Sharing with you things that are on my mind...Maybe yours too. Come back to Wrights Lane for a visit anytime!

28 October, 2015


News from my Grey-Bruce neck of the woods does not always make it into the Heartland of Ontario.  Here is an item that should be of clean-energy interest to the entire province.  It could come soon to a town or city near you.

Partnering with Plug’n Drive, the University of Waterloo, local communities and the Asthma Society of Canada, Bruce Power has announced a series of collaborative initiatives to promote clean, electrified transportation in Ontario. These initiatives build on the foundation of Ontario’s low-emissions electricity system, which support achieving long-term climate change targets in the province.
Bruce Power's electrical car.

"While we continue to focus on playing an important role providing Ontario with emissions-free power, we also believe we need to do our part to support innovation and build on a modern, clean electricity system to help reduce emissions," said Duncan Hawthorne, Bruce Power’s President and Chief Executive Officer.  "We believe supporting these initiatives, in collaboration with a number of key partners, will produce positive and tangible results." 

The phase out of coal-fired electricity in Ontario has significantly reduced emissions from the electricity sector, making it the single largest climate change initiative in North America, and Bruce Power’s increased output provided 70 per cent of the replacement energy needed to support this.  While the progress to date is significant, there is an opportunity to do even more by linking the province’s clean energy sector to help reduce emissions from transportation, which is the largest greenhouse gas contributor in Ontario.

"Ontario is committed to being a leader in the fight against climate change and one of the areas essential to achieving this is by supporting clean, electrified transportation in Ontario from an emissions-free electricity system," said Hon. Glen Murray, Ontario’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change. "These initiatives by Bruce Power, Plug’n Drive and others are the kind of partnerships that are essential to make this vision a reality."
Cara Clairman, President and CEO of Plug’n Drive, hosted the first ever Electric Vehicle Day at Queen’s Park today, October 26.  "Plug'n Drive is proud to be the champion for the electrification of transportation bridging, together industry, government, academia and consumer interests," Clairman said. "Today's Electric Vehicle Day will showcase the environmental and economic benefit of driving electric in Ontario."

Key initiatives announced today by Bruce Power, in conjunction with Plug’n Drive’s Queen’s Park EV Day, include: 

  • The release of a free iPhone App in partnership with Plug’n Drive, built from Bruce Power’s existing platform, that will have a number of interactive features for people who want to switch to electric vehicles. These include interactive maps of charging stations, and information on grants and vehicles available, along with a unique calculator where people can determine the economic and environmental benefits of going electric. The free App is available for download at the App Store.
  • Bruce Power and Plug’n Drive are supporting the installation of electric car charging stations partnering with communities around the Bruce site. Two dual wand charging stations have been installed at Bruce Power’s Visitors' Centre, while additional stations have been installed in Port Elgin, Southampton, and Wroxeter. Further stations are planned for Kincardine, Sauble Beach and Owen Sound.
  • Bruce Power, Plug’n Drive, the University of Waterloo and the Asthma Society of Canada will commence a joint study to examine the economic and environmental opportunities associated with clean, electrified transportation in Ontario by leveraging the province's clean electricity supply mix. This report will build on the expertise from all organizations and will be released in 2016.

As of 2012, only nine per cent of Ontario’s emissions come from the electricity sector, an advancement enabled by the phase out of coal-fired generation. The largest contributor to emissions in Ontario is the transportation sector, which accounts for 34 per cent of all emissions. The Ontario government has set a goal to reduce emissions from 1990 levels by 15 per cent by 2020 and 80 per cent by 2050. On an annual basis, the Bruce Power site avoids 31 million tonnes of CO2, which is the equivalent of taking six million cars off the road. 

25 October, 2015


A touching photo appears on Facebook showing young parents hovering over a two-year-old child in a hospital bed.  The caption reads: "She has cancer..!! Can she get an 'Amen'?"  I hardly know how to take this one.  Why would I want to give an "amen" to a child having cancer?  I hate the mere suggestion that anyone has cancer, let alone a two-year-old girl!

I have no doubt that the original publisher of the photo was well intended, but this is an example of how so many ancient biblical words are misused in the 21st century.  American televangelist preachers in particular, have been largely responsible for the over-use of "Amen", using it liberally for emphasis but frequently with little provocation. I would have much preferred that the caption of the subject photo read "She has cancer..!! Please pray for her!" or "She has cancer..!! God help her parents cope!"...Then an "Amen" would have been appropriate and meaningful.

Here is a bit about the word "Amen" and how it was originally intended to be used.
Definition: "Amen" is an exclamation acknowledging the genuineness or veracity of a statement, petition, benediction, or doxology. Amen means "truly", or "fair dinkum".
Note: One of God’s names is "The Amen, the Faithful and True Witness" (Revelation 3:14).
Greek References: αμην ameen translated by Luke as αληθος aleethos, truly (Mark 9:1, Luke 9:27).

1 What is the Origin of “Amen”

The word “Amen” makes its first appearance in the Bible under the most solemn circumstances. When a husband accused his wife of adultery, and she protested her innocence, and she had not been caught in the act, the matter was settled by God under the test of bitter water (Numbers 5:12-31).
The woman was taken to the priest, and the priest put her under oath. She submitted to a ceremony in which she drank some water containing dust from the tabernacle floor. If she had committed adultery, she was be cursed with a wasting disease, but if she did not get sick, then she was proven innocent and her husband was proven wrong.
During the ceremony, when the priest pronounced the curse, the woman was required by God to say, "Amen, Amen". (Numbers 5:22). That is the first occurrence of the word in scripture. The LORD commands it to be said by a person who is yielding herself to examination by Him in His presence.

Egyptian god Amen-ra?

The word “Amen” probably goes back a long way. Some it goes back to an Egyptian god called Amen-Ra, and that Moses introduced this name into the worship and religious language of the people he led out of Egypt.
However, in the Bible we first found the word “Amen” commanded by the LORD(Numbers 5:22). It is not credible that God would invoke the name of an Egyptian god when he regarded himself as the only true God and His own name as above all names. “I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other...” (Isaiah 42:8).

2 Why do we say “Amen”?

The word is almost always used to end a solemn statement, as in the example cited earlier. We find the word “Amen” as the last word in several instances in the Bible.

3 What Does “Amen” Mean?
Oddly, to get a scriptural answer to what “Amen” means, we go to a place where it is used not as the last word but the first word. Jesus would often start a solemn statement by saying"Verily" or "Truly". In John's gospel (eg John 3:3) Jesus is recorded as using the word twice in succession, "Verily, verily, I say to you...". This is actually the word “Amen”.

When we compare an instance of this in Mark, with the same statement in Luke, we find Mark has left the word untranslated (just as αμην “Amen”), but Luke has translated it using the word αληθος "Truly". (Mark 9:1, Luke 9:27). This shows us that the underlying meaning of the word “Amen” is truth and verity. It is a solemn affirmation. When we say, “Amen” we are saying, "Yes before God I agree with that, I believe that to be true, I want that to be so".

To that little cancer-stricken girl in a hospital bed, I say: "God be with you and your mom and dad...Amen!"


24 October, 2015


A "hut" photographed by Tiffany Wilson.

I follow the Saugeen Times online news site fairly closely and earlier today read a submission by high school correspondent Tiffany Wilson.  In reporting on a Bluewater Athletic Association football game between Saugeen District High School Royals and St. Mary's Mustangs she used the word "hut" several times.

It is not common to see the word used in game write-ups and the fact that Tiffany actually knew what a "hut" is, impressed me sufficiently to send me off on an impromptu research project to determine the origin of the word.  In my day playing scrub football, the "hut" was called a "hike".  Today, of course, footballers talk about the "snap" between a centre and quarterback at the start of a play. 

I remembered that in honor of the start of the football season some time ago, the television show "NFL Films Presents" put together a segment on the word hut, an interjection shouted by quarterbacks when initiating a play. Producers asked a number of National Football League players and coaches their theories about the origin of "hut", and then called upon a linguist to set the record straight. That linguist happened to be a chap by the name of  Ben Zimmer who found himself unaccountably sharing air time with the likes of announcers Don Shula and Tom Coughlin.
The short answer, which he gave in the interview was that the hut of the quarterback's cadence ("hut 1, hut 2, hut 3...") almost certainly comes from military cadences for marching, where hut is used to accent a syllable. The military-style hut has been in use since at least World War II, when drill sergeants also began yelling "Atten-hut!" as a call to attention. By the 1950s, quarterbacks had borrowed this technique to develop their own cadences for calling the snap count. Hut is a short, sharp syllable that can be heard clearly over a distance, so it serves the quarterback just as well as a drill sergeant leading a march.
The long answer, Zimmer later explained in a write-up of his own, actually goes back deep into the pre-football era. For centuries, monosyllables likehip, hup, and hep have been used as interjections to draw attention, particularly for animals. Coachmen called out these words for goading horses, and herders used them for steering their flocks.  Hup has been recorded in this usage since the 18th century, and hut from the 19th century. Then in the early 20th century, drill sergeants' rhythmic cadences for marching began to take the form of "hip/hup/hep 2, 3, 4." (I've found military examples of hup from 1919, hip from 1923, and hep from 1928.) As hut (and "atten-hut") became popularized in World War II, the military bark got taken up by drillmasters for marching bands, drum corps, and pep squads. For instance, a 1941 guide to marching band drills reads, "Some substitute 'Hup!' or 'Hut!' for 'one,' to gain accent."
The sport of football, meanwhile, was developing its own interjections. Back in the 1890s, John Heisman — of Heisman Trophy fame — introduced the word hike to football. Originally, the center (who puts the ball into play) used one hand to flip the ball under his legs to the quarterback. To alert the center that he was ready to start, a quarterback would use a touch signal, often scratching the center's leg. When playing as a center for the University of Pennsylvania team in 1890-91, Heisman got tricked by an opposing player who scratched his leg. He flipped the ball back, and the quarterback missed the pass. Heisman's solution was to have the quarterback use the word hike to put the ball into motion so that everyone was clear when the play started. Hike was a good choice, since it can mean "to pull or raise with a sudden motion," and that's what the center does with the ball.
Soon after, as a coach, Heisman introduced the "direct snap," where the ball is "hiked" in the now-familiar way. Previously, the ball would be rolled back along the ground or snapped end over end (a "snapback"). In 1893, when Heisman was the coach at Buchtel College (now the University of Akron), he had a very tall quarterback who had trouble with the ball being rolled to him. So Heisman invented the direct snap to allow the center to toss the ball directly up to the quarterback. Every other college team followed Heisman's lead.
The signal calling of quarterbacks then got more and more complex. By the 1920s, "shift formations" had developed, most famously Knute Rockne's "Notre Dame shift." The quarterback would call the signal and then say hip to indicate that the offensive line should shift to new positions on the line of scrimmage. The whole backfield would move when hip was called. The hip of the Notre Dame quarterback ("1, 2, 3, hip!") had a clear kinship with the military marching cadences of the time ("hip 2, 3, 4"), but for onlookers the shift also evoked the hippity-hop of jumping frogs. Various rule changes were enacted to slow down the shift, and the constant motion punctuated by hip became more subdued after the Knute Rockne era of the '20s.
Unlike the hip of Rockne's teams, the hut of the post-war era (for college and professional teams alike) did not necessarily signal a shift of the offensive line. The quarterback could signal for the center to snap the ball on the first, second, or third hut without any shift being called. One early print example of hut (discovered by word sleuth Barry Popik) comes from the Sporting News of Oct. 20, 1954: "Mitchell snaps into position, starts his call and is ready to give it the 'Hut-two, hut-two." 

The Los Angeles Times of July 9, 1955 explained hut in an article about the streamlined system of signal calling used by the L.A. Rams under the coaching of Sid Gillman: "When the quarterback gives the snap at the line of scrimmage ('Hut-one... hut-two... hut-three,' and so on) he sings it out in a nonrhythmic tempo so that the enemy cannot anticipate the center's snap."  Since then, quarterback cadences have evolved even further, though hut has remained a common feature.
Of course, this was far too much history to fit into in a brief television interview, but Zimmer said it was a lot of fun digging through the archives to piece together the elaborate back-story of a powerful little word.

One thing for sure...He certainly saved me a lot of work.

Ben Zimmer is executive editor of and the Visual Thesaurus. He is language columnist for The Wall Street Journal and former language columnist for The Boston Globe and The New York Times Magazine. He has worked as editor for American dictionaries at Oxford University Press and as a consultant to the Oxford English Dictionary. In addition to his regular "Word Routes" column, he contributes to the group weblog Language Log. He is also the chair of the New Words Committee of the American Dialect Society

23 October, 2015


In retrospect, I am absolutely convinced that I was a much happier person when I was not influenced by politics and religion.  In fact, for the first naive third of my 77-plus years, I flatly refused to become involved in conversations relating to either subject…And that is an unusual concession coming from someone who eventually became a no-holds-barred editorial commentator and in later years, an appropriately-designated lay pastor.

Life plays funny tricks on us and we do indeed experience twists and turns at various stages of our journey to senility.  There was a time when I did not think that I had anything of significance to say and when I eventually realized that I did, I found that by and large no one really listened.  The world that I lived in had become confrontational, complicated by stubbornly-held opinions and biases.  Generally, today we beg to differ with just about everything and we do not hesitate to vent our spleens, regardless of who we offend -- even our friends.  In ignorance we become over-night experts.  In obscurity, we feel safe to become very bold on worldly issues.  We do not have to know what we are talking about, we just have to be a squeaky wheel long enough and loud enough in order to get attention.  In a way, I guess, it is symptomatic of frustration in a society struggling to find a common voice at an agenda-driven-time in our history.
Knowing what I now know, I try especially hard to balance most of what I write today -- appealing to sides, if there are any and generally there are.  Lately, however, I have come to realize the futility of such lofty motivation.  So deep are certain self-ascertained convictions that people only read what they want to read…The ability to analyze and rationalize has become a lost art.  Likewise, I stopped spending 35-40 hours a week preparing thought-provoking sermons and worship programs for delivery to a couple of dozen people in brief hour-long Sunday morning services.  More often than not, I came away with the feeling that it was a going-through-the-motions exercise for the most part and that there was certain resentment in the fact that I was so bold as to lead the customary order of service from the sanctity of a church pulpit. After all, who was I? When did I get so holy and high and mighty?  I began to ask myself those very same self-defeating questions.

Believe it or not, in encountering the politics of religion, I voluntarily walked away from the church, somewhat disillusioned but much the wiser.  In removing myself from the pressures of attempting to be all things to all people, I have re-discovered some of the aforementioned youthful joy and peace of mind that long ago became lost as I followed well-intended spiritual impulses.  It is no longer my role to preach or to convince anyone of anything, religiously or politically.  I merely pass on duly-acquired information from my storehouse of experiences in the hope of stimulating thought.  Take it or leave it.

Allow me to expand on where I find myself 10/23/2015.

If you wish to cobble together a collection of “facts” to support a particular religious view or political philosophy there are plenty of sources to draw upon, including:
  •  Thousands of years of recorded human history
  •  Thousands of human cultures with differing perspectives 
  •  Thousands of authors and sacred texts, past and present
  •  An internet that helps us find reference sources for all of the above
  • A daily stream of current events and editorial opinions served up by the internet and traditional media sources.
The internet is particularly problematic because it allows easy collaboration among people who would otherwise be separated by extreme geographical and cultural distances, as well as extreme political and religious views. To put it a bit starkly, the internet allows a handful of far-flung radicals and individuals with strong biases who would otherwise have no real voice, to assemble in online communities that provide each other with substantial comfort and reinforcement for their ideas, no matter how odd they may seem to the majority of us!

The point: No matter what political or religious viewpoint you select in order to breathe meaning into your life’s unique miseries and joys, if you take the time to search, you will be able to find ample evidence to support it.  Most of the time our hard-won vision of how the world works remains quietly concealed in our hearts. Yet it is always there, just below the surface, waiting to explode all over anyone foolish enough to challenge us with a severely contradictory vision. After all, we have way too much effort invested in this world view to allow it to be quickly changed by anyone. The result: Whether we like it or not, is that we sometimes stumble into one of those intense, no-one-wins verbal battles we all find so frustrating.
Think about it: How can we ever know enough about the experiences and struggles, for truth that lay beneath another person’s world view to enable us to adequately judge validity? Can we really presume to be able to stand back and critique a world view that is built on a foundation of countless unique, idiosyncratic pains and joys that we ourselves have never experienced? Certainly not! That’s why if we try making such judgments, we soon learn that the emotional energy behind our listener’s world view generates a vigorous argument that ultimately leads nowhere… aside from an exchange of philosophical generalities supported by carefully-chosen (and highly idiosyncratic and personal) anecdotes.

The bottom line: It’s a waste of time (and toxic to your relationships) to indulge in arguments over religious or political philosophies.  As Star Trek’s Borg might say: “Resistance is futile!” One well-intentioned passionate assertion bangs against another well intentioned passionate assertion. Or one negative rant is met by an opposing negative rant. Either way, smacking together all these visions and theories and end-point conclusions and derived meanings simply gets us nowhere.
Instead of getting ensnared in one of these pointless interchanges, I have learned to actively imagine the cloud of experiences that a fellow debater (someone with a contrary point of view) has experienced. In the process I have been able to strengthen my beliefs/convictions.  There have been times too when I found it necessary to modify those beliefs/convictions.  An open mind is a learning mind!  That's why I have a habit of asking questions.

When you hear a political or religious assertion that starts to make you crazy, maybe it would be best to say something like this: “Wow! That’s interesting! How did you come to that conclusion? Tell me more about what led you to this perspective.”  If a rational reply is forthcoming, then try to see the links between personal experiences and formal philosophy.  
In becoming an amateur anthropologist of sorts, we can learn exactly what dwells inside that unique cloud of experience that has formed the other person’s world view. We do not necessarily have to be in agreement to be accepting of an opposing point of view.  Of course, if the individual insists on being argumentative or insulting, then it is time to withdraw totally from the exchange in which there will be no winners.  Friendships have ended over less.  As Stephen Covey says, “Seek first to understand than to be understood…The deepest hunger of the human heart is to be understood, for understanding implicitly affirms, validates, recognizes and appreciates the intrinsic worth of another."

We (you and I) have to decide if it is worth it to be this open and understanding in a world that does not necessarily always return the compliment.  Personally, in the future I am committed to happily taking all of my convictions under advisement and selectively acting accordingly!  My time has become too precious to waste or to give away to hopeless ends.  I will continue to derive happiness from the belief that there are those who will understand (not necessarily appreciate) where I am coming from.

I will give fools their time and space, but no one says I have to suffer them. Ignorance is bliss!...So is ignorance by choice!!


18 October, 2015


Big oil. Big media. And now, a big endorsement.

Postmedia, a company now largely owned primarily by U.S. hedge funds, has championed Stephen Harper as a "clear choice" in Monday's federal election.

The Ottawa Citizen became the latest of the network's publications to endorse the Conservatives in a Friday editorial, joining the Edmonton Journal, the Toronto Sun, The Province, the Globe and Mail, the Saskatoon StarPhoenix, The London Free Press and at least five other news publications. The endorsement wasn't by the editorial staff, however...It was made by the owners of the papers, as is their prerogative of course.

The endorsement touts Stephen Harper as the best choice to deal with an "increasingly unstable situation in the Middle East," and of course, the ongoing "economic uncertainty" Canada has faced in the wake recent recession. It is no secret that the Conservative prime minister has prioritized oil and gas development as part Canada's economic future — his government has approved the controversial Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline, and his party supports the proposed TransCanada Energy East and Keystone XL pipelines project.

Postmedia's endorsement should come as no surprise then, given the network's relationship with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), Canada's largest official advocate for the oil and gas industry.

But what really bothers me is the fact that The Conservative Party of Canada has also bought out the front pages of Postmedia newspapers across the
country and replaced them with an ad made to look like it's coming directly from Elections Canada, warning Canadians not to vote Liberal or NDP. To me, the fact that the publishers have sold out their front news pages to questionable political interests on the eve of a crucial election, its totally distasteful and dishonorable.

The newspaper industry in Canada generally will never recover public credibility from this unprecedented action. Truthfully, when the news broke, I thought that it was a hoax of some kind. I refused to believe that the report was true...A full-page political advertisement on the front page of a newspaper in Canada? 
Never!!!... As a former newspaper editor, I was appalled, embarrassed and ashamed by the evidence that followed in the next 12 hours.

Readers have vowed in online backlash to never again subscribe to Postmedia papers and I am with them 100 percent. This is not newspapering and this is not just campaigning. This is financially-motivated
deceit that reflects terribly on Canadian leadership and a time-honoured industry. 

It's not unprecedented for newspapers to increasingly run front-page ads -- the New York Times has done it for years, and USA Today recently began doing it. Community weekly newspapers in Canada have also been doing it for some time, but the rule of thumb
has always been to leave a certain amount of space open for the top news stories of the day/week and an impactful photograph.

Sadly, however, Postmedia has gone too far with the latest wholesale sell out of their front pages and it is only natural that other news conglomerates will be following suit in competition for the advertising dollar. Good local news coverage on the front pages of our newspapers will increasingly give way to premium advertising. Editorial pages will be redundant. 

But Postmedia does not care...The network has seen its publications invest greater resources in digital news gathering and distribution, including expanded websites and digital news apps for smartphones and tablets, so that should tell you something about the future of their print publications.

I am sick at heart and disillusioned by all of this...I do not want to talk about it any more! I am nauseous!

16 October, 2015

War of Worlds Radio Scare: October 30, 1938

War of the Worlds Radio Scare: October 30, 1938

War of the Worlds cartoonOn October 30, 1938, Orson Welles and the Mercury Theatre staged a radio adaptation of the H. G. Wells sci-fi novel The War of the Worlds that fooled at least some North Americans into believing that Martians really were invading the United States.
In order to make the adaptation of book to radio more interesting, the show was set up to seem like a normal music program that kept getting interrupted by increasingly alarming, official-sounding “news bulletins” that tracked the violent progress of a Martian invasion centered in New Jersey. Traditional accounts maintain that despite
announcements that the show was fictional, vast numbers of Americans thought the broadcast was real. In fact, newspapers the next day carried tales of mass panic and hysteria as listeners allegedly fled their homes and Orson Welles met with the press to to express regret  for the confusion.
Recent scholarship on the subject, however, tends to argue that the mass panic caused by the War of the Worlds broadcast was exaggerated by the newspapers of the time. Even according to the papers themselves, not everyone strictly believed the Martian story: those who only caught part of the broadcast or heard the news secondhand often merely believed that a disaster of some kind had struck the East Coast. And many people who had initially been fooled called their local newspaper or police station to verify the story and thus quickly learned that it was fiction. Still, many people were indeed at least initially frightened by the broadcast, and the hysteria reported in the newspapers did exist to some extent, though it was more likely on an individual rather than group level.
War of the Worlds' Broadcast Creates Panic in the EastWhile the 1938 War of the Worlds broadcast might not have been as panic-inducing as originally believed, a similar broadcast in Quito, Ecuador in 1949 really did cause hysteria. A local version of Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds program caused radio listeners to panic, and when the broadcast was revealed as fictional, their fear turned into an angry riot. The radio station was attacked, causing $350.000 ($3.5 million today) in damage and multiple deaths.
And those aren’t the only instances. Renditions of Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds broadcast also fooled listeners, at least to some extent, in Chili in 1944 and in Buffalo, N.Y. in 1968.

Truly a Halloween hoax to equal all Halloween pranks. If any little Martians knock on your door on Saturday night, Oct. 31st., "treat" them generously...You just never know! 

12 October, 2015


Recent editions of TidBits of Moose Jaw featuring "Wright Words" columns on Page 1.  Chances are you read it first on Wrights Lane.

08 October, 2015


Canadians should not fear growing old. Nor should they fear the treatment they’ll receive when they reach their elderly years.

Yet, the Canadian Medical Association has heard from seniors, caregivers, nurses and doctors that the services currently available in our country are not sufficient for this demographic. So serious is the problem that the Institute for Public Policy (IFPP) is calling for a senior strategy that is truly national in scope.

Our hospitals and community care facilities are running at full capacity and we lack the resources to manage the influx of patients. In Ontario specifically, the number of staff per bed falls far below the national average.

The pitfalls in our system are not only being felt by patients but by the family members who care for them as well. This causes a ripple effect throughout our society at large. A 2012 Conference Board of Canada study estimates that care giving employees represent a cost to employers in lost productivity of $1.28 billion a year.

Joni Campbell knows the effects of a failing system all too well. She was an informal caregiver to her father for almost a year before he passed away in November 2014. Every day, Campbell would travel an hour to visit him because there was no other option for her family. She retired early in order to care for him.

She describes her father as “a proud, independent, small businessman who worked hard every day of his life.” This is in part why it was so difficult for Campbell to watch him wither away, without a speck of dignity left. A particular memory sticks out for her while her father was living in a nursing home in Ottawa. At this point, he was in a wheelchair, had emphysema and severe dementia.

On his second day there, Campbell was in his room when he told her he needed to have a bowel movement. She saw a nurse standing at the nearest nursing station and asked if she’d help. Instead, Campbell was told to use the room buzzer. She rang, but no one came. She rang again, no help. Finally, a support worker placed him on the toilet but left shortly thereafter. Her dad said he was going to faint, so she rang again—still, no help.

Campbell sat holding her dad on the toilet with tears streaming down her face. It was downhill from there.  “Basically my dad starved to death in the four months he was at the nursing home,” she said. “I felt like I put my dad in a prison.”

Despite the poor care her father received, Campbell does not blame herself or the nursing home. Instead, she blames the entire system: the lack of staff, the extensive wait times for nursing home placement, the lack of funding for seniors care initiatives in communities, and the inadequate support for family caregivers.

Ralph Scandiffio shares the same sentiment. As a retired family physician, Scandiffio knows how to navigate the health care system. Yet, his years of practice couldn’t prepare him for his next role in life: primary caregiver to his wife Eileen, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease.  He is vocal about his experiences looking after his wife 24 hours a day and the strain it put on his own mental well being. “I said, ‘I’m the weak link here, if there’s anyone that’s going to give out it’s me.’”

He relied on day programs for assistance and some degree of relief. When he reached out to the Champlain Community Care Access Centre in Ottawa for added home care support, they weren’t able to provide the necessary resources. After years of living at home, Eileen was finally admitted to St. Patrick’s Home, a long-term care facility in Ottawa, through the “crisis application.”

“I cannot say that she was the crisis, the crisis was the caregiver,” he says. “I was fragile and vulnerable because I was afraid things weren’t going right and things were going to fall apart.”

Unfortunately, these stories aren’t unique. More than ever before, Canadians across the country have had to assume the role of primary caregiver for their aging loved ones -- a role that can be unbelievably challenging and demanding but one that doesn’t earn you a lofty salary or a gold badge of honor.

I have been there and done all of that myself, not once but three times, in the past 25 years (for my mother and two wives).  I retired prematurely to do what I had to do.  As the only caregiver (forget primary) for my second wife, I now run on automatic pilot...I have reached the numb stage.  Rosanne, who is 10 years younger than me, insists she will never go into a nursing home. My fate is sealed!
But by ignoring the complex and chronic needs of other seniors, we are putting informal caregivers at high risk for personal burnout and we are denying patients the care they deserve.

There has to be a better way!

Continue to talk to your members of parliament and bring this matter to the attention of candidates running for office in the upcoming federal election.  If you do not gain a ready and understanding ear...Then you will know how to mark your ballot at the polls come October 19.

07 October, 2015


I met an elderly gentleman today and I can't seem to get him off my mind.  Nothing unusual about being elderly though...I've reached that category myself, for heaven's sake.

There were other things about this man, however, that left an unusual impression on me -- one of sadness, sympathy, worry and wonder all wrapped up in one -- if you can imagine it.  To compound my emotions, I actually ran across him twice within a span of about four hours.

It was late afternoon in our local Tim Horton's when I first encountered this thin, stooped figure of a man as he was attempting to order a coffee and a bowl of soup.  It was clear that he could not hear what the quiet-spoken young lady on cash was trying to convey to him and she could not understand what he was trying to communicate to her in a halting, muffled tone.  I decided to insert myself in this awkward scene.

"I think he wants his order for here and he's asking how much it is going to cost," I told the cashier.  "Okay," she responded..."It will be $4.28 and I will take the order to him."

Going chest to shoulder with him, I verbalized the information as clearly as possible.  He struggled to pull a wallet from his jacket pocket and slowly pulled out a $10 bill with stiff, fumbling fingers.  After receiving his change he continued to half lean on the counter with a blank, yet rather expectant expression on his face.  His cane fell to the floor.

Picking up the cane, I told him that I would help him to a table and that his food would be delivered to him when it was ready.  It was all I could do to support this once six-footer as we unsteadily made our way to the nearest table.  At no time did he ever speak a word to me, although he did manage a weak smile when I jokingly offered: "It is not every day that a fellow gets his food delivered to him by a pretty girl."

It was about four hours later when fate would bring us together again...This time as I was doing some late evening grocery shopping.  I spotted him, coincidentally, as he was leaving the check-out counter with a cart full of groceries.  "I can't believe it," I commented to the cashier.  "This is the second time today that I've seen that poor man.  How did he make out in paying for his groceries?"

"Oh, it was a nightmare," she replied. "In the end, I had to help him find his debit card and to make matters worse he could not remember how to use it.  I had to ask him for his code and then I punched it in for him...I hope he trusted me," she added.

I was still paying for my purchases when the dual entrance doors opened and there he stood again with that same blank, yet expectant stare.  Another alert clerk rushed to greet him, saying loudly as she held up a cane (his), "I thought you would be back for this.  You also left behind a pound of butter...I'll go get it for you."

"I'm kind of worried," I said to the cashier.  "I don't know how he got here.  Maybe I can give him a hand with his groceries, or give him a ride somewhere. Certainly he can't be driving a car."  I rushed out in an attempt to find the man in the shadows of the grey parking lot.

Parked directly in front of the store was a late 1990s model Lincoln Continental in mint condition. As I looked through the passenger side window I could see the man struggling to position himself behind the steering wheel.  I ran around behind the vehicle and reached him as he was attempting to close the door with his cane.  "Are you going to be alright," I asked?  Before giving him a chance to answer, I could not help posing another question..."How old are you, if you don't mind me asking?"

"Ninety-eight," was the unhesitating surprise answer.

The Lincoln Continental left me standing in a cloud of dust, its red tail lights disappearing into the darkness of Highway 21.

I'm still shaking my head -- wondering.

I pray he got home -- somewhere!

04 October, 2015


One-thousand-pound pumpkins ready for the International Weigh-Off scales.  One of the "giants" had a runny nose.
Jeff Warner, Pumpkinfest second prize winner, ready to hall his 1,683-pound pumpkin back home to Englehart, ON.
The 29th annual Saugeen Shores Pumpkin Fest in Port Elgin this weekend drew at least 50,000 visitors.  As always, the event was highlighted by stiff competition for the largest pumpkin, field pumpkin, squash, tomato, watermelon, and cabbage; in addition to the tallest corn stalk and sunflower plant.

Talented Adam Martin of Wawa, ON.
carves into a 200 lb. squash.
Todd Kline of Shawville, Quebec, captured the heaviest pumpkin crown for the second year in a row with a giant entry that weighed in at 1,733.5 pounds, two pounds shy of the Pumpkinfest record set in 2012.  Second prize went to Jeff Warner of Englehart, Ontario, whose entry tipped the scales at 1,683.2 pounds. Jeff also walked off with the tallest sunflower, measuring 287 inches.

Growers competed for a prize package of $16,000 from the Pumpkinfest organization with another $10,000 available to win courtesy of the Great Pumpkin Commonwealth. Doug Court of Port Elgin was the original organizer of the festival and continues to be a competitive grower.

The Cinderella's Carriage Classic Car Show, one of Ontario's largest, is held annually in conjunction with Pumpkinfest.  It is sponsored by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation with hundreds of antique cars and trucks lining the blocked-off main street in Port Elgin.  The Grey Bruce Touring Club's Motorcycle Show is also a popular attraction each year.

Harley, a fully grown three-pound toy Chihauhua seen blow, sat pretty (about three seconds) during Pumpkinfest dog show obedience drills on Sunday.  Harley's attention span was too short to qualify for a prize, but he didn't seem to care!  He was just happy to get a treat when it was all over. 

The two-day, award-winning festival also included a Pumpkinfest Village midway, product exhibitors, food vendors, a craft show, petting zoo and non-stop entertainment.  The local legion branch regularly hosts a breakfast for about 400 people and a Saturday night turkey and ham dinner is held at the downtown Port Elgin United Church.  A team of 150 volunteers is required to staff the event each year.

01 October, 2015


Grade 6 student Paul Grein, of Durham, producer of a video featuring the
birth place of John Diefenbaker in Neustadt, ON. 
I simply cannot keep this one to myself.

Just when you think you’ve heard every election campaign promise in the book, you hear another one!

A re-elected Conservative government would buy the home in southern Grey County, Ontario, where former Prime Minister John Diefenbaker was born and turn it into a national historic site. Get that … If re-elected!

Now, let’s think about that for a minute…Optimistically, if 100 percent of the eligible voters in Neustadt (pop. 553) were to be duly impressed with the Conservative campaign promise, you would be looking at something in the neighbourhood of 200 favourable votes. Talk about big-time politics in what may well be one of the most crucial federal elections in Canadian history!

It is now all over for me. Any other campaign announcement from here on in will pale by comparison (with tongue placed firmly in my cheek).

The announcement, last this week by Conservative Leader Stephen Harper, was the subject of a news release sent out Friday, Sept. 25, by the "Campaign to Re-Elect Conservative Larry Miller" in Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound. Miller, who is seeking a fifth term as MP, said he has been a strong supporter of the federal government purchasing and preserving the former Diefenbaker house.

Diefenbaker, a Progressive Conservative prime minister from 1957 to 1963, was born in the house at 144 Barbara St. in Neustadt on Sept. 18, 1895. He lived there until he was eight years old, when he and his family moved to Saskatchewan. The home has served as a museum in the past and is now owned by the Bank of Montreal, which held the mortgage on the property.

Miller’s opponents, Liberal candidate Kimberley Love and the NDP’s David McLaren, both said they too would support establishing the house as a national historic site and, if elected, would push for it to happen. Who said today's politicians do not know a good thing when they see it?

“It’s not partisan. It doesn’t matter who starts it up, but certainly I’ve already had some conversations with Liberals about the possibility of that,” Love said in an interview. “I actually thought it would be a great thing if, as a Grey County girl and a Liberal, I helped to move that project along, so I would be delighted to see that happen.”

The “turning point” in making it all happen came earlier this year when Paul Grein, a Grade 6 student from Durham, entered a national history contest in which he created a video on Diefenbaker, featuring the house in Neustadt. Miller encouraged Conservative staffers to show the video to Harper. “It’s history now, but back at the end of May or June, we got a call from the Prime Minister’s Office saying that they were hoping to incorporate this into the election platform and they did,” Miller added.

Once the home is purchased, it would be operated by Parks Canada, similar to existing arrangements for William Lyon Mackenzie King’s family home in Kitchener and Sir Wilfrid Laurier’s family home in Quebec.
There are 973 designated National Historic Sites in Canada, only 168 of which are operated by Parks Canada. The Billy Bishop Home and Museum in Owen Sound, recognized as a National Historic Site in 2002 and the only other such site in Grey-Bruce, is not among them. 

Neustadt voters can certainly rest easy…Regardless of who wins the election, it seems that the birthplace of the Rt. Hon. John George Diefenbaker will have new owners and new designation. Dief will turn over in his grave, however, if it is a Liberal or NDP government that makes it happen.


I had special interest in this story because back in 1976, as managing editor of the Prince Albert, Sask., Daily Herald, I was a founding member of what was then to be the “Museum of the North” housed in the home formerly owned by John and Olive Diefenbaker at 246 19th Street in Prince Albert. We lived just two doors east of the Diefenbakers at the time.

Diefenbaker was always conscious of his legacy and turned the property over to P.A. for $1 when, after his 80th birthday, he realized it would no longer be practical for him to maintain the residence. He also owned a home in Ottawa. He was not the least amused when we were slow getting off the mark after he donated the home to the city. To spite us, he gave parts of his library to the Diefenbaker Canada Centre, University of Saskatchewan, that was also being established at that time.

Prince Albert has been trying to have the home designated as a National Historic Site since 2013.  There is still time to make it a campaign promise in that federal riding too.  Come on Mr. Harper!
Diefenbaker House and Museum in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.  My neighbour in the 1970's.