Letter to the City of London-Snow Removal

Wrote and sent this to the city Monday night. Need to keep pushing for improved accessibility.

December 10, 2018
Corporation of the City of London
Attn.: Environmental Services
Cc: City Council Members
Re: Winter Sidewalk Maintenance

I send this letter in the hopes that concerns that I have, as well as many Londoners based on social media feedback, as it pertains to winter sidewalk maintenance, are addressed with some sort of importance. While I recognize the extreme importance to ensure clear and safe roadways, I’m puzzled as to why our sidewalk networks and bus stops are not treated in the same manner.
Last week, after a snowfall, it took a few hours (after morning rush) to see plows on sidewalks. The plow didn’t even make a difference (pictures attached to this email). Today, a few days later, when most of the sidewalk has melted, a city sander, dropping a minimal amount of sand drove by. This makes no sense.
I’ve heard there are environmental concerns to use sand/salt on walks-yet we don’t have these concerns when roads are salted? I’ve been told that due to sidewalk heaving, the plow blade cannot make full contact on the sidewalk. I understand the difference between an asphalt road vs a concrete sidewalk and can appreciate the heaving and seam issue. Why are other options not being investigated?
I have walking disabilities. I have a prosthetic on one leg and am missing half a foot on the other. Walking is made to be a very dangerous challenge. Its just not me-there are many in wheelchairs, scooters and walkers. The elderly, parents with strollers and small children, expectant mothers, folks with other physical disabilities and able-bodied users are all at risk of falling and injury.
The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act states:

“Persons with disabilities must be given an opportunity equal to that given to others to obtain, use and benefit from the goods or services. O. Reg. 429/07, s. 3 (2).”

While I realize that all London citizens are affected by snow removal, persons with disabilities are at a disadvantage as they are unable, on too many occasions, to access a passable sidewalk. Last winter, there were too many occasions that disabled citizens couldn’t access sidewalks, bus stops or public transit, not just the day of a snowfall, but for days following. I understand that the snow removal policy calls for plows when 8 cms of snow has fallen. By the time the plows hit the sidewalks, the snow has become compacted and icy. This makes it hazardous for users.

I live on Oxford St E, a primary street, and see very poor sidewalk maintenance. For a city that wants to promote healthy lifestyles, public transit and a $500 million BRT project, is it not incumbent on the city to ensure fair and safe access to our sidewalk networks?
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As a citizen of London, I find it unacceptable to be held hostage in my home in the winter, I implore The City and Council to make it a critical priority to improve the safety of its citizens and ensure a safe sidewalk network-year-round.

I look forward to your response. Thank you for your attention.

Gerald LaHay

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Remember When…

 

Was reading with some interest the social media push for people to avoid using self checkouts. I’m not diving into this argument, but as us old dudes do, it gave me a moment of pause to reminisce about the “gold ole days.”

Do you remember A&P (before Metro for you youngins)? The staff bagged your groceries and placed them in the big red tote. Off the tote would go, to where one would wonder and then you’d pull your car up and a staffer would place your purchases into your trunk for you? The A&P at Westmount Mall was especially cool, because your groceries would run underground to the pickup zone across the parking lot.

Back in the 80’s there was a store at Adelaide and Huron, Fedy’s EMA (where the current Freshco is located). There, staff not only bagged your groceries, but carried them to your car for you. Don’t see that much in London anymore. On my last trip to Fort Myers Beach Florida, this was the kind of service you’d get at Publix-and tipping was prohibited.

Speaking of Adelaide and Huron, remember the Esso station that had the Quick Lube? You pull up to the door and a cute 16 year old would pull your car in, check your tires, wash the windows while you waited? I know the 16 year old kid was cute because it was me! Miss that kid….he was cool.

Do you remember paperboys? I delivered the Free Press years ago and once a week I’d make the rounds to collect. Customers would pay and you’d hand them a little paper token indicating they were paid for that week. Never made much money, but there was some glory in being a paperboy.

Remember when you’d watch the Leaf’s game on TV and the only way to bitch was to yell at the TV? Now we have every armchair coach complaining on Twitter every 30 seconds, yelling at the ref to drop the damn puck-like the ref can hear you yelling on Twitter?

Speaking of social media, remember when it didn’t exist. The social media we used was a note you passed in class? And there were no such thing as “selfies?”

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Remember the only smart phone we had was the one that hung on the wall at home-the one with the extra long cord. Your mom would be pissed because she’d be calling for hours and could only get a busy signal?

Before computers, we had the typewriter with the corrective ribbon or you used Liquid Paper. You’d finish the paper, find a spelling mistake and have to re-type the whole damn page…..

Remember being sent to the store to get a jug of milk? You’d carry that jug home with the red plastic handle that cut the circulation off to your little fingers.

Do you remember when happiness was a bowl of cereal in front of the TV watching Saturday morning cartoons? Today, kids are checking their phones to see how many likes they got on Instagram or how many new friends they got on Snapchat. And do you remember that cereal had toys in them, buried at the bottom of the box. You raced your brothers and sisters to see who could get that crappy toy first?

I remember when my mom or my grandparents cooked using bacon grease-the eggs always looked too dark but damn they were good.

Remember after school (Montcalm), we’d all pile into a booth at the Skillet Restaurant in Zellers, sharing a huge plate of fries and gravy? Or you’d head to Country Style for a good donut? Then the new Fast Eddies on Highbury opened and you waited forever to grab a couple of cheap burgers.

Remember downtown-back when Simpsons had the greatest window displays, old school movie theatres and awesome little shops? I remember lining up for over 18 hours at Sam the Record Man on Dundas for Springsteen tickets-none of this online hoarding we see today.

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Downtown London, late 1960’s Photo: Phillip Aziz (Matt Trevithick)

I still remember when Oakridge Mall, London Mall, The London Mews and Northland Mall were the places to shop.

I remember with fond memories heading to Victoria Park each summer long weekend to watch a free concert. I saw Gowen, Trooper and so many more down at the grand old park.

I remember when it was safe enough for a teenage to hop on a train and head to Exhibition Stadium to watch the Blue Jays…..not something you’d ever consider doing today.

I miss the days of the Twilight Drive-In out on Hyde Park Road, just north of Fanshawe, where the current Lowe’s is located. They had the best drive in food.  I saw Raiders of the Lost Ark at the old 401 Drive in- I believe it stood where the Costco on Wellington stands today.

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Credit: J. J Talman Regional Collection

Remember when the pizza guy actually ran up to the door with your order? Remember when a trip to McDonalds was a treat? A visit to the fall Western Fair was a wonderous outing-food, rides and a ton of animal exhibits?

Remember playing actual board games like Yahtzee, Monopoly or Trivial Pursuit. Go Fish? Crazy 8’s?

The present and the future looks awesome….but I still miss the old days.

 

 

 

 

London Drivers: Holy Hell

Flashback to 1999. No, I’m not referring to Prince. I’m thinking of driving. That’s all I did…..drive. Drove everywhere-kids to daycare, to work, to the store, to Tim Hortons. Walking bored me, and I was to damn lazy to ride a bike.  My car was my temple. I lived in a school zone, so I drove with respect, especially when my two little ones were in the car. I have always respected pedestrians and, for the most part, gave cyclists a wide berth when passing.

But, when I was alone, I was Mario Andretti- drove way too fast and dangerous. To say I was an aggressive driver is an understatement. I tried, and succeeded at times in breaking records going from city to city. I once did the Sarnia to London run in under 30 minutes….while drinking coffee and texting. In short- I was an a-hole driver and should have had my license taken away. Add in my general impatience and, well, you can see the picture I’ve painted.

Living in Byron, cyclists (not the casual bike rider although they were worse) annoyed the hell out of me most weekends. There is a 4 way stop at Griffith and Byron Baseline. I’d stop as required and see a group of 20+ cyclists flying eastbound on Baseline-and every single one of them would blow through the stop sign, three abreast. I would end up following them, swearing like a madman for them to get the hell out of the way. In my mind, every person on a bike was a inconsiderate jerk. Cars own the road!!!

Then something happened. In July 2016, I lost my leg and was confined to a wheelchair. I relied on public transit and sidewalks. I discovered a world I never paid much attention to much in the past. I was horrified to see the lack of respect for sidewalk users. Sitting a various bus stops and watching the world around me taught me that there are so many inconsiderate people out there, specifically those in cars.

A few months ago, one of our Twitter pals commented on the number of London Ontario drivers running red lights, especially considering the installation of red light cameras at a few intersections. So I started to pay very close attention to what drivers were doing, whether I was on foot, on a bus or in a car. I knew that there were a number of lousy drivers out there-hell I was one of them. What I have and still continue to observe is a rampant number of dangerous drivers. Here are a number of concerns that I’m seeing out there:

  • Speeding. It appears that the drivers are driving at much higher speeds. Some days, I may be close to 10/kmh over as I follow the flow of traffic and the number of people passing me is alarming
  • Yellow/Red light runners: with the upgrade of pedestrian signals, there is a countdown to when the light turns yellow. I’m seeing more and more trying to beat the signal now. With the red light cameras, I stupidly assumed that we would actually see a reduction of this.
  • Crosswalk Bullying: each day when I walk, I’m challenged by at least one or two cars a day that either block the crossing or inch closer to me as I haul my one legged butt across the street.
  • Cars racing to turn in front of me when I start crossing a crosswalk
  • The lack of headlights in the dark seems to be increasing. Seems people assume since their running lights are on, then they’re fine
  • Cleaning snow off the car: enough said….you know what I’m talking about. Except the dolt last week that I saw stop in the middle of the road, get out and sweep off his back window.
  • Far too many instances where drivers fail to yield to emergency vehicles
  • Inconsideration: just a couple of days ago, watched as 6 cars refused to let an LTC bus change lanes
  • Apparently, many cars out there are out of blinker fluid- this has to be the reason many don’t use a signal announcing their intentions
  • Running stop signs
  • Far too many single occupant cars on the road
  • Sidewalk blockers: blocking access to the sidewalk as they try and make a turn-and not noticing the pedestrian coming as they’re looking the other way
  • AND THE ABSOLUTE WORST: given the statistics, given the high fines and given the non-stop ads and notifications, the alarming number still on their phones while driving leaves me angry and stunned. Today, while driving, a complete a-hole, nearly hit me while changing lanes and on his phones. Then, he laughed.  I don’t usually road rage, but it took everything in me to not turn into the Hulk and destroy his piece of crap car.

This from the London Police Twitter account November 23rd: “Our Traffic Management Unit stopped this driver travelling eastbound on Riverside Drive near Walnut Street today. Driving 121 km/hr in a posted 50km/hr zone earned him a day in court, a seven-day vehicle impoundment, a seized driver’s licence and 6 points if convicted.”

Why in the hell would this complete idiot feel the need to drive 121km/hr in a residential zone?

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And now, we’re in the silly season where we will see the rise in impaired driving charges increase, despite historical data that show how deadly impaired driving can be.

As a rule, I’m not a nervous person, but I am actually nervous walking on a sidewalk in this city…..a bloody sidewalk! When I was in a wheelchair, I was bumped twice by drivers not looking behind while backing up. Now, when I walk, I’m seeing, for the most part, a complete lack of consideration for pedestrians and cyclists. Drivers seem to be distracted or simply don’t give a damn. What is concerning is that they forget that they are driving a two tonne metal death machine. This past week, two people on Facebook posted videos or pictures of drivers failing to drive safely-one video showed a truck blow through a red light nearly taking out a vehicle turning left on a green.

Checking out the London Police Service’s 2017 Annual Report;(https://www.londonpolice.ca/en/about/annual-report.aspx) , a stat that jumps off the page shows that police issued 25,939 traffic notices/fines- that was 71 per day! In 2017, police report almost 11,000 accidents in the city, with eight people dying. Overall, police responded to over 75,000 calls for service. Some would suggest that if police enforced traffic more, we would see a reduction of bad drivers. This is true-more police who could focus on traffic would certainly see more drivers charged. But LPS Traffic unit only as 14 members on their team-they can’t cover the whole city. With the 75,000 calls that police respond to, traffic violators slip down the priority list. Too frequently, we are hearing and seeing reports of car accidents, pedestrians and cyclists being hit and worse, killed. Today, I’m listening to the radio and another deadly crash has taken place just north of London.

I’ve come to understand the concerns of pedestrians and cyclists and I’m having a tough time trying to defend London drivers. Each day I am seeing myself, and hearing from pedestrians, too many examples as to why society needs to focus on a shift to a safer city that is both pedestrian and cyclist friendly. I still drive, but each day I’m become more concerned and somewhat apprehensive when I get behind the wheel. It is very clear to me that drivers are in too much of a hurry, lack consideration and have a complete disregard for the safety of not only the walkers and people on bikes, but for other drivers as well. I can’t believe, given my past desire to drive everywhere that I’m defending vulnerable users, that I agree with the many who are fighting for safety travels of pedestrians and cyclists. Just the other day, a Londoner posted pictures of injuries he sustained on King St. Regardless of what led to this scary incident, I’ve come to realize that our society has let cyclists down. If there was proper biking infrastructure in place, would this event have taken place? I’m going to say no.

I’m not silly enough to suggest that vulnerable users on our streets are perfect and blameless. Yes- there are a few who behave in a manner that is unsafe. It was pointed out to me that if our infrastructure was designed to promote safer travels, we’d likely see a reduction in poor decision making by pedestrians/cyclist. After some thought and research, this point was correct in their assertion.

To those champions who work tirelessly to ensure a safer city, do not give up. For the past 30+ years, I was wrong. You’ve taught this cranky man many lessons. For this, you have my respect and gratitude.

 

 

 

 

 

Mental Health: Stigma and More

Before diving in, I am no means an expert in the area of mental health. I only speak from experience, not only my own but from what I have learned from past mental first aid training and a couple of events that I took part in a few years ago. I realize that mental illness comes in all kinds of different forms. The brain is an intricate organ that is far beyond my ability to understand. I experience depression and anxiety that is controlled somewhat by low dose medication….and a lot of talking to myself with reminders that life is what I make it. Some days, all is good-others not so much. There is a line in the movie “The Paper” in which Michael Keaton leans against his desk and mutters “You can just smell a shitty day coming!”. Its true some days-crappy days do happen.

I saw this post on Twitter the other day:

“If early signs of a physical illness are ignored, they get worse and often become life threatening.

If early signs of a mental illness are ignored, they get worse and often become life threatening.

But still, the severity of mental illness is treated completely differently.”

@pmcgregorcom

Many experts may disagree with this, but my belief is that many don’t move forward with treating their mental illness for many reasons, first and foremost is the stigma attached to mental illness. I took a mental first aid course a few years ago and the first thing we discussed was the topic of labelling. There were no shortage of terms used to describe mental illness: Crazy, nut job, weakling and so on. Despite the many years of trying to break down the stigma of mental illness, it still exists. When the London Distress Centre was in operation ( I’m still furious that this outstanding group had to close), I was part of two great events that focused on eliminating the stigma. First, there was Clara’s Big Ride. Clara Hughes focused on mental health after suffering for years with depression. The next year, TSN’s Michael Landsburg brought his wisdom to town and shared his personal journey. More and more public figures have stepped forward and admitted to struggling with mental illness, showing its okay to share. The #sicknotweak hashtag demonstrates that many suffer from this illness, yet are labeled as weak.
Michael Landsburg Oct 2014

It is my belief that stigma exists due to two kinds of ignorance: lack of understanding or a lack of compassion. To the first point, many do not understand the nature of mental illness. Without have either lived experience or having someone in their circle suffer prevents some from understanding. But here is the thing: if a loved one was diagnosed with say, diabetes, you wouldn’t see someone in their world stigmatized. Mental illness is just that: an illness.

The second point refers to some people not wanting to understand. The sense that that person is fine or strong leads them to look down their nose at someone who is suffering. I continue to see this type of behaviour daily, whether in person or on social media. Taking the time to understand an illness removes stigma and increases understanding.

Self stigma is also a concern. In 2015, after years and years of stressful work and long hours (much of this self induced), my nervous breakdown started. This initiated a spiral downwards with a lot of self destructive behaviour that culminated in suicide. The suicide was successful-I was dead. Medical staff brought me back. Why did this happen? I didn’t take care of the stress in life, trying to find work-home balance. I worked far too many hours and took my job far too seriously.  I wanted to grow in the corporate world, I volunteered coached and didn’t take a lot of “Gerry time”. When the end was near, I didn’t talk to people about my issues because people in my world knew me as strong and determined. I didn’t want to be labelled as weak and I certainly didn’t want people to know I was struggling so much.  This may be due a number of reasons, but first and foremost, as a man, I was taught to stay strong. Today, I could care less what people think of me- I’m stronger and healthier mentally than ever before. All because I started talking, and discovered I wasn’t being judged. Those who cared were there for me every step of the way. Those that didn’t said bye-bye….and I’m fine with that.

I suspect another reason some don’t treat their mental illness is fear-the fear of the unknown. Some fear the drugs or the therapy. No one wants to face the road to good mental health. It takes work and courage to sit down and admit that you need help. I was petrified to spend time on the Adult Mental Health Unit…..I cried and panicked. Years ago I would have referred to this unit as the “Looney Bin”-only crazy people go there! Once I calmed down, ignored the “noise” around me and embraced the fact that I had an opportunity to focus on myself and work to get better, the time spent there may have been the best thing I’ve ever done. If you sprain your ankle, you get help….treat your mind the same way. There is no shame in admitting we need help!

For some, like me, mental illness requires you deal with the baggage that may be contributing to your illness. So many stressors in our world trigger the symptoms and illness. It may be money, relationships, work, addictions -or the world itself. Again, like many good things, this takes some work. Keeping the worries, the past or whatever it is that leads you to the point where you’re ill, go deal with it the way you’d deal with a serious illness-because if you don’t, you’re endangering your health. This may mean making changes to your world and these changes can be tough. But, trust me, you will be so glad that you did. The demons that plagued me are now gone and I’ve never been happier.

For those family and friends who have someone turn to them when they need help, the advice is simple: LISTEN! Don’t judge, sermonize or moralize. Half the battle is finding someone who will listen. The person suffering is experiencing enough and they don’t need your judgement. They have turned to you as a trusted person. If you hold their hand, listen and hold the criticism, you’ve made a huge impact on the road to better health the person is trying so hard to get back to.

One of the other main concerns is that many do not know where to turn for help. I didn’t! It took a suicide to find the help and knowing what I know now, it shouldn’t have gotten that far. Turn to your doctor-mine is amazing. Research a facility like the CHMA location on Huron St in London. Visit a hospital if you feel you’re in danger-its not the best scenario, but at least you’re in a safe place. Do some online research-you’ll be surprised to see how many resources are available in your community. Or…send me a DM on Twitter-I’ll help you find help.

Bottom line is this- take care of yourself. It can and does get better if you work at it. For those who label and stigmatize, STOP IT. Try to learn a little about this illness and show some compassion. Be the person who one can turn to when they need help. Encourage and cheer them on- the same way you would if the person was trying to kick the bottle or deal with a disease. It’s is my sense that if we stop judging and try helping, the positive impacts will not only help the person who is suffering, but you’ll feel damn good that you were there to help.

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Have a Chocolatey Christmas!

Having a chat the other day about Christmas memories and the topic of chocolate came up. This wasn’t a debate over which seasonal chocolate was the best, but rather a chocolatey trip down memory lane.

I’ve eaten a ton or two…..or three of Christmas chocolate-maybe a contributing factor to diabetes, but let’s not go there for a moment. By December I’ve recovered from the Halloween overdose of Smarties and Twix and am back in the mood for some chocolatey goodness. I’m by no means a chocolate aficionado, but I do enjoy the chocolate treats, and am familiar with a variety of brands. My go-to (although not as much these days) was Quality Street. Very rarely do you get one of those disgusting white filled, fruit flavoured bombs. Right up until you get one of those really hard caramel ones-you know which one I’m talking about-the ones that’ll rip the fillings right out of your teeth and cause such chewing exhaustion that you need a rest period before diving back into the can.

Those repulsive little chocolates, supposed flavoured like orange or cherry, can usually be found on Pot O Gold. These are the boxes of chocolates that come with that little map or legend that tells you via faded pictures which chocolates are which. You try and identify the chocolate you want to avoid, but the little swirl on the top looks the same as the next one and then all of a sudden, an orange bomb.

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Speaking of orange, was never a big fan of the Terry’s Orange Chocolate until they came out with the white chocolate or caramel version. The only problem with these things is that you needed the strength of Thor to smash the damn things.

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I rather enjoy the ole Lindor-maybe way too much. So many flavours. When they opened the Lindt store on London, thought I had died and gone to chocolatey heaven. Ended the excuse to have to drive to Kitchener. I saved in gas, but sure as hell gained the calories.

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I know some people that love anything chocolate-just can’t get enough of them. But I do draw the line. The little chocolate balls, while tasty, are a giant pain in the ass. When you have hands like The Hulk, you can never get the damn foil off…too much time wasted for these tiny treats.

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And who could ever pass up a Ferraro Rocher- I was always partial to the coconut ones. Melts in your mouth!

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Each year when my kids were little ones, I would hang a Santa calendar with little pockets for each day. I’d stuff the pockets with two chocolates, usually a Hersey’s kiss, one for each for Sarah and Phillip. The challenge was to not eat the damn things and when I did, I had to rush out and re-load before anyone noticed.

51Z8hyPuOJLI know quite a few who enjoy chocolate mint. I could never figure out why. I always counted on them as the last resort chocolate-when you need that little fix. But otherwise, no thanks.

after-eight-carton-3You have to admit that we’re come a long way with Christmas treats since I was a kid. I’m sure I’m not alone when pass along this memory. Remember the Christmas sticking when we were kids in the 70’s? For you younger folks, I’ll explain. As kids, we rushed downstairs and were in awe when we saw Santa had been there. As a tradition, the stockings were first. Inside you’d find clementines, an apple, candy canes, who nuts still in the shell. Now, before I go any further, nuts in the shell and the nutcracker were kind of fun-right up until you got a damn Brazil nut. Stupid thing that you’d crack and crack and still the bloody shell was stuck to the white nut inside. Then you’d get frustrated and throw it in the garbage. Aw, the memories. The best/worst thing about the stocking were those Christmas rock candies. You know exactly what I’m talking about-the ones stuck to the bottom of the stocking. The ones that you’d still eat-stocking lint and all.

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Now kids (and those sneaky parents) enjoy everything from the Kisses to Kinder Surprise everything to every flavoured candy cane one could possibly imagine to the Toblerone, one of the worst jaw breaking chocolate thingies on the market. We always included a new toothbrush and a dental appointment in the kid’s stocking, you know,  being the good parents that we were.

Enjoy the holiday treats. Now if you’ll pardon me, but I’m about to crack out a box of Whitman’s Sampler followed by a double dose of insulin.

Kindness Matters-It Really Does

The past few columns have focused on some serious matters. Trying to little it up a little with this post.

Here in London, we have a Twitter account called “Kindness Matters” (@KindnessLDNONT), and each day they highlight someone who is doing great things for our city and ask the Twitterers of London to say something nice and to wish this person a good day. So, of course, it got me thinking……does kindness really matter?

In short-damn right it does. I’m fairly certain that I’m still limping around this city and planet thanks to the kindness of so many people. Some got paid to be kind (I’ll expand in a second) whereas others were kind because that’s the nature of the people in my world. Lets put it this way- I’d be dead if it weren’t for the big hearted people in this world.

As many readers know, I went through some tough times from starting in 2015 and culminating in disaster in April 2017. During this time, I failed to recognize the incredible kindness that shown to me as I was too busy destroying myself. Looking back, there were so many that reached out with a helping hand or a daily check-in or a quick message. My inconsiderate self pity that I didn’t see how fortunate I was that so many were there for me. I try to keep things somewhat anonymous here, but here are a few that showed such wonderful kindness to me:

Cindi T, Paula M, Sharon W, Susan E, Susan H, Daisy, Salwa, Susana and Esmerelda, Adalton and Deontay, Jodey, Tammy, Cindy L, Matt A, Jenn and Simon, Mary and Dave, Janet and Margaret, Ruthie, Scuba Guy…..this list could go on for days. I never thanked you….but I will now. Thank you for your friendship and incredible kindness.

Three people who have stood by my side every step of the way, when really I didn’t deserve it were Nadine, my son Phillip and my friend Michael C. They looked after me when I was sick, visited me in the hospital, made sure I had food in my stomach and a roof over my head. Last year around this time, when my laptop was everything to me, the damn thing died an ugly death. There was Nadine, without any hesitation, with a new laptop for me…..I was stunned….and still am. Michael was always there for me, in far more ways than one. And as far as my son is concerned….well most people know what this man means to me.

When I was hospitalized on a couple of occasions, I was treated, for the most part, with genuine kindness for the hospital teams….the nurses and doctors, the PSWs, cleaning staff….everyone. The staff were attentive to my pain and discomfort, ensured my comfort and put me on the road to good health. Yes, its their job, but they showed genuine concern and care. One nurse, knowing the hospital Tim Hortons was closed, brought me a coffee one day!

I see an enormous amount of kindness each day. Many have donated to my Movember campaign….support I never expected to see. There are so many in this great city of ours who perform acts of kindness, show their caring for people daily and rarely get recognized. Most don’t do it for the recognition, they do it because they have a HUGE heart. Some even get mocked or criticized for their efforts-ignore it. Most of us appreciate the great stuff you do.

I’ve been taught more about kindness and respect in the past year or so. Whether its the new friends I’ve made and met through Twitter like Steven H or Bruce or John H or Sheryl and Sharon D, or simply by following so many terrific people. We have Jeremy and the Dad Club, Lincoln and his selfish community acts like the Kindness Meters or the caring folks at London Cares. I could go on and on…as I am quite capable of doing. We tend to focus on the negative at times and fail to see the goodness in this world.

The typical message at this time of year is to show a little more generosity and kindness. My pal Sheryl wrote a terrific column last week that I would suggest everyone give a read as soon as you can. Here is the link:

https://www.thelondoner.ca/opinion/columnists/rooth-charitable-acts-should-be-about-more-than-likes?fbclid=IwAR0130rS1EvN-sjUI0X2DxZJqgPqrlhuPnsz1ontnET0_E86DMvJh85p7tQ

Take a moment each day and remind yourself to be kind. Thank the staff at Tim Hortons. Be a little nicer to that one co-worker who annoys the hell out of you. Be extra courteous to the pedestrians and cyclists out there. Take one day and not bitch about the LTC and their late buses…..the drivers are doing their damndest. Thank a cop or a paramedic. Show just a tad more sympathy towards those who may less fortunate than ourselves. Show a little more patience when out shopping. Praise the kitchen staff and serving team who made your dinner a memorable experience. Thank your kids for being great little citizens. Make sure you hug your partner each day. And be damn nice to your pets….even if they are little jerks like mine is.

I would be remiss if I didn’t give a shoutout to the many people around the world who read these silly ramblings. Your wonderful support keeps me writing. I try and share what I’ve learned in the hopes some will not have to ensure what I have, although I am a much better person thanks to what I have experienced.

People that know me know a big dude who always has a serious look on his face, focused on business and at times, a cranky bastard. So, this post may surprise some. I’m still the same old Gerry, but have learned that kindness goes a long way. You saved my life-don’t forget the role you played. You have made this cranky old guy realize that there is so much good in this world and that I should be thankful and pay the kindness forward.

Now go be nice to someone damn it……

Ford Nation is Making Ontario Dangerous

I have a running list of topics I really want to write about. I have a number of columns to write, many of them humorous. Each day, I open up the ole Twitter account and something has taken place that causes me to run off the rails. Lately, its the Ontario government and Ford Nation that challenges my focus. I’ve come to a very unfortunate and sad conclusion: Ontario is more dangerous than ever.

I’m not a scare monger. Changes that have been implemented by the provincial conservative government provide far too much evidence to support my theory. Since taking power, here are the changes Premier Ford has made to our province:

Repeal of Bill 148: freezing of minimum wage increases and the cancellation of paid sick days. Why is this dangerous? A couple of reasons:

  • Forcing people to work when ill yet can’t afford to take the day off, will enable the spread of the illness. This equates to more sick workers.
  • Workers will continue to live in poverty without the increase in minimum wage. Poverty, homelessness, hunger and health issues will rise

Cancellation of the Basic Income Project and a reduction in planned increase to ODSP support: Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod said the government decided to end the program after being informed by ministry officials that it was failing to help people become “independent contributors to the economy.” (cbc.ca) . This program was cancelled before results could be analyzed. At the same time, a planned 3% increase to ODSP was reduced to a 1.5% increase. Why is this dangerous? Like other cuts/changes, this will lead to an increase in poverty and social issues such as homelessness, mental health issues and suicides.

Closure of the Child Advocates Office: among their duties is to advocate for children, their rights and to  investigate concerns, abuses, deaths within Children’s Aid or their sub-contractor. Currently, 27 cases are still open. Why is this dangerous? This should be obvious-who will monitor, investigate and protect the children of the province?

Closure of the Environmental Commissioner’s Office: pretty self explanatory here. Why is this dangerous? Who will be monitoring and championing environmental rights in Ontario?

Elimination of the Drive Clean Program: Some suggest that this program was simply a cash grab. If mechanics were doing their job, and many were, deficiencies in cars would have been found and required repairs made to ensure a “clean” operating vehicle. Why is this dangerous?: Dirtier old cars damaging the environment.

Cancellation of the Cap and Trade Carbon tax: Claiming this program was just another cash grab, Ford cancels program. This resulted in lower gas prices and puts federal climate change funds in jeopardy. Why is this dangerous? More vehicles on the roads equates to more pollution, clogged roads and a threat to public safety. Another example where the Ontario government shows a complete lack of concern for the environment.

Meat Processors no longer need to renew licenses: Supposedly to save $100/yr. Why is this dangerous? Inspections no longer required as the licensing required prior to renewal. Will our meat products be as safe in the future?

Ministry of Labour ends voluntary workplace inspections: This will end inspections aimed at investigating wage theft and other employment standards violations. Why is this dangerous? Workers will no longer be protected against employers who violate pay and overtimes standards.

Cancellation of the new Sex Ed Curriculum: The government has directed schools to adhere to the 1995 curriculum. Why is this dangerous? Students will not be taught about proper consent, new harassment rules, dangers of social media. These ae key areas that need to be taught ensuring safer children and future adults.

Changes to ODSP Disability Criteria: In an effort to align with the federal definition of what “disability” is defined as for future applicants. Why is this dangerous? This will make the application process for those with disabilities, especially a mental health disability, far more challenging. This can only add more anxiety and stress for those with a disability. Many may not be approved, therefore enhancing their illness. Increases in mental health will ensue. Many may give up and resort to homelessness, poverty, suicides.

Reduction in Mental Health Funding: A planned funding of mental health has been reduced by $335 million dollars. Why is this dangerous? Our world is seeing an increase in mental health illnesses. Hospitals are overwhelmed with patients needing assistance. Lack of access to proper mental health care leads to more and more people not being treated and their care managed. We have Diabetic Clinics (thankfully…for now), but we don’t treat mental health with the same critical nature as we do with physical illnesses.

Roundtable on Violence Against Women Cancelled: An expert panel focusing on human trafficking and violence against women is arbitrarily cancelled. Why is this dangerous? Pretty bloody self explanatory. In a world where violence against women continues to be at a crisis point and our governments are still not doing enough to protect women, more women will be at risk. Each day we hear of the deplorable violence and femicide, we need to increase focus and funding, not reduce.

Trans People and Recognition: At a recent Ontario PC convention, a resolution was adopted to debate gender identity. Why is this dangerous? The rights of trans people will be challenged. I can’t imagine the mental duress one must have felt when this resolution was put forward that discriminates against a group of PEOPLE in our society. Failure to promote equal rights for all is intolerable.

I’m sure I’ve missed one or two items that are or will be detrimental to Ontario. Ford Nation has targeted or has hurt the following:

  • Ontario children
  • Ontario women
  • The lower income population
  • People with disabilities
  • Trans people, young and older
  • People with mental health issues
  • The environment
  • Consumers
  • Food Safety
  • Health and Safety
  • Citizens overall
  • Cities and transportation

You might be wondering what I listed “citizens”. A couple of areas where citizens will be hurt:

  • Ford announced that lower income earners will pay no provincial taxes. This equates to an approximate savings of $900/year. This is money the government will not receive. Instead of moving forward with a minimum wage increase and forcing employers to pay, citizens will be forced to come up with the funds for this reduction of income for the government.
  • The loss of the extra $1/hr will actually put less in the pockets of lower income earners. Less money will result in less spending
  • While consumers may benefit at the gas pumps, which will likely result in more cars on the road, will lead to a damaging effect on not only the environment but also on infrastructure. Road use will increase causing more repairs and maintenance. Citizens will have to cover this cost.
  • Reduction in license sticker renewals: again, how will this revenue be made up
  • Instead of finding ways to prevent mental illness and addictions (possibly caused by forcing citizens to live below the poverty line) may result in increased hospital visits…..someone has to pay for this.

One area of real concern is the support Doug Ford has shown for people like Faith Goldy, someone many refer to as a white nationalist. Here is one of her most recent tweets:

“My God, I am unspeakably thankful for Canada’s Nationalist movement. Every event, I see old friends & meet new patriots who are ready to fight for the future of our home & native land — the True North, strong and FREE!”

So, does this lead one to come to the conclusion that Ford accepts and condones discriminatory behaviour? Sounds almost “Trump Like”. This can only lead to more racism and hatred in our society….extremely dangerous.

The real jolt to reality is that Ford Nation has just started their mandate…..they’ve only just begun! With many more years to sit in power, who knows what else is to come. Ontario has taken several steps backwards. In principle, sometimes one step backwards can lead to two steps forward. Ford and the provincial government has taken more than one step back.

Promises have been made that there will be an end to hallway medicine and more assistance to for those with disabilities to get back into the work force. Yet, “Ontario Open for Business” and “Ontario News Now” have received more attention and funding than the important issues. Ontario overall is more dangerous than ever before. Ford Nation needs to stop demeaning and laughing at MPPs who ask vital questions. The PCs need to stop with the ridiculous standing ovations and the patting on their backs. We’re heading down a very unnerving and dangerous path. Doug Ford had an opportunity to help Ontarians. Instead, he has put them in harms ways.

I don’t know about you, but I’m very concerned about what lies ahead…..