September 29th 2003
I voted for the first time in Canada today!
A momentous occasion as far as I am concerned. It is the start of my actual citizenship to know that I am taking a part in the process that shapes my future.
I suppose that unlike the many youth in this country who are already tired and jaded with the lies and deceit apparent in the process I am still starry eyed enough to want to be involved.
Which is why when a Canadian friend of mine phoned me up a few weeks ago to give me advance warning of Elections Ontario looking for election day workers I jumped at the chance.
Well I attempted to jump at the chance!
You see the jobs he knew about were up in the north end of Toronto while I live in Oakville and Elections Canada decrees that you reside in the Riding where you work. I don't know why, because as they became more and more desperate for people to work at the polls this particular rule was stretched almost to breaking point!
I already had a position in Oakville when a higher position out in Halton, which is my actual Riding, opened and so I was transferred back into the Riding where I was supposed to be working. Albeit at a higher position with more responsibility and, of more importance, higher pay.
Currently I am the Area Manager for Oakville A district in the Halton Riding of Ontario. This incorporates most of the Iroquois Ridge area above Upper Middle Road and has four polling stations with about 50 or so people reporting through different returning officers to myself. I report directly to the Returning Officer for Halton.
So having been through training and had a good assessment of the whole process as far as the working process goes I will attempt to give an idea of what does take place behind the scenes.
First of all I must stress that the level of panic and hysteria is fairly similar to that which takes place in South Africa. I actually think that there appears to be less inclination amongst the public here to get involved as well. Which is probably why the pay is so good. Even though it is really only for a day we are talking about a very high rate indeed!!
The Elections Canada office out in Milton looked like a bomb had hit it when I first got there. Even the people inside had that shell-shocked appearance and were doing the headless chicken routine as well!!!
Theoretically the office is responsible for ensuring that all areas are fully staffed and operational but this office had a neat twist on that issue. The Area Managers had to get staff for their polling stations. I was lucky in that I was parachuted in at a late stage so most of my stations were already filled! That didn't mean that I was not expected to fill the few remaining positions.
Which I did try to do with fellow South Africans. Especially those like me who were “between successes” or recent immigrants. Which is when the “Canadian Citizen” part of the equation came to the fore.
Which astonished me a bit. During training we were informed that we weren't allowed to ask voters whether they were Canadian Citizens but that was a strong requirement to work behind the scenes!!!
So it is all right to have someone voting fraudulently, but not working fraudulently. Interesting! I am still trying to work out that one.
Actually I was surprised at just how easy it is to vote fraudulently in the elections. I think it stems from the Canadians innate uneasiness at confrontation. Especially in areas where they would be confronting minorities. I don't know how many situations on the training tape revolved around “immigrants” and how to “treat them fairly”…which as an immigrant was both annoying and patronizing. And unfair!!
And maybe as an African I am just too used to rigged , unfair elections anyway. This is Canada and we expect a more civilized approach to the responsibility of voting! At least I sincerely hope so!
The process at each station is fairly similar to what takes place around the world. The voter goes into an area. There they are met by Traffic Directors who show them to a Polling Day Revision Assistant whose job it is see that they have identification and are eligible to vote. If not they are the people who help to fill in the forms to allow them to vote.
The voter is then directed to another section where there are two people. The Poll Clerk and a Deputy Returning Officer. The Poll Clerk does the legwork while the DRO signs the ballot and directs the voter to the screen where they may vote in secret. When the voter has made a mark against the candidate of choice they fold the ballot as it was folded before and return it to the DRO who verifies that the signature on the back is theirs, pass it back to the voter who then “casts” their vote by placing it in the ballot box.
At the end of the day the Supervising Deputy Returning Officer, who is in charge of all the polling booths at a voting location supervises the counting of the ballots by each and every station. He then tallies up all the votes cast, and for whom, phones the Returning Officer at the Head Office with the results, and then the Area Manager, who will come to that location sign for the votes and sheets and do this until all the Polling Stations in his area have finalised and passed over the votes. The Area Manager then being responsible for bringing the whole lot back to the Election Office and passing them over to the Returning Officer for that district.
This is of course a very simple depiction of the process as there are many other duties that an Area Manager and SDRO have in the stations and area. The most important being that of ensuring that all the polls are managed and running smoothly.
I have one polling station with three tables and one SDRO and another location with ten tables and a myriad of traffic directors, revision assistants and others all of which we have to ensure are ready by the time the doors open at 09h00 on the morning. And that they continue to run smoothly until the doors are closed to the public at 20h00 that evening.
In addition I need to ensure that the ballots actually arrive at the stations on time. Amongst a whole lot of other responsibilities that will no doubt keep me hopping all day, and most of the night!
No doubt this is why they prefer us to cast our votes earlier. Which in my case was rather interesting. Being a new Canadian I had to prove that I lived in the area. Which was when I had first hand experience of “Not” being asked to prove if I was a citizen!!!
I realise I had to take an oath that I was eligible to vote but it was eyebrow raising to say the least.
In fact the hardest part of the whole process was deciding whom to vote for.
As my son so eloquently alluded to the choices:
Larry, Moe, Curly or the Hippy!!
Yes! I am afraid while the process is fascinating and fun to be part of, the choices are limited in the clowns who will represent me for the next four years.
As a very good friend of mine said recently.
“I am voting for the best looking one. Because if I have to listen to a liar on TV for four more years then at least they can look good”!!
Which is probably as good a reason as any. So long as she votes!
Isn't democracy wonderful?
September 22nd 2003
Autumn is rapidly approaching. Which means that we have the great outdoor nature show here in Eastern Canada. Or more specifically here in Ontario!
You don't have to go far here to see a blaze of colour permeating the scenery.
This year however I was interested to discover that there are actually areas that are designated as being “better” places to go and see the riot of colour that ensues when autumn arrives.
There are eight major areas that cover most of the GTA and north which allows those of us clustered around the GTA to make a decent day trip out to view natures firework show! I have included web site addresses for those of you who would like to either look up further details or even look for information on [places to stay in the area as well.
All of them are within an easy day's driving although it is probably better to try to stay overnight somewhere with the routes up in the Muskoka area as well as the Algonquin Park and Opeongo routes.
For the more adventurous there is a route that involves taking a railway trip from Sault St Marie up the Agawa Canyon. You take the Algoma Central Railway from Sault St. Marie to Hearst. This trip is a full day trip so I guess you would need two or three days to really get the full impact of the environment and its surroundings. It costs $77 for the trip for an adult. This of course doesn't take into account all the other costs of actually getting there. For full particulars go to
The other two far-flung routes are out to the east of Toronto.
The Algonquin Park route is up Highway 400 (out to Barrie) and then on Highway 11 out to Huntsville where you follow Highway 60 east out toward Barry's Bay. Then back down toward Peterborough on Highways 62 and 28. This whole lot is about 500 kms of travel but through quite beautiful countryside.
Opeongo Line is a continuation of the Algonquin Park route starting at Barry's Bay and traveling out toward Castleford. Which is closer toward Ottawa and would probably be a good trip from that City.
Most local Torontonians seem to have their “cottage” up in the Lake Muskoka area. There is generally a mass exodus on every weekend during summer and Lake Muskoka appears to be one of the favourite destinations for these poor stressed out souls!! Which is why traveling up there in autumn is pretty relaxing. Most of the people clogging up highway 400 at any other time are back at work and more interested in greenbacks than red leaves!
So take Highway 400 North and then Highway 11 again and branch off from there on about eight or so routes that travel westerly around the Lake. Highways 141,117,118,169,69 and 518 all roads that you can travel down to have a look.
The other northerly destination being Haliburton. This seems to overlap a lot of the Muskoka and Algonquin routes but is primarily centred around Highways 35 and 121. You could start at Peterborough but the better start point would be Lindsay slightly to the west, and on Highway 7.
Way out to the East of Toronto and on Highway 401 is the Kingston Route. You have the option of a few highways to the north of Kingston here.
Try Highways 36, 38,15 and 42 all of which go through the many lakes that are dotted around this area. The Northernmost point being Maberly on Highway 7.
The road out of Toronto past Trenton reminds me very much of the M1 in Natal or, in many parts the South Coast Highway in Natal.
I like traveling out there, except for the massive billboards advertising fast food dotting the hills outside Port Colbourne that is!
Out to the Northwest and at the western side of Georgian Bay is the Beaver Valley route. All beaver jokes will henceforth be banished form this article.
Straight up Highway 10 (through Mississauga) and on to Flesherton. At which stage my intention not to make any beaver comments is sorely tested!!!
At Flesherton you can go along Highway 7 to Meaford and then travel down to Thornbury and back along Highway 13.
This is definitely a close and good day trip to undertake.
Lastly we have the two routes closest to Toronto. The Elora and Caledon routes.
Caledon is just to the north of Mississauga and moves along Highway 50 north Highway 9 West to Orangeville and then back South down Highway 10 with a sideways shuffle along Highway 124.
And then we have the Elora Route.
Basically take the 401 toward Guelph and turn north along highway 6 and then travel along Highway 7 to Fergus and Elora.
These are really picturesque towns as well so you get more than just the colours!
Mind you I have also noticed that if you go to the Niagara escarpment out toward Burlington you can also get a decent viewing of the fall colours.
So lastly I would also suggest that you bookmark the Ontario Tourism site:
Because it gives a lot of information about where to go in Ontario all year round!! Which may come in handy next summer. Or even in winter. Which is almost upon us. So lets enjoy that autumn for a little longer.
Colours and all!
September 8th 2003
I know I have a weird sense of humour, but you have to admit that aside from being totally ironic, there is something immensely amusing in the fact that the Black Creek “PIONEER” Village here in Toronto was closed down as a result of the POWER blackout we had recently!!
I have written about Black Creek before. It is a village to the north of Toronto that preserves history for future generations. The village itself is a hybrid of all the different styles of houses and activities alive in the 1800's and is well worth a visit.
Except during blackouts it seems!!
When the ability to practice what is preached seems removed from reality!!
So we had a night of brotherhood and calm where everyone helped each other and had a great time getting back to basics. We even listened to the premier and tried to conserve energy by switching off appliances and air-conditioning, which, given that we then had a few days of immense heat, was a very trying experience for most of the population.
You have to understand that even the “poor” people in Toronto will have the basic amenities of life, which seemingly includes both air-conditioning and cable!!
Wherever you went the lights were dimmed and power saving of all sorts was in force. OK! There were the odd exceptions to this.
Which produced the tried and tested Canadian way to deal with people who abuse the system.
The Snitch Line!!!
I am sure I am not the only one to find this so very “1984”!! I can't understand why this country, which is so strong on individual “rights”, should not only condone this action but even allow local Governments to both set up “action lines” and then inform the populace to “snitch” on each other.
And that was deliberately said. I know the intent was to report people abusing the system but as is the usual way things are done here old grudges seem to have been the usual reason for phoning in complaints.
About the only use for that line should have been for the Bay Street buildings ablaze with lights the next night and the Garages who set out to totally gouge the local populace.
Yes the garages (sorry Petrol Stations…must learn the correct terminology!) all seemed to have raised their prices by 10c overnight but some of them went far further than that. Many of them putting the price up to the $1 mark. These are the people who should have been reported and boycotted. Not Mrs. Jones down the street with emphysema and attitude who needs to have fresh air-conditioned air.
Of course the egg dance from all quarters about all sorts of things involved with the blackout was fascinating.
I continue to be amazed at how the Federal Government basically ignores Ontario and gives them the huge finger every time a crisis occurs here. Mainly because if it wasn't for Ontario, and specifically the GTA, the Ottawa Liberal clowns wouldn't have the power that they do! In fact this is their voter power base!
SARS, the Mad cow disease, West Nile Virus and the Blackout.
On each and every occasion the Federal Government has basically snubbed the Ontario Government and its people with offers of help that basically were a slap in the face.
Eyebrows are being raised here though.
With all that and the “Gay marriage” debate I can see an interesting election next year.
Which of course is when Chretien steps down as party leader and Paul Martin probably takes over. There is talk that Chretien is doing all he can to screw Martin in his efforts as Prime Minister and a lot of his latest actions seem to bear this out!!
Should be an interesting year politically!
Meanwhile back here and in this year again, I have noticed that there has been an increase in every foodstuff in the stores. I can only presume that it is as a result of the food that was destroyed after the blackout.
I believe that the term “erring on the side of caution” was written for a country far less anal than Canada!
Personally I wouldn't have thrown away a tenth of what was actually destroyed but I suppose when you live in litigatious North America then that is the wiser route to take
So as I walk around the stores I have noticed an average of about 10c increase on all the foodstuffs. Including of course the non-perishables that remained and wouldn't have been affected at all.
Of course soaking the masses is a time-honoured tradition in this last bastion of socialism!
The Labour Day weekend coming up I expect to see rapid and ugly rises in the price of petrol again. Only this time it will be as a result of “the blackout”! Of Course!!
I just wonder if any of the people caught in the normal OPP traffic blitz will use that as an excuse as well.
Every year, on every long weekend the OPP announces a major blitz on the highways. Every year, on every long weekend they catch hundreds of brain dead fools who either don't read the newspapers or more likely, don't watch television!!
Except for the person pulled over with his tracksuit pants around his ankles and an embarrassed girlfriend! Apparently he watched too much TV. Just the wrong channels.
That's what you call blowing your chances!
No doubt they will catch hundreds of speedsters, people with lapsed licences or even no licence driving on the highways. It happens every weekend without fail. And I just shake my head at the stupidity of it all!
Well no not really because despite all that they still have very few fatalities here. Which is something that still seems to occur on a horrific scale in South Africa.
So we appear to have stupid fools driving here. Not Suicidal ones!!
Which is why they have so many laws being passed in Government. Protecting their own kind obviously!!
Time to go and see whether the price of petrol has dropped yet!
September 1st 2003
The joke doing the rounds this morning is that come May we can expect a huge upsurge in the birth statistics for Ontario!!
Obviously Canadians only having one thing on their minds when there is a blackout like the one we had on Thursday afternoon!
About 16h00 on Thursday afternoon there was a power blackout that affected virtually all of eastern North America. Most of Ontario having no power at all.
No one seems to know where it started or why and so far I have heard many conflicting versions.
A relay station in Manhattan. Lightning hitting the power station at Niagara Falls. The nuclear power station in Pennsylvania having a meltdown. A power station in Ohio blowing up. No one in fact seems to have exactly what happened pinpointed as of yet. Except various Canadian Government Ministers who all agreed that it happened in the US. And various American spokesmen who all agreed that it happened in Canada!!
Although everyone agrees that it wasn't a terrorist attack. No sirree bob!!
So whatever happened, and why, the fact remains that this was the worst blackout in history. Affecting half a billion people, and at rush hour as well.
Everyone trying to get home, down lifts, through traffic and on the Underground and GO trains. All of which use electricity. All of which had none!!
At which stage once again the Canadian way of doing things came to the fore. Almost as if it was programmed hundreds of citizens began to do things like direct traffic, help others and generally provide an air of calm to the proceedings.
Well in Toronto at least!! I believe that the one city in Canada that did have trouble with looting and general anarchy was Ottawa!!
And speaking of Ottawa it is becoming rather embarrassing that every time there is a crisis involving Canada our esteemed Prime Minister is always having to be dragged off a Golf Course to make his idiotic pronouncements. We have become rather used to his inability to articulate complete sentences but the knee jerk reaction “blame America” is wearing rather thin.
Doesn't the fool have any advisors??? Doesn't he care?
About the only person who makes him look normal is our local “lost” Mayor old “Nooobody” Mel. Who can also open his mouth merely to change feet.
To put it bluntly. When it came to leadership in this whole crisis the federal Government was abysmal. The Provincial Government started off slowly but then acted like they were supposed to. While in Toronto….OK lets just say that the normal bunch of buffoons merely acted according to type.
It was amazing to notice that the Opposition parties in all three tiers of Government also reverted to form and instead of attempting to help out in a time of crisis found it necessary to increase the normal whining tenor of their attacks. The NDP `s Howard Hampton's snide and ignorant comments being perhaps the most ridiculous of the lot.
Which is why it is so heartening to notice that despite electing that bunch of idiots most Canadians don't act like them!!
In fact the calm way everyone reacted to the situation was interesting. And later that night there were neighbourhood gatherings as for the first time in a long time people actually got out of the air-conditioned splendour they normally live in and met the people next door. Of course the air was heavy with the smell of braai's as everyone decided to cook the meat that was beginning to defrost in the fridges! And the sound of hundreds of little children discovering that there are actually stars in the sky (and quite a few adults as well I am sure!) and that if you look up you can see meteors as well!
So while the blackout was a painful experience to a few, for many others it was an eye opener to a few more things that many of the first world people have forgotten!!
So much so that quite a few people were seriously suggesting making it a regular feature!
Those of us who have lived in countries outside the “first world” of course took the whole affair in our stride. Not only did we have the stock of candles and beans “just in case” (remember 1994?!!) but I at least had a battery operated radio which at least allowed me to listen to updates on those stations that had backup generators!
The most ludicrous aspect of that being the Liberal newspapers moaning that the Ontario Premier hadn't come on television to calm the masses!! Well, they were in full sound and fury until someone pointed out that TV's run on electricity as well, at which stage they became very mute!!
And so whoever it was that was working on bringing electricity to the Province did it bit-by-bit, town-by-town and even block-by-block all through the night and for the next two days at least!
We got power back at about 0900 the next morning.
Looks like they went into each local power grid and threw the switches one
by one actually. I was listening to them do that in Guelph and Burlington. Switch by switch they reported as each area lit up and people were with electricity again.
And so it went on area by are and city by city and block by block until eventually the whole of Ontario was back on line and able to use air-conditioning again!!
And then on Saturday I noticed what for me was a very interesting mind set taking place. Panic buying of perishables!! At my local Loblaws and A&P there were queues like you wouldn't believe (orderly as only Canadians can be!!) and every trolley was piled high with....perishable foods like meat, bread, milk and the typical fast food junk foods... I didn't see candles and baked beans in any of them!!!! The even more amazing thing was that most of the people who were buying seemed oblivious of the fact that frozen pizza needs electricity to be cooked. As does meat and most of the other food piled high in their trolleys!!
Oh well if we have any more blackouts at least I know my neighbours will be slapping steaks on the braai again!!
We were warned that we could expect rolling blackouts for a while. This didn't happen, mainly as a result of everyone acting responsibly and consuming less electricity, although it is 38 days (or less) until we get into autumn and the winter months, and, cynic that I am I fully expect the powers that be to start using this blackout as an excuse again.
Ah well this is Canada we all just accept it and carry on quietly!
Totally in the dark and not only figuratively this time!!