October 27th 2003
Sixteen Mile Creek, which winds its way through Oakville, is navigable for a long way upriver.
The yacht clubs have mooring on both sides of the river for a good few miles at least and with a flat bottomed boat you can probably get all the way to the Speer's Road Bridge. Where the rapids would no doubt force you to walk at the very least.
On the port side is a famous restaurant, well known to many South Africans who live in the area. Sharkeys is a pub, a grill house, a restaurant and a very good venue for sitting outside with your friends and basking in the sunlight as you watch the boats going up and down the river.
In summer that is!
Come autumn and the outside area is really only populated by squirrels doing some last minute shopping before hibernation.
I was reminded of this when we made one of our last trips up river the other day.
In summer patrolling upriver is done as much to “fly the flag” as it is to check out the talent lazing at the tables.
Or on the boats! Many of the boating fraternity preferring to lounge around on deck, half clothed, clutching a Gin and tonic and generally giving off that slightly superior air that they think shows that they are rich!! Which would be much more impressive if they were actually outside under steam. With the price of marine fuel nowadays that is the true test of the filthy rich!!
Aside from the odd surly person we are normally greeted warmly as we go about our business. After all it doesn't do to tempt the Gods when a boat marked “Rescue” goes by and you may be very grateful someday to have them nearby!!
Not that we would ever not rescue anyone!
And when we pull someone off the rocks as happened outside Bronte Harbour last weekend word tends to spread. Especially when it is done in the middle of thick fog and we were putting ourselves into the same danger in order to help.
That was when I first noticed the distinct change in weather.
First of all, when you are working with stranded boats and tossing lines there tends to be a fair amount of water involved. Cold water. Freezing cold water!
Which was probably the reason for the Fog in the first place.
Secondly, fog is wet! The sort of creeping, seeping, all round wet that gets everywhere. So you look you have been showering with all your clothes on.
Thirdly there is a wind that springs up as soon as you get fully wet. This never happens before you are wet or even when you are half wet. Only when you are fully wet and the surface area that can become iced up is at the maximum allowable!
Actually I am more than convinced that Poseidon has an extremely nasty sense of humour. A few weeks back we were involved in a search and rescue at night. Having a fairly good idea where the target was I volunteered to go on deck and use the Aldis lamp to try to pick it out.
Which I did fairly successfully. No problem! Except for the quickest squall I have ever seen that hit us as we started the rescue!! Not before! Not afterward! Right slap bloody bang in the middle of the rescue!!! And it only moved on once the target was on board.
This mass of moving water that we watched on the radar as a huge blip, moving away from us!
Actually it was pointed out to me with much merriment by the rest of the crew who wisely had kept their heads down in the cabin for the duration!! Not to mention the fact that they thought mentioning Niagara Falls and myself as potential partners was also funny!! As was the squelching sound my socks made inside my shoes!
Actually I am happy it happened then and not this week. This week it was freezing; the waves were getting into the two-metre range and breaking over the bow.
This is a solid steel boat by the way. Which means that it gets cold. Very cold. And if you haven't got gloves and need to work with things, you discover very quickly how cold it can get in Canada!!
Which brings me back to Sixteen Mile Creek and our trip up river this time. Having been involved in the rescue of a stolen boat the week before (we have fun sometimes!!) we were checking out where it had been moored, as well as looking at the jetties and berths that had been denuded recently as boats and yachts were put ashore for the winter!
Boat hibernation I suppose!
Which was when I noticed that the river had taken on a hue of the most beautiful red, yellow and gold! On the west of the river there are lots of Maple trees. The night before there had been a bad wind which had obviously blown away the normal fall show leaf spectacular.
Almost all of which seemed to have made a carpet on the river!
As we moved slowly upriver the leaves were churned up and pushed aside by the wash. Because the leaves were wet the sunlight reflecting off them changed the colours to those that reminded me of gemstones sparkling. Like crystal. It was one of the prettiest sights I have seen for a long time.
Even if it was as a result of autumn setting in.
There is always something that makes each season distinct and enjoyable on its own here!
We only have a few more days of duty left before we put the rescue boat into hibernation as well. This time I think the Mustang survival suits might be the choice of most of us though.
They are warm and even more important: increase your chances of survival, which is fairly important in water where you may need to be chipped out if you stay in too long come late fall and early winter..
And what leaves are left will be brown.
Not anything like that one day when we had a magic carpet ride.
October 20th 2003
So I had one of the more hectic days I have had for some time. Working for Elections Ontario that is!!
As I said elsewhere I was an Area Manager for the Halton Region and more specifically for the Oakville A part of the Halton Region on Election Day.
Having spent quite a few days ensuring that the four different polling stations I was in charge of, were staffed and ready to open on time it was actually a bit of a relief to wake up early on Thursday without a whole horde of messages waiting for me telling me that a bunch of people had suddenly decided that they didn't need the hassle in their lives.
Thankfully most of the people working in my stations wanted the pay more than the problems and had decided that dealing with the public was an easy way to do it!
So by 07h30 I was up and on the road. Checking out the stations to see whether there where any visible problems and making contact with those of my polling station Returning Officers who had also risen early and were starting to set things up!
Thankfully I had been around every station and checked that all the personnel were in place by a quarter to eight. At which stage I had to phone head office and give them the thumbs up for my area.
Apparently in the last elections quite a few polling stations had not opened up on time and this seemed to be the driving force behind the motivation for this years election. Make sure that all the stations opened on time and that there were happy smiling people there to welcome Joe Citizen when they came to cast their votes!
Which I am happy to report was the case in each of the stations that reported to myself!!
Including the happiness factor I am happy to report. Although this may have had more to do with certain Area Managers and a certain Tim Horton's than anything else. Tim Horton's for those of you who haven't been following my commentary and who aren't living in Canada being a certain coffee flavoured nectar of the Gods without which most Canadians are unable to function!!
So having ensured that the poll clerks and returning officers were in place, full of Tim's and smiling we opened the doors at 0900!
At which stage the trickle stampeded in!!
Now I am used to having the tents, razzmatazz and the general hive of activity that seemed to involve every election in South Africa.
My memory is of tents and party spokesmen and koeksisters and all sorts of enticing smells and shouts and activity designed to entice voters into the area and of course to vote …”ahem” correctly!!
So to have no activity from political parties at all is a bit of a shock!!
And very, very boring!!!
You see, apparently it is forbidden to have any political activity anywhere near the polling stations on Election Day.
OK I am a bit confused here. You see I was under the impression that this would be the perfect time to have all the hoopla and political machinations involved with an election. It seems though that Canadians don't like that!
Far more preferable to have all the lies and bull cluttering up the news than actually attempting to coerce people on election day!!
I don't know! I find it rather sad that there isn't any “dog and pony show” taking place. I find it rather ridiculous that the parties actually haven't the ability to at least get involved right at the final decision.
It was in fact quite boring outside the station!!
The only excitement being voters complaining about the opposition parties' banners that were supposedly obscuring the Elections Station banner. My decision on that being that they were and that the parties needed to remove them.
Which they did!!! No argument!!
So typically Canadian!!
Most of the problems I had involved immigrants and these kept me busy all day.
One particular polling station kept contacting me on the cell and getting me back there to make a decision on various problems that arose. I think that in many case it was because as an immigrant myself I wasn't afraid to make a decision.
For some reason Canadians have a serious problem with making a decision and especially one where they may have to confront someone who disagrees with their decision! Or even worse where they may have to confirm the “multicultural” aspect of the problem.
One such problem involved a woman who, while definitely a Canadian citizen, had NO identification whatsoever with regard to living in the same house as her husband. Even her Citizenship Card was an old one that didn't have a photo ID validity and because she wasn't registered and everything was in the name of her husband there was no way we could allow her to vote!! It was intriguing to realise that in their haste to slavishly allow cultural differences this was one area where Canadians had slipped up when it came to providing every opportunity to allow even the devious to viote.
I say that because I had to disqualify her from voting even though I knew she was qualified to vote!! While at the same time I was forced to allow at least five people to vote even though my gut feeling was that they weren't qualified to vote.
The problem here being that you are NOT allowed to query a persons Canadian Citizenship. In fact you are not allowed to ask for proof of Citizenship at all!!
Which is ridiculous as far as I am concerned. Especially where you have a case of a woman who can vote but can't prove it and then you have people who won't prove that they can vote.
I am sorry but as a new citizen I find it insulting that anyone can vote without proving their right to do so!!
Ah well. At least I followed the letter of the law on both cases. Probably just as well actually.
So I spent most of the day driving in between Polling stations sorting out problems and ensuring that everything was running smoothly. Oddly enough it actually did.
Even when it came to counting of the votes and all of a sudden “scrutineers” arrived en masse at every location, there were no untoward hiccups and we had finalized every count at every station by 21h00 that evening!
At which stage I had to go to each polling station, collect the ballots, see that everything was finalized, tidy and clean, let the people go home and then….go to the elections office with all the ballots and check in.
Which is an half hour drive!!
And we aren't talking in a suburban area either. To get from my area to Milton where the Elections Ontario head office was is half an hour drive and takes a few back roads as well!!
Which means that I was only really finished at 23h00 and that is a 15-hour day when you look at it…no matter how good the pay was!!
I just wonder sometimes whether all the comments I made about how to make the election better will ever be acted upon.
Actually I wonder if I will be back at the next election given that some of my decisions were definitely not politically correct, nor, for that matter, wishy washy enough!
We shall see.!
In the meantime I am learning much about the whole political process. Enough to make me annoyed. Which means that I will have to get involved one day.
More's the pity!
The most astonishing factor in the Provincial Elections has been what are referred to as “Attack Ads”!!
I still cannot get used to seeing TV adverts where the leaders of political parties attack each other in really basic ways! And I don't mean attack the other party's policies. I mean attack the person!!
As in “He's not up to the task” and pictures of the other parties leaders that show them in really unflattering lights! Not to mention the blatant lies and misinformation that gets bandied about and reported on by an extremely partisan media!!
One of the most astonishing being a comment that was passed to the press which likened Dalton McGuinty of the Liberal part to an “nasty kitten eating alien”:
OK When you go a bit deeper there were many reasons why this was said. Not the least being that it was tacked on to a memo that was making light of the Liberals own habit of being hypocritical when it came to attacking the Tories. The press lapdogs attached at the hip to the Liberal Party of course conveniently forgot that. It was pounced on with alacrity and used to show that the Tories were “fighting foul”!!
Now, unless you happen to be a mainstream voter in Ontario, you should be aware that all the parties involved in the election were attacking the opposition leaders and parties with a venom that made even the Americans pale by comparison.
The Americans by the way not even bothering to put up the pretence that they are not doing this. Only the Canadian media does that!!
I was astonished at the open, naked hostility that was displayed by the TV networks and the print media in this election.
There was no attempt to try to display even handedness. It was all out war.
In fact on some stations I was waiting for even one reporter to make a halfhearted attempt to ask McGuinty a question that would break a sweat never mind make him squirm. I waited in vain!!
And then we had the famous “televised debate with the party leaders”!!
Three party leaders.
The three main party leaders.
Left out completely was the leader of the Green Party. And the Libertarian Party. And a few other parties as well!
It was nice to see that some studio executive had decided that I and every other voter were only interested in the views of the three main parties!
In fact because they all lied so much I would much rather have had the Green Party there if only to have another voice to listen to. And hopefully one that wasn't groomed by American spin doctors to be a smarmy little git!
Dalton McGuinty having used taxpayer's money to go the United States (which apparently every Liberal hates with a passion…except when it suits them!!) and take a course in public speaking and presentation!! Thus allowing him to be less wooden and more articulate than before. Which from what I saw put him just this side of the dime store Indian that stands outside smoke shops!!
Oddly enough this misuse of the taxpayers money seemed to be conveniently forgotten by all and sundry at the time!
As for the “great debate” it was a total farce. If this schoolboy bickering and point scoring is indicative of the intelligence of the so-called leaders of our Provincial parties then it doesn't surprise me that we always have such a low voter turnout. . Nor that the youth of this Province are so cynical about the whole process.
I am cynical about the fools that were standing there lying through their back teeth about factors that will influence my life and then expecting me to vote for them??
Oh for the African way of settling this with an AK47.
OK That was a joke all right?!
Well sort of! Because you see I wonder how these smarmy lying oleaginous misrepresentatives of the people would do in Africa where they may just have to account for their actions and words in more ways than the ballot box!!
Sadly I have to report though that they merely pander to the lowest common denominator in the populace. Listening to the people around me when they are discussing the election and the parties and even the leaders, I am time and again driven to frustration at the seemingly ignorant way they accept the lies!!
Which given that this will intimately affect the next four years of their lives is frightening!!
I don't know. Maybe there is a degree of cynicism here that merely allows this to go ahead.
For me it was an eye opener. Annoying as well.
My family, and myself, being involved in politics in Africa for centuries I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that I will need to get involved here as well.
So much for a quiet citizenship!