random Thoughts – Patrick Brown, PCPO Leadership, One Naive Kid and More

1. It seems like months have passed since I first heard the shocking news that Patrick Brown was stepping down as the leader of the Ontario PC Party amid allegations of sexual misconduct, but in reality, it’s only been a couple of weeks. How time flies when you’re trying to digest the turbulent and ever-fluid world of politics.

Despite the horrible timing with an election just around the corner, I am relieved to see him gone. During his campaign, he attacked rival Christine Elliott for being a “red Tory,” then himself dragged the party off to the left of the political spectrum, effectively becoming Liberal-lite. He also boasted of how he would consult the membership before making any major policy announcements, specifically quoting the massive job civil service job cuts former leader Tim Hudak proposed during the last election. Then Brown went ahead and dropped a bombshell of his own by announcing he would implement a carbon tax.

That all said, I don’t like how he was removed from his post and, just like what happened with party president Rick Dykstra a week later, it smelled of a setup. As both men fight the allegations made against them, I will continue to presume their innocence until they are proven guilty.

2. Three candidates have emerged as leadership contenders, namely Doug Ford, Christine Elliott and Caroline Mulroney. This party member retains an open mind, but the more I hear about Mulroney, the less I like. In all probability, I will be supporting Ford or Elliott and at this point, I lean more toward to the former than the latter. Elliott would be a safe choice and one I could live with, but what sticks in my craw about her is how she abruptly resigned her seat and left the political arena after losing the 2015 leadership bid to Brown. Perhaps she had other personal reasons, but it had all the earmarkings of a spoiled brat who took his ball and went home after not being allowed to play quarterback. The masses in the caucus who supported her all stayed on and rallied behind Brown and she should have done likewise.

3. The fact that I will be voting in my second Ontario PC leadership election shows once again how much tenure I have acquired in my adopted home. It’s only been three and a half years, but in some respects, it feels like I’ve never lived anywhere else.

4. Despite what he told me personally at City Hall about wanting to get back into the private sector after a second term as mayor, I still get the very strong impression that if the PCs win the upcoming election, the next challenge they will face will come from a rebuilt Ontario Liberal Party led by Walter Sendzik. Just think, in his new position, he could spew his empty rhetoric to even larger audiences of gullible people who would lap up his promises to turn Ontario into a compassionate province like thirsty puppy dogs.

5. I could only shake my head after reading this article that came across my timeline this week in which Patrik Laine of the Mark Chipman Personal Hockey Club extols the virtues of Winnipeg.

As someone who hasn’t watched an NHL game in months, I don’t know much about him. I suppose I could look it up, but I don’t even know if he’s any good. But safe as to say the kid is naive in the extreme. Sure, he’s feeling the love because he’s a government-funded hockey player. And it’s not as though there aren’t many kind, caring people there. Some of them I still count as friends. But as someone who spent nearly five decades in the degenerate capital of the SPRM, the line about “everyone who lives there really cares about each other” couldn’t be farther from the truth.

If he had to live like a regular person, he’d sure be changing his tune in short order. Like after a few bus rides. Or a walk downtown. At any time of day. Listen and feel the hatred and vitriol in the air. And just wait until he gets mugged, stabbed and/or has his house broken into. Even hockey players aren’t exempt. Just ask former Fighting Moose Jason MacDonald, who packed up all his belongings in his car and drove all the way from Charlottetown only to become yet another victim of auto theft when he finally got to Winnipeg. Then he’ll learn just a few of the reasons why Manitoba leads the nation in losing people to interprovincial migration.

5a. I also laughed as Laine talked about his “sick” Wi-Fi. Mine was sick, too. That was because my ISP was the title sponsor of the building he plays half his games in. To borrow a line from a friend and former colleague, my service was up and down more often than a toilet seat. Just before leaving, there was a 20-day period in which my telephone and Internet service were down for 16 of them. Having a stable phone line and reliable Internet service are yet more reasons why I’m so pleased to no longer be living in that part of the world.

03 Feb

Braving the Extreme Cold in the Universe’s Center

Observations and pictures from yesterday’s visit to the Center of the Universe:

1. En route to Fairview Mall, I spotted a cyclist on Geneva Street with no helmet, no light and apparently no brain. Same goes for the cyclist who boarded the GO bus and got off at Beamsville, though at least the cyclist on Geneva had the benefit of street lights. Out on South Service Road at the Ontario Street exit, all the cyclist had for illumination was the light from the full moon.

2. Being a weekday, I was surprised that there were only a handful of people boarding at Fairview Mall, but then again, GO has increased the frequency of buses in the morning and afternoon peak hours.

3. There was a new message on the display inside the GO bus warning passengers, “Get serious about safety. The bus is bigger than you are.” People who need reminding that a double-decker monstrosity is bigger than they are shouldn’t be allowed out on their own.

4. GO has installed a new shelter at the lightly used Beamsville stop, yet they still don’t have one at the much busier stop at Nash and Barton. Sigh. But at least there’s the nearby Wholesale Club.

5. Dear City of Hamilton: There are holes in Kenora Street so big that a bus or a big rig could lose a wheel in. It doesn’t need patching, it needs to be completely repaved. Yesterday. This is not Winnipeg.

6. I watched as a heavyweight got off at Nash and Barton and waddled across the parking lot trying to catch a Barton bus. In a classic Winnipeg Transit moment, the bus took off just as she got to the stop. Not cool, HSR. You’re better than that.

7. Listening to that heavyweight pant and wheeze as she climbed up the stairs after getting on at Grimsby made me wonder why she didn’t stay down below since she was just getting off at Stoney Creek. It’s not like the bus was packed and there were no available seats.

8. I also noticed how that heavyweight came prepared with a heavy parka, yet didn’t bother to zip it up or put up her hood. No doubt she spent the morning complaining about the cold.

9. Recognizing people on the GO bus from past trips including the aforementioned heavyweight and cyclist in Beamsville made me realize just how much tenure I have acquired in this part of the world. Much to our mayor’s chagrin, I’m sure.

10. Just as the case on the return trip, the GO bus driver greeted each passenger upon boarding and thanked us as we got off. It sure beats the F-you treatment in the Old Country.

11. During the relatively uneventful ride on the express train to Union Station, I was seated opposite a middle-aged woman in a surly disposition who obviously did not get enough sleep last night.

12. The Danish Pastry House is one of a number of trendy eateries that have popped up in Union Station recently. Judging from the Tim Hortons-esque line, it seems to be popular.

13. I just missed a train in the subway and had to wait a whole minute for the next one. First world problems.

14. Can you imagine how often an alarm like this would get “misused” if they dared to install such a thing on Winnipeg Transit buses?

15. Obligatory shot aboard the subway:

16. Not long after having to wait that whole minute for the next train, I had to get off at the St. Clair West station since the one I was on was a rush-hour train and as such, was only going as far as Glencairn. I could have also transferred at Eglinton West or Glencairn itself, but as they advised in the announcement, if you wanted to wait indoors, St. Clair West was the best option.

17. Following the hour-long ride mostly underground, I got off at Vaughan Metropolitan Center, the new station which just opened in December as part of the Line 1 extension project.

Adjacent is a parking lot for subway riders as well as this new bus station still under construction as part of a rapidway being built in the middle of Highway 7. When completed, passengers getting off a York Regional Transit bus will be able to go below and catch the #1 line to downtown Toronto. All while Winnipeg is still farting around with Rapid Transit and more concerned about opening up Portage and Main to pedestrians.

18. Before approaching the Vaughan Metropolitan Center, there was an automated announcement saying that it was the terminal station. Not a big oaf behind the wheel bellowing out “TERMINUS” at the top of his lungs as I encountered last April while riding the STO in Gatineau.

19. Within a minute of getting to street level, I was approached by someone asking for directions to a DriveTest center. Sadly, not having been around there before, I couldn’t help the guy other than to point him the way to the subway station.

20. While getting some shots of the 407 ETR from the overpass at Jane Street, a truck from Bison Transport passed by and was soon followed by a truck from Gardewine. As I’ve said before, the SPRM does keep following me around.

20a. Bonus points for those who know where Manitoba’s 407 is. Or was.

21. After supplementing my collection of highway pictures, I walked along the newly constructed sidewalk leading to the Highway 407 station to catch the #1 line back to downtown Toronto.

In the latter shot, note how the sidewalk ends abruptly, forcing passengers to walk across the grass. This mysterious and Manitoba-esque design faux-pas isn’t an issue for an able-bodied person like me, but I can imagine the trouble anyone in a wheelchair or even someone who walks with a cane would have. There wasn’t even a ramp to allow such people to easily get off the sidewalk and onto the street.

22. Unlike the case in Union Station, the gates at this new station were clearly marked as to which one to use with each Presto card reader and there was no turnstile, just a Plexiglas door that opened after tapping.

23. Waiting at the Highway 407 station:

24. En route back to downtown Toronto, there was an announcement that trains were holding at Yorkdale because of a medical emergency. Minutes later, however, it was taken care of and trains were again moving. In the Old Country, police would have taken great pleasure in using such a circumstance to shut the entire service down for the day. Just because they could.

25. Spotted on the train was an ad saying that two of the three signs of mental illness can’t be seen. Oh, but they can. At the ballot box. After all, look how many Liberals still hold public office.

26. Also spotted on the train were two people using their laptops. No one would dare to do such a thing on a Winnipeg Transit bus for fear of it promptly being stolen, smashed and/or used as a toilet.

27. A guy with a Glad bag slung over his shoulder was going up and down the train asking people for spare change in multiple languages including gibberish. No one gave him anything, but I suppose it’s just because Toronto isn’t a compassionate city, another of the empty phrases our mayor continues to spew ad nauseum.

28. I got a pretty good whack on the knee from the excess blubber of a woman who sat down in front of me.

29. At the Osgoode station where I got off, children were collecting for Toronto’s homeless youth. Again, they didn’t get any donors from those of us who piled off the train. Cue the nauseating “compassionate city” lines from our mayor.

30. Even the rat dog vendors weren’t open in this “extreme cold.” Toronto was under an extreme cold warning even though it was only -11 when I left the house. The standard as to what is considered extreme cold certainly differs greatly from the Old Country, where -40 wind chills are par for the course at this time of year.

31. You think they use enough salt in this part of the world?

32. Scenes from the skating rink at Nathan Phillips Square. It’s a wonder it wasn’t closed because of the “extreme cold.”

33. Or just let the law of natural selection run its course …

34. Several doors, including this one, were closed at the Queen Street entrance at the Eaton Center due to the “extreme cold.” It’s OK to laugh.

35. You know, if there really was a fire, I think that not having this fire hose available would be a little more than an “inconvenience.”

36. On the return trip, I noticed a woman who got off at Port Credit wearing leather boots that went way up past her knees. How people walk in such things is beyond me.

37. An older guy who got on at Clarkson bore a striking resemblance to Carl Bugenhagen, the exorcist in the first two Omen movies played by Leo McKern. As far as I know, he wasn’t carrying a box with daggers inside.

38. While waiting at the Burlington GO station for the #12 bus, I laughed as everyone went charging outside at the first sign of a bus only to realize that it wasn’t the Niagara-bound bus they were looking for. The bus’s destination was clearly labeled and plainly visible from inside the station, but you’ve got to look.

39. Among those waiting at the Burlington GO station was a guy with mental-health issues who was serenading the group with his own special brand of melodic ramblings. Though he continued to entertain us from the back of the bus after getting on, thankfully, he seemed to lose interest near Stoney Creek.

40. I remain grateful for GO’s express bus to the Falls that siphons off much of the riff-raff.

41. Being a weekday, I was surprised that most passengers boarding the #12 bus did not pay with Presto.

42. Our GO bus driver was otherwise very good, but an oncoming car he royally cut off pulling out of the Grimsby station had to swerve to avoid a collision.

43. So when there aren’t high winds on the skyway, it’s OK not to drive carefully?

44. As I’ve said before, you think they use enough salt in this part of the world?