28 May

CPC Leadership Thoughts

Thoughts on the recently concluded CPC leadership campaign:

1. Congratulations to Andrew Scheer on his come-from-behind victory. Although he wasn’t my first choice, I’m not disappointed that he won and I like many of the principles he put forward during the campaign. For the sake of the country, I just hope he’s the right person for the job.

2. Congratulations to both Pierre Lemieux and Brad Trost on their outstanding showings. The fact that such relatively low-profile social conservatives attracted so much support is proof that maybe there’s still hope for us yet.

3. Memo to Maxime Bernier: The next time a faux Conservative like Kevin O’Leary offers you his endorsement, decline it.

4. Something tells me that many years from now, Erin O’Toole will still be regretting not making his big push before many party members had received and mailed in their ballots instead of after. You have to wonder if the people on his campaign team were asleep at the wheel. It’s not like they didn’t know when the ballots were going out.

5. Judging by Lisa Raitt’s poor showing, I wasn’t the only one unimpressed with her leadership potential. But she’ll make a good member of Scheer’s cabinet.

6. Same goes for Kellie Leitch. Except that she won’t make a good member of Scheer’s cabinet.

7. OK, Michael Chong, the campaign is over. You can go and join the Liberals now.

8. The fact that an MP from Regina rose to become leader of the party is yet another indicator of the growing gap between rival prairie provinces Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Long forgotten are the days when Manitobans would be able to look down at their western neighbors. Today, led by a common-sense conservative government, Saskatchewan is one of the most prosperous provinces in the country, while Manitoba, digging out from yet another NDP train wreck, is still going backward.

9. I’m surprised even Deepak Obhrai voted for Deepak Obhrai.

10. I am genuinely looking forward to seeing the party go on the offensive against Bobo the Clown and the Libranos instead of wasting its energy battling one another.

21 May

Random Thoughts – Caretaker Bob, Our Mayor, Fireworks and More

1. I was appalled to see the recent tweets of Bob Young, ”caretaker” of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, who defiantly expressed admiration for Colin Kaepernick and his disgraceful “protests” of refusing to stand for the national anthem. He even had the gall to call Kaepernick “brave” and offered his full support to any Ticats player who wished to do likewise.

Needless to say, this does not make me want to rush out and buy Ticats season tickets. Not that I would have done so anyways, mind you.

1a. So if “Caretaker Bob” is perfectly fine with a player showing gross disrespect to his country, would he be equally supportive of a player who made a homophobic or racial slur during a game? Somehow, I don’t think so.

1b. Irrespective of my feelings on Mr. Young’s revulsive stance on this issue, I do at least applaud him for standing up and being counted. Unlike the owner/president/general manager/executive head coach of a certain publicly-funded hockey team in a central Canadian province who continues to hide from public view when the going gets rough, not even granting access to his team’s “official newspaper,” which also happens to be a major corporate sponsor.

2. It’s nice to see Mayor Sendzik getting back to promoting St. Catharines and local businesses again along with making useful public service announcements. You know, the kind of things a good mayor should do. Instead of using celebratory events to bash Trump or shill for the Liberals.

2a. You don’t think our mayor has been reading … nah. But you never know. This is, after all, a small town.

3. Trying to digest the recent and bizarre tweets posted by Councillor Mat Siscoe, a supposed Conservative, I’m not sure who’s the bigger Liberal – him or Mayor Sendzik.

4. I don’t get why fireworks are so popular in this part of the world. Or any part of the world for that matter.

5. Bright and early yesterday, as part of a 57.6-mile bike ride, I boarded a Niagara Region Transit bus. I got a Niagara Falls Transit transfer from a St. Catharines Transit driver and used that transfer on a Welland Transit bus that took me to Port Colborne. And all that interconnectivity worked seamlessly. Yet I still cannot use my Presto card on any of those respective transit agencies. If Niagara wants to play with the big boys, it’s time to start acting like it. They may have to lay new track to get the trains here, but there are no such issues preventing the implementation of Presto. In fact, Presto should have been implemented long before any talk of expanded train service. Which may or may not come.

5a. While waiting at the St. Catharines bus terminal yesterday morning, someone standing under the big clock asked me what time it was.

5b. It’s a little unnerving when your bus driver has to get up and fish a map out of his personal belongings to find out where he needs to go next.

5c. As I’ve noted before, the Friendship Trail between Port Colborne and Fort Erie is a wonderful resource for cyclists. But it’s long. Too long.

5d. They need to do some work on the parkway trail between Fort Erie and Niagara Falls.

6. The $30 they were charging for parking yesterday at Fallsview Casino was gouging in the extreme. It was “only” $22 at Table Rock.

6a. I’m genuinely surprised they don’t charge me a fee for locking up my bike in the Falls.

7. The gold uniforms of the Nashville Predators remind me of the blinding duds worn by the Los Angeles Kings back in the day when little more than 8,000 or so fans would dot the stands at the Fabulous Forum. And no, that was not a compliment.

7a. Not that I care a whole lot, but it’s time the NHL went back to having its teams wear white at home again.

16 May

Random Thoughts – Clifton Hill, Bridges, B.C. Election and More

1. Clifton Hill is an absolute mess thanks to the myriad of construction taking place on the self-proclaimed “street of fun” at the Falls. Don’t take care of such things during the winter, now. After all, it’s not like Niagara Falls is a world-renowned tourist destination or anything.

1a. For all the bragging they’re doing on Clifton Hill about the work they’ve already done, there still isn’t a single bike rack to be found. Unless you count a tree or a light post. Which I don’t. Then again, it’s not like Niagara is a world-class cycling destination or anything.

2. Why does it take a natural disaster to find out that a bridge is named for someone? Case and point: The recently washed-out structure on Martindale Road in St. Catharines. Hands up if you knew it was the J.R. Stork Bridge. It was the same in the SPRM when the bridge over the Red River in St. Adolphe collapsed and had to be rebuilt. Only then did we find out it was the Pierre Delorme Bridge. Honestly, what’s the point of naming a structure in someone’s honor if you don’t put up a sign to that effect?

3. How much more of a trail of destruction does the NDP have to leave behind in its wake before Canadians stop voting for them? Case and point is the recent B.C. election. No wonder so many people at Bomber games used to yell “B.C. Sucks!”

3a. A coalition of the NDP and the eco-fascist Green Party is even worse than an NDP majority. If that’s possible. If all I had to choose from were the Greens and Kim Jong Un’s Korean Workers Party, I might be inclined to pick the latter.

4. I am sorry to hear that interim CPC leader Rona Ambrose is leaving politics. I am even more disappointed that Kellie Leitch is not joining her in stepping away from the limelight.

5. Judging from the 8% pay cut their employees recently agreed to accept, it must be tough times over at Socialism Illustrated. I don’t suppose it occurred to them that, with sagging revenues, they might try adopting a fair and balanced approach to try and repair the brand they’ve so heavily damaged. That is, instead of being Canada’s biggest purveyor of left-wing political propaganda west of Ontario.

5a. I have no doubt that Brian Pallister’s picture is on a dart board in their lunch room and every employee is required to fire five darts into it before starting their shift. It’s probably even in their union contract.

6. St. Catharines city councilor Mat Siscoe recently stated on his Twitter account that CBC’s Peter Mansbridge was a “national treasure.” Forgive me for thinking he was a conservative.

6a. Friends don’t let friends watch CBC.

7. Tonight, the Nashville Predators, a team making its first-ever appearance in the conference finals after 18 seasons and hardly a franchise with a glittering history of accomplishments, takes to the ice seeking its 24th playoff victory in the last six seasons. That would be 24 more playoff victories than the Mark Chipman Personal Hockey Club has racked up since Manitoba taxpayers were forced to buy the Atlanta Thrashers for Chipman. When you start making the Predators look like a model of success, it’s no wonder Chipman doesn’t “find value” in speaking with the media to answer for his failures.

7a. You just know Chipman would suddenly “find value” in speaking with the media if his team was just a little less awful. To repeat a line I often heard on the school grounds of Transcona, he can dish it out, but evidently he can’t take it.

8. An interesting blog to check out is thiscrazytrain.com, written and maintained by a regular commutress who shares her experiences riding the GO train. And admits how surprised she was that life gets tougher for the average working stiff under a socialist government.

11 May

An Improbable Visit to da ‘Burgh

On Monday, I had the pleasure of accompanying a good friend who was visiting from Winnipeg on a day trip to Pittsburgh. I had certainly heard enough about the city and its fanatical passion for its football team from a long-lost friend and former colleague whose ex-wife hailed from the area, but I never thought I would ever visit Pittsburgh in person.

Bright and early, we crossed the Queenston-Lewiston Bridge, known as the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge to the Americans, and entered the great state of New York.

Most people would have taken the QEW to the Peace Bridge, in part to avoid the $1 toll at Grand Island, but I did not object when my friend suggested the Lewiston crossing. Not only did I want to show him the bridge I had crossed several times on two wheels, but more importantly, I wanted to get some additional shots of I-190 that I wouldn’t have otherwise have been able to get. Shots that will be appearing on a website near you. Sooner or later. More likely the latter, given the backlog of pictures I’ve been accumulating recently.

The $1 toll was a small price to pay for shots like this. Here, we are approaching the toll booth just on the other side of the north bridge, one that I’ve walked over several times.

Past Grand Island into the Town of Tonawanda, not to be confused with the City of Tonawanda or the City of North Tonawanda, the latter being in a different county, there was a fair bit of traffic heading into Buffalo. This is undoubtedly another reason why people heading over the river use the Peace Bridge instead.

Passing under the Scajaquada Expressway. As I explained in the car, I finally learned how to pronounce it listening to a couple of guys talking while at the Tim Hortons in Sanborn a couple of years ago.

Approaching the Peace Bridge. You can watch the traffic on this stretch of I-190 from the Niagara Parkway in Fort Erie.

Past Buffalo and onto the Thruway, we stopped at the Lackawanna toll barrier. Entering the tolled section of the Thruway, travelers paying by cash pick up a ticket. When exiting, you hand that ticket to the attendant, who calculates the toll based on how far you’ve gone. Those with E-ZPass simply drive through, where sensors read the transponder upon entry and exit and deduct the appropriate charge from the user’s account. It’s kind of like a Presto card for drivers. You know, the Presto card that you can use throughout the GTHA, Ottawa and even Gatineau, but not here in Niagara. But I digress.

For the benefit of drivers who need a break along the way, rather than force them to exit and stop for an interim payment, the great state of New York provides many service areas along the Thruway like this one near Angola. Here, there is a food court, a staffed tourist information booth and a service station. Toto, we’re not in Manitoba anymore.

Past the Angola service area, there are these signs warning of a rough road ahead as the Thruway passes through the Seneca “Nation.”

The road is indeed quite rough, but as I understand, long-standing disputes between the state and this “nation,” which must give authorization for the state to work on tribal lands, is holding up what is a badly needed rebuild of this stretch of America’s longest Interstate highway. From its eastern terminus in Boston, it runs over 3,000 miles before ending in Seattle.

Just as I did when I passed by on the way to Erie in October 2015, I noticed this sign for the Big Indian Smoke Shop along with an Indian doing something much too similar to a Nazi salute. Upon closer inspection, the Indian is holding his palm up as if he’s looking for money, a familiar sighting for anyone who has walked the streets of downtown Winnipeg. A sighting I don’t miss, by the way.

Here is a sign notifying motorists that they’re in a correctional facility area and warning them not to pick up hitchhikers. Not that it’s a terribly good idea to pick up strangers under the best of circumstances, but in this case, it’s even more dangerous, as in the distance is the water tower for Chautauqua Institution, a jail with thick barbed-wire fencing right along the Thruway.

Here, we approach the Ripley toll barrier to pay our stipend before being allowed to leave the great state of New York. Unlike the case on the 407, however, the tolls are quite reasonable and the trip between Lackawanna and Ripley only sets you back $3.15. Though I had enough American money, they do apparently take Canadian dollarettes, discounted at a rate of 30%. Subject to change, I imagine.

Just past the Ripley toll barrier is the state line. Here, we are welcomed to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Inside the welcome center were washrooms, free Wi-Fi and a staffed tourist office. Normally in these places, the staff pounce on you as soon as you walk in the door, but the person in the office was content to sit and continue working while I browsed through the place.

At the main door is this sign giving “The Rules” as set forth by the Commonwealth. Some long reading material for those who care enough and have the time to go through it all.

Past the welcome center, there is this sign for North East. North East what, you may ask? It’s just North East. Well, North East Township to be exact.

Following a short break in nearby Erie, it was time to head south along I-79 toward Pittsburgh.

Just past the I-90 interchange is Bargain Road, a fitting sighting for a current and ex-Winnipegger traveling together. For the benefit of the uninformed, Winnipeg is the discount capital of North America.

Here, we pass I-80, another of the country’s longest Interstates. This one links New Jersey to San Francisco, roughly following the path of the old Lincoln Highway. As you can see from the foliage, this stretch of highway through the rolling hills of the western part of the Commonwealth is a beautiful and highly recommended drive.

We stopped again at Grove City, where I had lunch at this gas station/Subway.

Walking back to the outlet mall, just as I did when I last visited Erie, I noticed how pedestrian-unfriendly this part of the world was. There were hardly any sidewalks around and much of the ground wasn’t even flat, yet in the above shot, they made a big effort to put wheelchair ramps at the light. It had the look of something done just so some bureaucrats could say they had fulfilled ADA requirements.

I went inside the Stillers outlet store and picked up a little souvenir of the occasion before we continued on our journey south.

Here, a horse and buggy proceeds west along Route 208 as we waited to get back on I-79.

Approaching the PA Turnpike.

Seeing this sign, I couldn’t help but recall one of the favorite expressions of former Seattle Seahawks coach Chuck Knox. When he felt something was common sense, he would say it was “eighth-grade Sewickley.” Little did I ever think I would ever end up in the same area code as his hometown.

Here, we cross the Ohio River, or the Ahia in Pittsburghese. I found it odd that the signage was not bilingual.

We exited I-79 at I-376 and proceeded east to Pittsburgh. For the benefit of the uninformed, in this part of the world, the next exit is for Car-NEGGY, not CAR-nuh-gee.

Approaching the Mount Lebanon exit and heading into Pittsburgh.

Here, we enter the Fort Pitt Tunnel that goes through Mount Washington. I used to think that going underneath the Welland Canal was a big deal.

Oddly enough, on the other side of the Fort Pitt Tunnel is the Fort Pitt Bridge that crosses the Monongahela River. We took one of the downtown exits and found a place to park before getting out for a bit of exploration.

Naturally, this caught my attention. There are many such homages to Snoopy in downtown Saint Paul, MN, and they’re in much better shape than this one. Still, it’s better than nothing.

Welcome to da ‘Burgh.

Oy! Brahns paraphernalia in downtown Pittsburgh?!?

The entrance to Point State Park at the confluence of the Allegheny and aforementioned Monongahela and Ahia Rivers.

Cafe at the Point. Note how the chairs and tables are tied down. No doubt they would have a habit of walking away on their own without the restraints.

Looking back at the Wyndham Grand Hotel.

The Fort Pitt Museum, where only museum patrons can use their washrooms. The common folk instead have to use the public washrooms near the fountain.

The Fort Pitt Bridge.

Segway tours are offered. We would also spot hybrid boats from Just Ducky Tours rolling through downtown that give one-hour land and water tours of the area.

Along the shoreline.

Here, a flag from the Thirteen Colonies era flies proudly.

Mount Warshington, as they would say in Pittsburghese. Rather than go over it, we went through it.

The fountain.

Heinz Field, home of dem Stillers. Hir we go, Stillers, hir we go!

Fort Duquesne Bridge.

Leaving the park, we made a brief tour of downtown. This is Gateway Station, a terminal in the city’s light rail network that goes underneath both the Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers. Within the downtown area anna Norside (North Side in English), it is a free fare zone.

This sign for a “chipped chopped” ham sandwich, another bit of unique Pittsburgh vernacular, just jumped out at me as I recalled how my long-lost former colleague mentioned that his then-father-in-law had once said, “Eyes had a chipped chopped sammitch and eyes full.”

Far too soon, it was time to leave and we took I-279 north across the Fort Duquesne Bridge and back to I-79.

Following a short break at a rest area near Grove City, I spotted this cross near the road. Given the state of political correctness these days, I’m surprised any reference to a Christian religion near a public highway is permitted. No doubt, some perpetually offended SJW is just waiting to raise hell with PennDOT after getting “triggered.”

We stopped again in Erie before continuing east on I-90 toward Buffalo.

This sign, with the “UPMC Hamot” and “University” lines having been put in by simply placing a metal plate over the old wording, caught my attention. When wording needs to be changed, it is a refreshing, common sense approach to do it that way rather than replace the entire sign as they do in the SPRM. But I’m not bitter.

Passing through North East, travelers get a nice view of the lake. Anyone looking for information on Niagara Falls can also reportedly get it here, though why one would even look for information on the Falls in North East Township is beyond me.

Leaving the Commonwealth and crossing into the great state of New York. The difference in the quality of pavement was palpable.

Here, we pass through the Ripley toll barrier, where the attendant was passing out tickets to motorists the way a business owner would hand out flyers on a busy street corner.

Maybe this only interests me, but the sign for Exit 59 uses the wrong shield for the intersecting NY 60. This is sadly commonplace in the great state of New York, particularly so on US 62.

Here, we re-enter the Seneca “Nation.” On the sign, they claim the state owes them over $675 million for a toll they unilaterally claim for every motorist who passes through their “sovereign lands since time immemorial.” Um, yeah, whatever. Perhaps the state should make a similar claim for members of this “nation” when they leave their “sovereign lands.” In the meantime, fix the damn road.

Apparently the Lackawanna toll booths are more special than the other toll booths along the Thruway.

Preparing to pay the $3.15, I noticed these signs for Canada on every toll booth. Canada-bound traffic is evidently quite commonplace in this part of the world.

With the setting sun, we made it back across the border and home without incident to put an end to what was a long, but very enjoyable day, one that I’ll continue enjoying in retrospect for quite some time.

02 May

CPC Leadership Ballot, Co-op Boards, Shooting in Winnipeg

This week, I finally got my Conservative Party leadership ballot, which I promptly filled out and put in the mail.

Though I don’t think either one has a realistic chance of winning, I voted with my conscience and ranked Pierre Lemieux and Brad Trost one and two, respectively, on my ballot. Their views most closely resemble mine, and as Lemieux said when I saw him here in St. Catharines, ranking them highly sends a message to the party. There are millions who agree with us and it’s time we spoke up and had our voices heard rather than just go with the traffic.

Beyond that, my next two choices, in order, were Maxime Bernier and Andrew Scheer. I liked a lot of what I heard from both of them and I think both would make a good prime minister. But I had to put one ahead of the other and chose Bernier. It was nice, however, to have a choice between two excellent candidates rather than having to choose the least undesirable option, which was the case with almost every mayoral election in Winnipeg I voted in.

Now without the threat of Kevin O’Leary, I could have simply stopped there and not marked any more names, but I used all 10 of my choices to do what I could ward off any possibility of Liberal-lite Michael Chong becoming leader. In order, I chose Steven Blaney, Erin O’Toole, Andrew Saxton, Rick Peterson, Chris Alexander and finally, Lisa Raitt.

Based on Raitt’s disastrous performance in Jordan a few weeks ago, which I detailed in a recent posting, it hurt to even mark her as my 10th choice, but if it came down to it, I would still rather see her as the leader than Chong, Kellie Leitch or Deepak Obhrai, a man with a lower profile than most members of the Witness Protection Program.

I do agree with some of her views, but Leitch earned her way completely off my ballot thanks to a mean-spirited campaign she was waging against Bernier. Other candidates were certainly engaged in spirited debate with each other, but by and large, they handled it all in a much more professional manner. Throughout the leadership campaign, Leitch impressed me as a conservative’s answer to Monica Lewinsky’s ex-boyfriend’s wife.

I was pleased to see that the ballot itself was simply listed in alphabetical order without any comments or endorsements from Party executives, unlike the case with the brochure for the MEC board of directors election I got in the mail this week. MEC, along with many other co-operatives and credit unions, have been taking it upon themselves to endorse or recommend candidates who best fit their values.

The board’s values, that is. Not yours.

What amounts to a shift from a member-focused to a board-focused entity was a point I made on social media this week, to which MEC responded, “We strongly encourage members to vote for whoever they want. But here’s why we recommend candidates …” In other words, we really want you to vote for our preferred candidates, but we really can’t stop you from considering the others. Much as we’d like to.

Seriously, imagine the outrage if any sitting government at the federal or provincial level moved it’s party’s candidate to the top of the ballot above the caption, “The Government of Canada recommends you vote for this candidate.” There would be rioting in the streets if any governing party even as much as proposed such a thing. Yet this practice is growing like a mushroom cloud among co-operatives and credit unions whose boards either think we’re too stupid to pick a candidate on our own without their “help” or just want to solidify their own positions by bringing in as many like-minded people as possible.

This is exactly why federal legislation is needed to put a stop this detestable practice from coast to coast. But I’m not exactly holding my breath.

Finally, I read about the recent shooting in the skywalk in downtown Winnipeg, a place that has seen my shadow a lot more than once. Far from being in an isolated dark alley in the middle of the night, this confrontation between an officer and an allegedly armed thug took place in the middle of the lunch hour, when the skywalk is always packed. As a library employee said in the Socialism Illustrated article, “It’s too close to home.”

Indeed.

When I lived there, I could just have easily been the thug’s target, and just like the incident when a Winnipeg Transit driver was fatally stabbed, the only real surprise is that such a thing hasn’t happened before now. Winnipeg has been a city in serious decline for many years, long before I left, and I was far from alone in referring to it as Canada’s toilet bowl.

Yet another reason why I’m relieved to be away from that part of the world.