NOTED & FILED
Our community as reflected in outside media
Feb 8/24: University of Windsor researchers argue post-war Canadian suburban growth has been “because of policy as much as preference.” Former city councillor Rino Bortolin, now strategic adviser and project manager at UW’s Centre for Cities, and Centre director Anneke Smit, along with two others, wrote in a Jan. 22 Globe and Mail op-ed, that suburbs have been defended as the “Canadian way.” More than two-thirds of the country’s population indeed live in them. But the “flaw in this premise” is that suburbanization is “not necessarily a reflection of people’s preferences” but “largely a consequence of deliberate policy choices that have affected what has been built and where.” This has prevented “comprehensive urbanism (or different types of housing and neighbourhoods) from being viable.” Examples are “regressive and restrictive zoning bylaws and municipal taxation schemes that have favoured building on undeveloped land over building in established urban cores.” This has resulted in “building of suburban, car-centric neighbourhoods while limiting the range of urban living options.” Bottom line: “The long-time priority of building single-family homes to create low-density areas has shifted planning processes away from what should be their primary goal: creating livable cities for everyone.” The authors say the goal should be growth in ways “environmentally and fiscally prudent, and that prioritize equity and public health.” On top of “oversimplified municipal tax policies”, infrastructure investments followed as per the amount invested in highways and expressways versus public transit, making cities “less desirable.” But given that cities today are facing “multiple intersecting crises, including housing affordability, climate change, biodiversity, public and mental health and socioeconomic disparity, dense and walkable urban neighbourhoods have emerged as superior.”
Jan 23/24: The Globe and Mail reports that for the first time the licence to operate Windsor’s casino “is up for grabs.” Reporter Fred Lum says the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. “is in the final stage of reviewing offers for what’s historically been a license to print money.” Caesars has run the casino since its inception 30 years ago. But The Globe’s story say three proponents are currently in the running – Caesars, Bally’s and Mohegan, a Connecticut-based Indigenous corporation which also operates the two casinos in Niagara Falls. The licence renewal has sparked conversation in Windsor. “In Windsor, everyone you talk to has a view of who should run a property that dominates the city’s economy – and skyline – by providing more than 2,000 jobs and anchoring the tourism industry,” Lum says. Yet support for the incumbent Caesars “is universal.” Quoting Unifor Local 444 president Dave Cassidy, “Caesars should be the favoured candidate, based on the job they’ve done running the casino and providing quality jobs.” Cassidy said Caesars has more than a proven track record. It was the first casino in Ontario sparking the provincial casino industry and has forced competition from Detroit. “Windsor needs an international casino operator who can do what’s needed to win customers and stop them from playing across the river in Detroit,” Cassidy said. He said if a competitor was chosen it would cost “at least $80-million” to rebrand the property. Gord Orr, CEO of the area tourism bureau, also chimed in. “It’s critically important that whoever OLG chooses to run the casino have an established brand, with the gambling expertise and the loyalty programs that keep patrons coming back.” The Globe gives a history of gaming in Windsor and reports that in 2022, the city welcomed 4.4 million visitors, adding almost $700 million to the economy. “For the tourism sector, Caesars put us on the path to prosperity,” Orr said. “In the hospitality industry, the casino offers destination jobs.” Former Windsor Star columnist Chris Vander Doelen, who wrote a book on gambling in Canada, is also quoted. “Back in the day, Windsor had its identity as an automobile city tattooed on both arms. The casino successfully changed the city’s view of itself.”
Jan 9/24: The Globe and Mail’s architecture critic Alex Bozikovic checks in on a topic that has been a perennial puzzle to Windsor residents – how to revitalize downtown. He interviews resident and architect Dorian Moore, councillor Renaldo Agostino, UW prof Anneke Smit, former councillor and mayoral candidate Chris Holt and Mayor Drew Dilkens. While the problem is age-old some of the commentators’ suggestions shine new light on the issue, particularly the way the city is spending mega bucks on downtown fringe projects that don’t impact the essential core. These include the $32 million redesign of the Riverfront Festival Plaza, the $10 million Legacy Beacon Streetcar Project on the riverfront, and a contiguous Civic Esplanade running from city hall to the river, “In conceptual drawings, this row of parks extends in a straight line, past the back end of Caesars (loading docks) and two courthouses (mirrored glass and high security) before reaching the municipal building,” reports The Globe. “But, as Mr. Moore notes, City Hall’s front door is off to one side, ‘so you’re crashing right into a blank glass wall. The design is lacking. It just feels off.’ ” Smit says the city is too focused on major projects. “The city is trying to achieve big wins, which are always risky. We also need a lot of small wins, and those can be more effective.” Says The Globe’s Bozikovic, “many of the big moves now under way – as well as the city’s overall planning approach – will do little to benefit downtown.” This includes the recent rejection of four-unit apartment buildings across the city including downtown neighbourhoods. Also noted are suburban or outlying developments like the Gordie Howe bridge, NextStar Energy plant and new regional hospital. Some 5000 hospital jobs will move from the central city to the suburbs but Mayor Dilkens said those who “work in hospitals, because of the way their shifts are organized, they go to work and they go home.”
Dec 6/23: The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, a national civil liberties organization that has represented many Canadians who challenged government authorities over issues like vax mandates during Covid, also represents Windsor police constable Michael Brisco. In their most recent bulletin the organization highlights the case. Brisco was disciplined by a police adjudicator for donating $50 to the Freedom Convoy truckers’ protest in Ottawa in 2022. He was found guilty of discreditable conduct and ordered to lose 80 hours worth of pay. The Centre writes that Brisco “is a highly trained and respected police officer with no prior disciplinary record.” Brisco “did not identify himself as a police officer and did not contribute to the protest in his capacity as a police officer.” Indeed, his donation was only exposed after the GiveSendGo fundraising site was illegally hacked. After his conviction the Justice Centre filed a Notice of Appeal with Ontario Civilian Police Commission, which heard the case Nov. 21. Says the centre: “This case raises questions about the Charter’s protection for freedom of expression, the right of police officers to support political causes while off duty, and the privacy rights of all Canadians.”
Nov 9/23: A Toronto blog post has high praise for the just completed Windsor International Film festival (WIFF). All the more because it comes from the elite Toronto Film Critics Association, three of whom journeyed to Windsor for the 11 day extravaganza which ended Sunday. “There are no egos at WIFF — just a pure love for movies that brings a sparkle to the eyes of festivalgoers and festival staff alike,” the post says. “Simply put, WIFF has perhaps the best pound-for-pound programming in the entire country, rivalling far larger festivals like TIFF and VIFF with an impressive selection of festival favourites, francophone selections, and cherished classics that play over its 11-day schedule with little in the way of dreck…..It truly is a gem on the Canadian festival calendar, but it also shows events around the world how a relatively small community can truly shine with its celebration of cinema.” The critics liked most things from the proximity of theatres – no more than five-minute walks – and the very community atmosphere. “Having not been to Windsor since I was a kid, I was surprised by how small-town the relatively large city felt as neighbours waved to one another from across the street and coffee shop-goers greeted one another warmly on a chilly Saturday morning.” They even liked Detroit. “Get a Nexus card and schlepp over to Detroit. It’s a wonderful city worth exploring as well between films, and if you take time to explore some of the fine food on that side, or even as I did hit up record stores in Lincoln Park and Royal Oak, grab some amazing chocolate milk at Calder Dairy, and bring back an obscene amount of salty snacks from Trader Joe’s, it makes the schlepp all that more worthwhile.” And they liked very un-Toronto local businesses. “Hitting a few Essex County wineries on the way home was a new treat this year, while sharing a medium pizza at Antonino’s minutes after arrival in town seems a tradition bound to be repeated……I’m not a big popcorn fan but What’s Poppin’ popcorn is absolutely fantastic. The Windsor-made snack is for sale at the Armouries and Capitol Theatre, and at their factory that’s about a five-minute drive from the core festival area — worth stocking up. (I brought home two bags of Cheddar & Pickle and two bags of White Cheddar.) Also, for the physical media collectors, Dr. Disc Records on Ouellette Ave. has a great collection of new and used records and a healthy selection of Blu-Rays and DVDs (and some books!).”
Oct 17/23: Union members should not be forced to support political views they disagree with. Windsor lawyer Daniel Ableser made the argument in the Financial Post. Ableser raised the issue in light of CUPE Ontario this week denouncing Israel in the wake of last weekend’s Palestinian Hamas terrorist attacks. CUPE Local 3906, representing 3000 McMaster University staff, posted a political statement “Palestine is rising, long live the resistance.” This was “liked” by CUPE Ontario President Fred Hahn. CUPE has long been involved in political activities, especially against Israel, the union itself has acknowledged. “And that’s not fair,” Ableser wrote. “Union members should not be forced to fund political activism.” Union members do this through the “Rand Formula” which was a decision by Justice Ivan Rand to end a 1945 strike against Ford Motor Co. in Windsor. “Before Rand, unions could only collect dues from members on a voluntary basis and the employer did not assist in the collection. The UAW sought to make union membership mandatory and have Ford collect and remit dues to the union.” While the “concept that employees who receive benefits from collective bargaining cannot freeload is therefore well-founded,” the lawyer says, “forcing union members to fund political activity they do not support is wrong.” Ableser says union members’ dues should be used strictly for work-related issues not endorsing political stands they do not agree with. “It ought not be a precondition of working at McMaster University that you fund CUPE Local 3906’s radical endorsement of Hamas’ attack on Israel, nor the political activity of union leaders like Fred Hahn and (former CUPE president) Sid Ryan."
Sept 6/23: The seven-month gruelling strike by Windsor salt workers is now over. But the ramifications of the strike were large indeed, affecting retail business across Canada. An Alberta-based Postmedia story appearing in papers across the country found that common table salt, produced in the Windsor mine, often times simply wasn’t to be had. “You’d be forgiven if, like (bakery owner Trina) Sopyc, you’re having trouble finding the very product you take for granted,” the story said. Seven of a dozen Calgary grocers had no table salt at all. The story went on to discuss the “bitter” strike against the US holding company, Stone Canyon Industries, saying the union accused the company of “union-busting tactics and demanding concessions that would allow widespread contracting out of union jobs.” (The two Unifor locals didn’t respond to a Postmedia comment request, nor did Windsor Salt.) “Windsor Salt stated at the time that it never intended to eliminate union jobs through subcontracting, adding the hiring of outside contractors is limited to supplementing the current workforce when unionized members 'do not have the skills or availability to do certain kinds of work.' The article quoted Rafael Gomez, director of the Centre for Industrial Relations and Human Resources at the University of Toronto, saying the strike’s effects were “rippling through the Canadian economy.” Gomez said the dispute was long for a strike, with most strikes lasting less than two weeks, those that last longer the result of “very unique or special” circumstances. What was also unique here was the “importance of the product,” Postmedia said. “While striking workers remain the most affected, retailers and consumers in Alberta and other parts of the country are bearing the brunt of the dispute. Consumers have complained about their inability to find salt on social media posts, which receive a cascade of comments about alternatives and places to find them.”
August 18/23: Good luck finding highly specialized and technical jobs for Windsor’s NextStar Energy plant, one consultant says. The massive plant is already posting job advertisements, with 30 positions on its site, with 100 by year end “to form a 130-person ‘launch team,’ the Financial Post reports. “The 30 jobs currently on the website include: a mechanical utility engineer, who will be tasked with maintaining mechanical equipment, training technicians and managing contractors; a module QA engineer, who will monitor the production process and products for quality; and a communication specialist to create written, graphic and digital content, and develop new communications campaigns.” But, says Indeed Canada economist Brendon Bernard, filling engineering jobs “might be challenging.” Bernard says most engineers are “already comfortably employed, (their unemployment rate is just 1.9 per cent) so it’ll take a pretty sweet deal to get them to change jobs.” Wages will have to be “competitive,” with the average engineering pay in Ontario $52.88 per hour, 54 per cent above the provincial average of $34.43. “Clean technology better pay well,” he says.
July 21/23: Stellantis is being called a “grifter” for the my-way-or-the-highway ultimatum it gave Canadian governments regarding massive subsidies for the Windsor NextStar Energy EV battery plant. The mutinational halted construction on the eastside greenfield site in May after complaining Ottawa and Ontario weren’t matching subsidies for a VW battery plant in St. Thomas and the US Government’s green energy funding. National Post writer Carson Jerema said the company resorted to “bald extortion” - from $1 billion in grants it originally got to $15 billion. Sure enough, Ottawa and the province came through with a two-third one-third split. “Now that the deal, which includes mostly production and tax incentives, has been finalized, the Stellantis CEO isn’t even pretending that the delay was about anything other than soaking taxpayers. He told the (Toronto) Star that it ‘was difficult to get this agreement inked’ but that ultimately, ‘it was rewarding.’ No kidding.” Added Jerema: “For a plant that promises to employ some 2,500 workers, the more expensive deal means it will cost $6 million per job,” he said. “This, of course, assumes that the plant is ever completed, or that it will produce batteries at the expected rate.” And based on market forces, it “doesn’t mean Stellantis, or Volkswagen for that matter, won’t come back a few years from now, demanding more subsidies, or lower production and employment expectations.” Other factors could be lack of buyer demand or delays opening the factory or if the Biden Administration ups it comparative subsidies. Said Jerema, “Getting into the subsidy business is lucrative for manufacturers, not so much for taxpayers.”
July 7/23: Rebel News was in Windsor and delivered four reports. Reporter David Menzies attended a protest outside the Greater Essex County District School Board last month where parents were locked out from the board’s last meeting of the school year …... Then Menzies interviewed board trustee Linda Qin who has been "demonized, vilified and bullied” over the same issue of gender identity. Qin, like the protesting parents, wants parents to be the arbiters of their children’s gender identity not the school board, whose policy it is not to inform parents if a student questions their gender identity. Qin says there’s “something wrong” when she is “silenced” for speaking her mind at the board. She says she gets “a lot of concerns” from parents and now calls on them to “stand up and speak for themselves because I don’t have the ability because I’m sanctioned.” …… Menzies then takes a gander over to the Best Western Plus hotel on the waterfront, one of three local hotels filled with “hundreds of illegal aliens” having crossing the irregular Roxham Rd. border crossing (now closed) in Quebec. He interviews past mayoral candidate Chris Soda who says “we’re not solving Windsor’s problems by bringing people from other countries…who have never contributed to the city.” Menzies reports there have been “many complaints” by the illegals about their accommodations and food. He tries to interview Windsor city councillor Fabio Costante at a sidewalk café but “like Batman he just disappeared.” …… In another segment Menzies interviews a couple from Colombia who moved legally to Canada in 2015 and have opened Montañeros Coffee wagon. “From Colombia to Windsor, an immigrant couple takes on Tim Hortons as they pursue the Canadian dream,” the storyline reads. The wagon is reputed to have some of the best coffee in town with the co-owner saying that it’s “like the blue label in whisky.”
June 22/23: While not a Windsor issue, the decision by a city council across the river has attracted worldwide attention. Even the UK’s The Daily Telegraph was pressed to chime in. The matter? The City of Hamtramck’s decision to ban flying the Pride flag during the months of June. Columnist Michael Deacon pointed to a certain irony. In 2015, Hamtramck became the first US city to elect a Muslim-majority council. And were applauded for it. “Naturally, liberals celebrated this milestone for multiculturalism, while leading media outlets hailed it as a triumphant success,” he said. “‘Residents in Hamtramck from different religious and cultural backgrounds coexist in harmony,’ beamed the BBC.” Deacon, tongue in cheek, said that accolades may now have to be “reconsidered.” Said the columnist, “These poor liberals. They spend their lives righteously defending minorities from conservatives – not realizing that minorities can be conservative themselves.” This poses a conundrum. “Their whole purpose in life is to defend marginalized minorities. But what should they do when one marginalized minority marginalizes another marginalized minority? Whose side should they take? Presumably it should be the side of the minority being marginalized. Which in this case is people who are LGBT. But if liberals fight the ban on the Pride flag, the Muslim council could accuse them of marginalizing Muslims, by refusing to respect their democratic decisions. Liberals, they could add, are guilty of cultural imperialism, by forcing Muslims to conform to certain values. They could even accuse them of Islamophobia. A thought to strike terror into every progressive heart.”
May 29/23: Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens figures widely in a lengthy Financial Post analysis of funding for the NextStar EV battery plant, construction of which was halted this month as the proponent, Stellantis and LG Energy Solution, seeks additional incentives. This after considerably more funding was provided to Volkswagen to build a similar if large plant in St. Thomas, with funds matching those under the United States Inflation Reduction Act, passed after the Windsor plant was announced in March of last year and designed to establish America as an EV production powerhouse. “I’m non-partisan, but I think it would be decades before anyone would elect a Liberal in Windsor Essex if this thing fell on its face,” Dilkens said. “I don’t know that I could control the raw emotion of the unions and the general public if the government didn’t follow through with what they’ve told the company they would do.” Meaning, the Post says, this could have heavy political fallout in “political battlegrounds like southern Ontario, a unique part of the country that is open to voting for all three major political parties.” The newspaper says for its part the City of Windsor took on $50 million in debt including purchasing a 220-acre site on the city’s far east side to help lure the plant. “Everything was hunky dory and fine until the Inflation Reduction Act got passed in the U. S. just a few months later,” Dilkens said. He said NextStar had negotiated subsidies to offset the cost of construction but now wants subsidies for the actual battery production. Dilkens says he’s confident the funding dispute will be resolved. But he says the city has been through this kind of thing before with companies pulling up stakes and moving stateside under the original NAFTA in the 1990s. “We’re used to the ups and downs of the auto world,” Dilkens said. “We take our punches, and we get back up.”
May 15/23: Does Windsor have more busybodies than elsewhere? And female busybodies at that? According to a national survey, Canada’s motor city seems to be a hot bed for so-called “Karens” – women of a certain disposition who go out of their way to tell others off. The official definition is a middle aged female, usually blonde, and berating a hapless service worker like wait staff or taxi drivers. The term came to fruition in May 2020 with the infamous Central Park Karen, who called police on an innocent birdwatcher, thinking he was threatening her, in New York’s Central Park. (She happened to be Canadian, but not from Windsor.) “The city of about 235,000 people has been named the Karen capital of Canada according to a report from onlinecasino.ca.,” says National Post. “To reach its conclusions, more than 1,800 people across Canada and the U.S. were surveyed. The findings revealed that Windsor had a staggering rate of 64.83 Karen reports posted on social media in the city per 100,000 households.” Windsor, a working class city otherwise known for its lack of pretension and friendliness, was followed by more middle class and chichi Victoria with a markedly lower amount: 15.86 out of 100,000. Embarrassing for Windsor, no other city scored above 14. “The most common Karen behaviours observed were excessive complaining (82 per cent), mistreating service workers (77 per cent), unreasonable demands (75 per cent) and demanding to speak to a manager (73 per cent).” But a sigh of relief for Karens everywhere, it’s not just women who act this way. “The survey also found that Karen-like behaviours are not limited to women, with 78 per cent of respondents reporting they had encountered men acting like Karens.”
April 30/23: LaSalle resident Brian McNamara says the same thing that happened to once powerhouse AM radio station CKLW is being repeated with the federal government’s Bill C 11. Citing the 1995 documentary Radio Revolution: The Rise and Fall of the Big 8 by Michael McNamara, the writer, in a letter to The Epoch Times, talks about how Canadian content policies in 1971 doomed the highly popular station. CKLW, of course, was famous not just for playing great pop but making the careers of iconic artists of the day, such as Alice Cooper, Bob Seeger and Elton John. “The music that flowed through that station was universal, meaning if it was good they played it.” But elected officials created a “travesty” when the government’s broadcast regulator the CRTC mandated 30 per cent Canadian content. The station “took a nosedive.” McNamara says that with Bill C 11 the government is doing the exact same thing by pushing Canadian content on digital streaming. “All the programs you watch or listen to on your phone, all the podcasts of crime stories and fiction, or even presenters with opinions that CRTC deems dangerous,” he says, will be subject to control. So, platforms like YouTube, Instagram and Tik Tok will be hit. “To allow the government to police our imagination and enforce a ‘made in Canada’ mandate is the wrong way to go.”
April 17/23: A University of Windsor professor, a former Montreal resident, castigates the government of Quebec for wanting to eliminate Muslim prayer spaces in that province’s schools. Naved Bakali, a professor of Anti-Racism Education, in a Toronto Star op-ed, says the move is typical of the Quebec government’s “Islamophobic posturing” to “score political points with an increasingly Islamophobic Quebecois voter base.” Bakali says as a public school teacher for nine years in that province, he helped create one such space. “This small classroom space was utilized by Muslim students to observe ritual prayers,” he writes. “Beyond this, it was a safe space to preserve their Muslim beliefs and identities in a society that was increasingly closing its doors on them.” This room provided a sanctuary for students “constantly taunted and harassed” for their Muslim identity. Bakali says the government's action comes when anti-Muslim sentiment continues to be a “troubling reality” in Canada. Canada, he says, had the highest number of deaths of Muslims compared to all other G-7 countries over the past five years due to targeted hate-attacks. While 39 per cent of Canadians have negative views of Muslims and Islam, more than 50 per cent of the Quebec population does. “Islamophobia is an ugly reality in Canada, particularly in Quebec,” Bakali writes.
April 3/23: Two Windsorites made a major Toronto Star news story on ways to combat telephone and cyber fraud, which loses Canadians millions of dollars a year. Windsor West NDP MP Brian Masse has been on a crusade against electronic fraudsters, speaking before a parliamentary committee twice in the past two years. “Can you come up with a plan so that we, as legislators, can look at that and then see what potential results we can get?” the Star describe the “long-serving” MP, asking Ian Scott, then chair of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission. “What I’m looking for is easy steps we can take right away to deal with this.” Fraud cost Canadians $532 million last year, up 36 per cent from the year before. Of 90,000 reports 21,000 fraudulent calls came over the phone, often targeting seniors and immigrants. “Fraud is still thought of as kind of a soft crime, and it’s not,” Masse told the Star, adding that as an MP he has received many complaints. “I’ve seen first-hand how badly fraud has affected people, not only financially but psychologically and socially.” Meanwhile Windsorite Kevin Cosgrove, a digital safety educator, says call filtering technology, slowly being adapted, works to a point but scammers can quickly adapt. “There’s no technology that’s going to slap the phone out of your hand,” said Cosgrove, who is based in Windsor and has worked with Masse on fraud prevention. Still, Masse would like quicker technology adaption and better communication between government and law enforcement.
March 20/23: Celebrated graphic novelist and Essex County’s own Jeff Lemire’s venerable book Essex County is now on CBC TV, the Toronto Star reports. The first episode debuted last night in the five part series, which took six years to bring to the small screen. In an interview Lemire describe the experience as “amazing” and “exhausting.” Lemire’s other series Sweet Tooth has its second season debut on Netflix April 27. But Essex County is closest to his heart. “More than any other story I’ve done, maybe, this one was such a big part of my life,” he told the Star. “You know, it was the story where I really found my voice as a writer, so it felt really important to protect it and to do it the right way.” Lemire’s been involved in every aspect of production from location scouting to casting, shooting and post-production. The Star calls Essex County “the rural area of Ontario that Lemire grew up in” but the novel itself is fiction. The character who most resembles Lemire is Lester, a boy who prefers to spend time alone drawing cartoons or donning his Superman cape. The series has a touch of “magic realism” both in the scenes of Lester flying and Lou, a senior citizen and former hockey great, walking from his living room into the past. But the series is filmed in and around North Bay!
Feb. 9/23: Referencing this week’s health care meeting between premiers and the prime minister University of Windsor political scientist Lydia Miljan says “dysfunction looms large” over federal-provincial relations. Tearing a strip off the federal government in particular Miljan, in a National Post column, knocked it for snubbing Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe on a recent battery supply chain tour and threatening Ontario Doug Ford’s government with “species-at-risk” legislation to stop building on the GTA Greenbelt. Then its own failures in not providing passports quicky after the pandemic and massive post-Covid airport travel delays, not to mention overspending on Covid hotels including the most notorious in Calgary spending almost $20,000 per guest. Ottawa also fails to spend money it has already allocated, from $14 billion in 2019-20 to $38.2 billion this past fiscal year in areas like veterans’ support and affordable housing. And this week’s health summit demonstrated a further intrusion on provincial jurisdiction, Miljan says, by basically providing more of the same. More conditions, complete with penalties, than already exist are tied to the $46.2 billion funding. “Consequently, the current arrangement discourages innovation and differs from most other universal systems, which consistently outperform our system in global rankings.” And this after the feds say on their own website that the provinces should focus on accountability to their citizens - “governments are accountable directly to their residents for their spending in their areas of responsibility.”
Jan. 26/23: Word of the extreme changes the Greater Essex County District School Board wants to make to numerous school names and mascots has leaked beyond the relatively isolated confines of southwestern Ontario. The Toronto Sun weighed in with an editorial fully denouncing the move. “The shocking haste with which small-minded politicians are rushing to erase some of Canada’s most important institutions demonstrates an ignorance of this country’s history,” the Sun says about trends generally to eliminate historical names in the quest of a new equality. Naming the specific local schools and mascosts the newspaper is also astonished at the cost. “$50,000 for each public school and $100,000 for secondary schools. Ahem. Do these trustees realize their city is named for a U.K. castle?” While the board cites the offences of imperialism and colonialism under the British Crown the Sun points to the Crown’s spearheading the anti-slavery movement. “That’s not true. Queen Victoria and her husband, Prince Albert, were early leaders in the abolitionist movement. Queen Elizabeth II used her soft power to bring about sanctions against the racist South African apartheid regime.” As for mascots, “If they’re triggered by Vikings, better ban most of Wagner’s operas. Brunhild and the Ride of the Valkyries will send them right over the top.” The paper calls the report “embarrassing in its ignorance. School boards have a mandate to ensure our children have safe schools and a good education. It is not their job to redefine Canada’s history with the Crown.”
Dec. 14/22: With the recent ratification of a new collective agreement between education workers and the Ontario government a Toronto Sun columnist thinks its past time for the province to come up with a new way of bargaining with public servants, one that avoids lockdowns or the kind of rotating strikes that took place this fall by the education workers’ union, CUPE. And he points to an almost 20-year old report written by esteemed Windsor lawyer, now deceased, Leon Paroian. In the late 1990s Paroian was commissioned by the province to recommend ways to avoid the kind of public disruption that can come when government has a monopoly over services and therefore the public can essentially be held hostage by a breakdown in negotiations. In the most recent case it was children. “One feature of education bargaining remains – no one wins these disputes,” Snobolen, a former Tory government minister wrote. “Provincial governments across Canada should be thinking about how to break the cycle of classroom bargaining.” He said they should do two things. “First, dust off the report on collective bargaining Leon Paroian wrote in 1996 and enact all 14 recommendations. Defining the teacher day, specifying non-negotiable management rights and replacing the right to strike with an arbitration process are good ideas.” (Snobolen was minister of education when the report was written.) Second, governments “should get out of the property management business. The private sector can clean, mop and mow better. And janitors won’t have to worry about striking.”
Nov. 30/22: University of Windsor law professor Richard Moon says the rise of social media may necessitate new laws or regulations to control content deemed to be social harms. He was speaking at the Public Policy phase of the Public Order Emergency Commission in Ottawa Monday. The commission was legally struck to investigate the justification of the federal government’s invocation of the Emergencies Act, which lasted one week and suspended civil liberties, in the wake of massive trucker protests last winter in Ottawa and elsewhere in Canada including Windsor. Moon was speaking at a roundtable on the topic of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms at Stake in Public Protests, and their Limits. Moon said traditional laws may be “too slow, they’re too cumbersome” to address issues like online hate speech. Moon said social media has generated content “that was not previously considered harmful at least to a degree that might justify its general restriction (and) we now may be viewing (it) differently.” By comparison, false advertising or defamation has always been restricted. “But (scial media) has become such a large problem I think we are having to think increasingly about whether or not there needs to be larger restrictions or interventions on this form of speech." This includes speech that is insulting or harassing. “It takes on a different character online when so many people can pile on or it can be persistent or the insults or harassments can be widespread and endure in many ways.” And, in possible reference to legislation the federal government is considering to restrict what it considers online hate speech, Moon said, “that’s why there is much more thought being given to how social media can itself be engaged in taking this material down and that brings a range of different challenges.”
Nov. 15/22: Detroiters may finally be discovering Windsor pizza. MLive, a Michigan online new site, interviewed George Kalivas, the Windsor-born but Toronto-based director of the documentary The Pizza City You’ve Never Heard Of. Despite the fact Windsor is five minutes away from the Motor City the overwhelming number of Michiganders “don’t even know about the pizza scene” in the City of Roses, Kalivas says. “Even my friends and family in the Michigan area don’t know about this and that’s because Windsor is just not good at self-promotion. It takes someone else to use a megaphone and say something.” Kalivas made the movie because he was “tired of seeing other pizza cities get the love his city should be experiencing,” says MLive. The film can be streamed on Tastemade available through Hulu, Apple TV, Peacock, Prime Video, Roku and more. Kalivas suggests Windsor is as much synonymous with pizza as it is with automobiles or hot humid weather. “It’s like a sickness when it comes to the pizza culture in Windsor,” Kalivas added. “Some of these places have 20 locations all in Windsor. Some have 18, 16, 12, 10.” The article goes on to describe what makes Windsor pizza highly different from the Detroit style or even Chicago, New York or New Haven. A thin crust in between that of New York and Sicilian styles, corn meal and flour, hand-rolled and hand-baked. The sauce is sweet and savory. Galati cheese, the highest fat on the market. “It’s not healthy, but everyone uses that. It’s so popular that pizzerias put that logo on the box to prove they’re using it because Windsorites won’t eat the pizza if they don’t use that cheese.” And there’s the pepperoni. “We shred our pepperoni,” Kalivas says. “No one serves circle, grease cups in Windsor.” Finally, mushrooms. Who wants dried out fresh mushrooms from the oven when canned mushrooms hold firm and moist?
Oct 13/22: MLive, a Michigan news website, recently visited Boblo Island to tell its American readers, some of whom might only remember the island as an amusement park, what the Canadian community opposite Amherstburg is like now. Reporter Edward Pevos called the tour of the island both "eerie and fascinating" with amusement park remnants "scattered across the island." (The park operated from 1889 to 1993 and was a summertime destination for generations of Canadians and Americans.) Now, the article says, the 272-acre island is owned by Amico Infrastructures Inc. which markets it as the Bois Blanc residential neighbourhood. "Amico says preserving nature is a priority as expansion begins with a newly built road now complete." Quoting Amico spokeswoman Cindy Prince, the article discusses about how the developer has constructed homes by also respecting the island's natural environment. "We’ve been studying the endangered species on the island for about 12 years now,” Prince says. Amico is planning to restore some of the original amusement park buildings including the 50,000 sq. ft. dance hall, commissioned by Henry Ford and at one time the largest dance floor in North America. It also will restore the theatre, two stone restrooms, an 1839 Blockhouse and a slightly older lighthouse. In the nearer term Amico also plans to renovate and expand the marina and build a new restaurant for both locals and visitors.
Sept 29/22: University of Windsor law professor Julie Macfarlane says the proliferation of so-called Non-Disclosure Agreements should be drastically reined back. The latest high-profile example is the sexual harassment horror within Hockey Canada, which profoundly illustrates “the most viscerally shocking of these gag agreements are those made with the victims of sexual assault and harassment.” Macfarlane, co-founder of Can’t Buy My Silence, and writing in the Toronto Star, said NDAs are so common that one-in-three workers have had to sign one. “I receive stories and legal documents every day from people who have felt coerced into signing,” she says. They go beyond gross malfeasance but “NDAs have become standard for complaints about other forms of harassment, bullying and discrimination of all kinds.” There is some effort to limit the use of NDAs. But the problem is huge. “We are seeing NDAs used regularly in consumer disputes over product or construction defects; to drop a medical malpractice lawsuit; to settle complaints over negligent investment advice; in response to an employee’s whistle-blowing about neglect in a care home; and even to bind municipal councillors to secrecy over the arrival in town of an unpopular company.” NDAs first came about in the 1980s as a way to protect commercially sensitive information by the tech industry. They morphed into becoming the norm for settling employee disputes. “Instead of protecting intellectual property, NDAs were used to cover up as ‘confidential’ every type of complaint that might bring reputational damage to a company,” Macfarlane writes. “Lawyers estimate that today 95 per cent of all civil settlement agreements include an indefinite gag clause.” And when an organization like Hockey Canada “demands silence in return for making a financial settlement, they are not acting to right a wrong but to cover up their own malfeasance.”
Sept 16/22: Windsor was featured in one of the Bibles of the transportation industry, Trains magazine, for being the starting point of the Monarch Express, a three country initiative to raise awareness about the plight of the Monarch butterfly. “The event was held at CP’s Windsor Yard, which connects to the 1.6-mile CP-owned rail tunnel under the Detroit River to Detroit,” Trains.com said. Two railways – Kansas City Southern and Canadian Pacific, launched the boxcar, which has a painting of a beautiful Monarch on the side with a campaign slogan to save the species, officially determined to be two steps away from extinction. The boxcar will travel south through the United States, making several stops much like the Christmas Holiday Train, eventually to the El Rosario Butterfly Sanctuary in Mexico. “The project was a natural for KCS and CP since their combined routes roughly parallel the 3,000-mile trek of the Monarch, considered one of the world’s great pollinators,” Trains.com said. “Just outside Windsor at Point Pelee, Canada’s most southern mainland point, hundreds of thousands of Monarchs have gathered each fall for their flight to Mexico, where the butterflies use air currents, the Earth’s magnetic pull, and the sun’s position on a journey that sees their culmination in Mexico around that country’s Day of the Dead feast in early November.” The campaign was a project of groups including the railways, whose routes to Mexico roughly parallel the great 3,000-mile Monarch migration. Rotary International, whose president is Windsorite Jennifer Jones, is also a major sponsor.
Aug 31/22: On the death of Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet Union's last leader, who died Tuesday at 91, it might be useful to take a look back at how the little town of Amherstburg played a pivotal role in ending the Cold War including the fall of the Berlin Wall. Back in May 1983 Gorbachev was the Soviet Union’s secretary of agriculture. On a visit to Canada he and the country’s ambassador Aleksandr “Sashka” Yakovlev, made a visit to Canada’s then agriculture minister Eugene Whelan at his Amherstburg home on Front Road North. As reported in a 2008 book by Christopher Shulgan, the two arrived before Whelan could get back from Ottawa. Whelan’s wife Liz made small talk with the visitors. And then the two decided to take a stroll through the Whelan’s extensive backyard besides Essex County’s fields of soybeans and corn. In an “intense and personal conversation” that lasted three hours, according to National Post, “the seeds of perestroika (restructuring) and glasnost (openness), Mr. Gorbachev’s monumental, if only partly successful, policies that ultimately triggered the dissolution of the Soviet Union were planted. Or, at any rate, Mr. Yakovlev confirmed what Mr. Gorbachev, who would become the general secretary of the Communist Party within less than two years, already had been thinking and hearing from other advisors.” Yakovlev was something of an intellectual and critic of the Soviet regime and wrote an article “critical of the idealistic portrayal of Russian peasants and a ‘backward-glancing nationalism.’” That was it for him. He was “exiled to Ottawa where he was to remain for the next ten years.” And he became a great friend of Essex County’s own legendary “Gene” Whelan, famous for his ah-shucks demeanor and the man who wore a green Stetson, and who died in 2013.
Aug 17/22: It’s not about Windsor but about our endearing neighbour across the river. And the lead sentence in Time magazine’s portrayal of Detroit in its recent World’s Greater Places list might have been rewritten for its possibly unintentional guffaw-inducing response, making the reader feel that “the D” isn’t safe to get out of your car in. Here it is: “Nearly 10 years after Detroit filed for bankruptcy, travelers can now play a role in the city’s vibrant economic recovery by simply driving through. Detroit was recently selected as home of the USA’s first electric-vehicle charging road, solidifying its title once again as the Motor City—but for the modern age. The revitalized city has plans for lots of new offerings, especially for food and drink. Some of the best: Midnight Temple, an Indian gastropub near Eastern Market; Rosemary, chef Maxcel Hardy’s rosemary-filled café and accompanying cigar lounge called Byrd; What’s Crackin’, a seafood-boil restaurant serving up Great Lakes–caught fish; and Basan, a Japanese robata restaurant. Over 500 new hotel rooms are currently in development for lodging. Cambria Hotel, a 158-room downtown hotel featuring Bluetooth mirrors, golf simulators, and the Detroit Taco Company Bodega, will open in late 2022. ROOST Apartment Hotel is preparing to open early next year in Book Tower—just one of Detroit’s iconic buildings currently being restored to its former glory. Visitors shouldn’t miss the summer opening of Phase 2 of the historic $55 million Motown Museum expansion, featuring an outdoor plaza and performance space.” Detroit News columnist Charlie LeDuff had a little – morbid – fun with the write-up. “Yes, please drive through and see our drug houses. Of particular interest is the one where five were shot and one murdered two weekends ago. Inexplicably, that drug house is still inhabited. Walk-up service may be available, but highly unrecommended.”
Aug 3/22: Windsor and Essex County are well represented in a new novel, Lucy and Bonbon, by Canadian author Don LePan, who is not a local native but has travelled through the area many times. So often, in fact, he knows the proper pronunciation of the village of Comber. “Comber rhymes-with-sombre not bomber” his main character Lucinda (Lucy) Gerson says at the story’s outset. The book, which is partly about “boundaries,” including international ones, features numerous local references which longstanding residents will instantly identify with. Like a lot of local dual citizens, Lucinda says, “I might have been born in Detroit but I felt Canadian a lot more than American.” Seeking privacy to inquire about an abortion Lucy travels to the Planned Parenthood Center in Detroit’s Cass Corridor. “That’s center with an ‘er’, not an ‘re’, Canadians make a big deal about that sometimes.” Meanwhile, “there’d be an old building and then an empty space and then another old building that might have gotten some fresh paint, and then another empty space. Maybe it was a little fancier than Sandwich Street in Windsor, but that’s not saying a whole hell of a lot.” And, “everybody always thinks Windsor is north of Detroit. I won’t say they don’t know their ass from a hole in the ground. But they don’t know nothing ‘bout those bends in the river, that’s for sure.” Lucinda has to pay for the medical service – “no ‘socialized medicine’ like they keep calling what we got in Canada.” Of her older sister Susie, “she was always going over to Detroit to see some show or other, or join in some protest, or hang out with some guy she’d met in some bar on the Canadian side.”
July 11/22: The fact the Canada Council, Canada’s elite federally-sponsored arts granting agency, is not recognizing non-fiction books, in favor of fiction, in its grant awards is disturbing to an increasing number of publishers, as illustrated by Windsor’s Dan Wells of Biblioasis, an internationally-recognized book publishing company and bookstore on Wyandotte St. E. Writing in Toronto-based Sutherland House’s SHuSH Edition 116 newsletter, Wells said “it’s never been more important to tell our stories to ourselves, and to hold people in positions of authority accountable. (But) we have never been in a worse position to do so.” On the one hand, he writes, the book market is dominated by foreign multinationals who consider Canada too small a market to invest in non-fiction. “I can tell you that of the 5,000 Penguin Random House titles that I sort through for Canada in a six-month period, maybe there’s one work of Canadian history or researched non-fiction.” Wells says if he wanted he could fill “eight to 10 shelves” every publishing season (six months) with “major American” or other country history and political books. “But in the course of a year, I have a hard time keeping my Canadian history shelf fresh.” Wells adds he could find only “three or four presses in all of Canada that were doing substantial non-fiction.” Sutherland House publisher Kenneth Whyte says Canada Council funding is imperative. “Researched non-fiction is expensive and time-consuming to produce at the best of times; when it’s relatively disadvantaged by arts funders, it begins to disappear. It’s no accident that the shortlists of all the major non-fiction prizes in Canada have been dominated by memoir in recent years.”
June 27/22: University of Windsor poli sci prof Lydia Miljan rejected the call for electoral reform in Ontario. Her debate in the Toronto Star was in wake of renewed calls for reform because of the low voter turnout in this month’s provincial election. “Proponents of electoral reform view it as democratic frustration — that the lack of choice results in people staying home.” But she says variation in turnout since the 1970s is “not self-evident” the system needs an overhaul. Miljan says various factors can influence turnout – voters’ age, enthusiasm for change and the political culture. Critics blame our “first past the post” system where the candidate who has the most votes wins. But alternative systems have their fallacies, she says. Ranked ballots have voters choose several candidates, “often resulting in one’s second or third choice being victorious.” In proportional representation, another system, “the proportion of total votes are translated into seats, which gives areas with high population densities more say in the outcome of elections, further marginalizing rural and remote voters.” Incidentally, the opposition parties did better in these ridings while the Tories “were competitive throughout the province.” Indeed, many candidates did win with majorities – 34, 26 of them PC. Proportional rep also bolster parties’ pure ideologies without having to compromise viewpoints within the party. This results in “more extreme parties” and consequently more minority parliaments “which result in backroom deals after the election.” Miljan says the PCs won the last two Ontario elections because they simply motivated more people to vote for them, though all parties lost absolute numbers. The same, she suggests, could be true for the Liberals and NDP.
June 6/22: University of Windsor political scientist Geoff Callaghan says the for all the “bluster” directed at the federal Liberals for reducing civil liberties over the past couple of years “far more significant” has been what the Doug Ford Tories in Ontario have done. In an op-ed in the Toronto Star Callaghan says he’s not referring to limits on social gatherings, lockdowns or other pandemic restrictions. The government was “rightly given latitude for the simple reason that, in accordance with section 1 of the Charter, a reasonable explanation for why it had chosen to do so was readily available.” But in one particular area the province failed. “At critical moments throughout the pandemic, the Ford government’s lack of transparency around decision-making impaired the capacity for Ontarians to understand the basic reasoning behind the rights-violating measures imposed on them, let alone provide them with a backdrop against which those measures could be questioned and/or critiqued.” This was a “gross violation” of Charter rights. Callaghan says none of this “should come as a surprise” to Ontarians. “From the way this government conducts itself, one would get the impression that it believes it has some kind of democratic license to defy the rights of citizens whenever it is politically expedient to do so.” Remember its invocation of the notwithstanding clause last year, the first time used in Ontario's history? This was to restrict third-party political advertising despite a judge’s ruling the measures violate freedom of expression. But, says Callaghan, there’s a chance Ontarians can make their voices heard against this authoritarianism. Writing last month, he says: “I hear there’s an election coming up where you can put your opinion on the record.”
May 4/22: If betting on the future of electrical vehicles is such a good investment why is it government and not the private sector plowing hundreds of millions of dollars into Stellantis’ new EV operations in Windsor and Brampton? That’s the question Financial Post columnist Terence Corcoran asks. He references new investments by the ”Oracle of Omaha” Warren Buffett in traditional fossil fuel energy companies like Occidental Petroleum and Chevron, as well as banks worldwide in March alone investing $750 billion into the oil and gas industries. Why, the columnist asks, has there been “no mention of Buffett or anyone else rushing to gobble up shares of General Motors, Ford or Stellantis, whose market values are down by around 40 per cent since the beginning of 2022?” No, he says, these companies’ major investors “are the governments that are picking up risk that investors would not otherwise fund.” Corcoran continues: “In Windsor this week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ontario Premier Doug Ford grabbed headlines when they showed up for a Stellantis announcement that it was investing $3.6-billion to convert a Chrysler plant to EV production. It’s all part of a $16-billion electric vehicle investment effort, much of it backed by billions in federal and provincial subsidies.” At one time, not so long ago before the pandemic, supply chain crisis and Russian invasion of Ukraine shocked markets and pushed into relief the threat to energy security, the fossil fuel industry was considered on the verge of being “stranded assets” – no one to invest in them and therefore no way to get them out of the ground. But world economics are always in a state of flux and even crises. Corcoran asks wryly if it’s now the reverse – no one wants to invest in green renewable energy because it's not proven. ”Will all this investment, which the private sector obviously considers too risky to take on, end up on the stranded asset pile as time and global economic and political shocks continue as usual to rock industry?”
Mighty frontier: A Detriot media report says a new riverfront high rsie offers "expansive views of downtown Detroit and Canada." Would that be Windsor? - 7/2/24
Put on hold: The Toronto District School Board says it will be a “long process” and take “many months” to come up with a policy over use of cell phones by students in class rooms. – 24/1/24
'Double-double' standard: What you call police bringing a carafe of TH coffee to disruptive Anti-Israel protesters while arresting a peaceful journalist for asking a question. – 10/1/24
Seeing the light: Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens had no problem lighting the Jewish community menorah for the Hanukkah Festival of Lights. So what’s wrong with Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek, who refused to attend similar in cow town? – 12/12/23
Silly season: It's that time of the year again when civic authorities try their best to avoid the holiday staring in their face by doing things like naming Christmas trees Holiday trees. - 29/11/23
Special delivery: Officials at a BC prison are exhausted from trying to control “non-stop” drone deliveries to inmates. – 12/11/23
Threadbare: Mark Zuckerberg’s social media site Threads, meant to challenge Elon Musk’s X (former Twitter), gobbles so much sensitive information it’s been deemed a “hacker’s dream.” – 18/10/23
Something in the water? Michigan State University has been rocked by sex harassment allegations against football coach Mel Tucker, this following a mass shooting in February and notorious conviction of sports doc Larry Nasser, who sexually assaulted 150 people. – 3/10/23
Intl conspiracy: For two years the Windsor team has lost to Detroit in the Tug Across the River. Windsor’s rope was in the river longer and therefore heavier, and pulled against current. Last year the anchor fell off the Detroit’s rope mid-pull. – 20/9/23
Windsor's deep state: Windsor city councillors discovered city staff took it upon themselves not to create a committee on alley standards despite being directed do so by elected officials, instead addressing the issue as part of total “asset management.” – 6/9/23
Yummy: Among a list of more than 400 examples of the “dumbest way” to spend taxpayers’ money, the Windsor Detroit Bridge Authority spent $990 on branded candy, according to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. – 23/8/23
Irony: 'Star toasts new era' was the headline on an old issue of The Windsor Star in a photo about the Star moving its archives out of that very building the headline trumpeted but now is sold off. - 6/8/23
Baby you can drive my (test) car: Rick Garel got a $6800 repair bill from Tesla – later dropped - for damages after his dealership test drive car was involved in a minor accident. – 21/7/23
Fourth of July fireworks: In Chicago last weekend 73 people were shot, 11 fatally, this a 'slightly higher' toll than last year's only three-day holiday weekend. - 7/7/23
Learning young: Following in the proverbial steps of proliferate governments everywhere a group of elementary students, during a mock Windsor City Council meet, voted on the most expensive design for a new Peace Fountain. – 22/6/23
Back to (grammar) school: Prince Harry misinterpreted a “hurtful” headline, “Hooray Harry Dumped.” During court testimony he was told the headline wasn’t mocking but rather a personal descriptor, since there would have been a comma after Hooray if it was. – 8/6/23
Backfired: US veterans advocate Sharon Toney-Finch lost a merit citation after ironically using migrants to pose as soldiers displaced from hotels because of illegal immigration. - 25/5/23
Big mac attacks: Detroit police have been called to a McDonald’s restaurant at Southfield and Joy Rd. more than 200 times in two years, a site referred to as “murder Mac” in a Detroit rap song. – 11/5/23
R-E-S-P-E-C-T: McDonalds’s restaurants following Meta, owner of Facebook, had thousands of staff work from home “out of respect” and to “provide dignity, confidentiality, and comfort,” before telling them they would be laid off. – 27/4/23
Mask attacks: People still wearing medical masks have been asked to lower them, at least when entering corner stores, in Manhattan. Criminals have conveniently been wearing Covid-era masks to hide their identities. – 13/4/12
Raunchy Regina: Saskatchewan’s capital city misstepped with a new branding campaign with slogans “Show us your Regina” and “The city that rhymes with fun.” – 27/3/23
Bark worse than bite: The City of Toronto has taken down a no “excessive barking” sign at city-owned St. Andrew’s dog park because it did not meet “city standards.” – 9/3/23
A little over the top: Amherstburg mayor Michael Prue on not having a vote on the police services board: "Revolutions have been fought for this. The Americans said, `No taxation without representation.'" - 9/2/23
Cyclists in winter (with apologies to posties): "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” – 26/1/23
She was toast: A Quebec nurse originally suspended for eating a slice of toast with peanut butter during her shift has been reinstated. Her employer called the offence “a serious breach” but now thanks nurses for “their devotion.” – 12/14/22