December 31, 2008

Making Parliament more relevant to Canadians

As published in The Erin Advocate

After my recent musings on the possibility of a coalition government in Ottawa, I received an email from an irate reader. He said if I thought we need a government created by the Bloc and the Liberals, then I was not from Erin.

It is true that I was not born and raised here, and maybe I would be more Conservative in my politics if I had been. Still, there is some value in expressing views that may only be shared by a minority of readers.

To be clear about the coalition, I am a federalist and have no sympathy for the Bloc Québécois. But I do not fear and loathe them, since they operate peacefully, within the law. I have faith in democracy, no matter what it brings us.

Actually, political parties have very little impact on our daily lives. I would be glad to see the current government work successfully, but if a coalition took power by legal means, I say let them have a crack at it. They would probably be no worse than the governments to which we have become accustomed, in which good intentions have been undermined by arrogance, instability, incompetence, wastefulness et cetera.

Politicians often try to whip up public fear of their opponents, but we are wise to take it with a grain of salt. After all, neither Mike Harris nor Bob Rae was able to destroy the province of Ontario, despite the claims of their foes. We have become impervious to our politicians, and they have become irrelevant to us.

As I pondered the irrelevance of Parliament, what should arrive in my mailbox but the Christmas newsletter from MP Michael Chong?

Naturally, the page one message is on the economy, praising the government’s recent Economic Statement. (He does not mention that parts of the statement were so offensive to the majority of MPs that the government almost collapsed.) People may argue about the best strategy, but at least the protection of Canadian jobs and confidence in the financial sector is on the front burner.

More interesting in Chong’s newsletter is an excerpt from a speech he gave this year, calling for reforms to make Parliament more relevant. He has some excellent suggestions, reinforcing his image as an MP willing to express his own views.

He blasts the current Question Period, calling for civilized, reasoned debate instead of yelling and screaming. “It is a place that more resembles a Roman coliseum where gladiators spill blood and fight for the crowd’s emotions,” he said.

He suggests the maximum time for asking or answering a question be increased from 35 seconds to one or two minutes, to allow for more intelligent content. He questions the predictable behaviour of many MPs. “Virtually all questions and answers are followed by clapping and standing ovations,” he said.

He also proposes a rotational schedule for government ministers to be present at Question Period. Currently, the duties surrounding Question Period can knock three hours out of a minister’s day, time that could be spent more productively.

I would not want to see the prime minister appearing only once a week – that would seem a bit too aloof. But two or three times a week would be plenty for all ministers, unless there was a particular crisis that concerned them.

Chong also criticizes the custom of having debate speeches written in leaders’ or ministers’ offices, then read into the record by MPs who have no input into the content. There is a long tradition of frustration among backbenchers, who run for office to make a difference, and then find themselves treated as mindless bolts in a big machine.

Unfortunately, the zeal for reform tends to fade among those who make it into powerful positions. Still, the democratization of Parliament remains a noble pursuit.

“If members know how they are voting before debate begins, then there is no real reason to listen or to participate in debate,” said Chong. “There should be greater latitude for non-cabinet ministers to freely express their views and to vote as they wish on many more issues.”

I think MPs should have sufficient useful information to hold the government accountable for its plans, be involved in initiating research through parliamentary committees and have longer tenures with committees to build up expertise. Influencing public policy is best done before the formal partisan battle lines are drawn.

Chong warns that Parliament is not indestructible: “We must be careful not to ignore it and its problems, for one day the dam of irrelevance and frustration that Canadians feel about this institution may burst. At that juncture one can only guess what the outcome will be.”

December 24, 2008

Let’s increase support for EWAG Food Share

As published in The Erin Advocate

In many ways, our lives are defined by the things we do out of habit. It struck me recently that it has been some time since I donated to the EWAG Food Share program. I used to give on a fairly regular basis, but with various distractions and changes in schedule, I got out of the habit.

Right now, more local people need support. I have started picking a few extra items when I am in the grocery store, and dropping them in the donation bin behind the checkout. I know that many people are already doing a lot for the community, but still more can get involved.

Donations of money are certainly valuable and welcome, but actually buying food and giving it forms a special bond, since the need for food is something we all have in common.

The cost of food is going up much faster than the rate of inflation. The Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Health Unit reported in September that the weekly cost of providing healthy meals to a family of four had risen 11.5% in one year, to $149 per week.

"Making healthy food choices is essential for normal growth and development, and to prevent disease,” said WDG Public Health Dietitian, Jane Bellman. “The survey results reinforce the need to assess the adequacy of social assistance in the province as well as increase the support of local initiatives to assist individuals and groups with limited incomes."

Illness or family break-up can put people in need of help. Families where both parents work at low-paying jobs are also vulnerable to financial emergencies, especially if they have to maintain a vehicle. A report to the Canadian senate this fall on rural poverty identified lack of public transportation as huge problem, with no easy solutions.

With the current turmoil in the economy, even more people are in distress. During one week recently, EWAG took on three new clients due to layoffs, said Food Share Coordinator Kelly Stockdale.

“The community has been very generous,” she said. Most of the food is donated through schools, churches, service clubs and businesses. Foodland in Hillsburgh and ValuMart in Erin village provide help, including bins for individual donations. You can also drop non-perishable food off at the EWAG offices: Erin - 45 Main Street, or Rockwood - 106 Church Street.

The major food collections are at Thanksgiving and Christmas, creating a stock that has to last through much of next year. Regular donations will help replenish the supply, to help it go further. Overall, in 2007, EWAG provided 3,928 bags of groceries to 291 families.

Erin Firefighters recently held a barbecue, gathering donations of food, money and toys. That has helped EWAG provide Christmas packages to about 55 families.

Deciding to seek help from a food bank can be very difficult, and people often put it off until their situation becomes serious, said Kelly.

“We treat everyone with respect, and provide confidentiality,” she said. If you are in need of food, call Kelly at 519-833-9696, ext. 222.

People need to apply, showing evidence of their current income and expenses. Once approved, they can get some groceries once a month, with a private appointment at the food distribution site.

If you are in a position to donate bulk supplies, call Kelly to find out what is particularly needed, and what they can handle.
Sometimes, it seems that there are so many charities out there and so many needs that it can be overwhelming. Perhaps the best strategy is to pick a few positive, concrete actions, then actually do them.

Send your comments to me:, or send a Letter to the Editor:

December 17, 2008

New push for rural garbage collection

As published in The Erin Advocate

I am tired of driving to the dump.

Of course, I know it is not really a dump, just a transfer station on top of a old dump, where I dump my trash into dumpsters, so big trucks can take it to Guelph and dump it into a modern sanitary landfill site.

The Hillsburgh Transfer Station really is a bit of a dump – crowded, inefficient and often very muddy. Wellington County quite properly treats it as a temporary location, since it sits atop an old landfill site that must eventually be properly capped and sealed off. But surely we could afford a layer of crushed stone, so people would not have to slide around in the muck.

I have made the 30-kilometre round trip every almost every Saturday for the last 23 years, and though now it is down to once every two weeks, I have still wasted a lot of gas and time. I would be willing to pay slightly more in taxes or fees to have my garbage picked up at the end of my driveway.

County Councillor Lou Maieron, who hosted a public meeting in Erin last week on waste issues, says I should not have to pay any more in taxes. He argues it would be possible to provide roadside collection of household waste and recyclables every two weeks to rural residents and maintain weekly collection for urban residents, by cutting back the functions of transfer stations.

They could be converted to recycling centres, open only one day a week, with a lot less staff. Regular trash would go direct to the landfill, while the local centres would accept bulky items, household hazardous waste and useable goods that could be re-sold at low cost.

“If you make it convenient, people will produce less garbage,” said Maieron. “Space in our landfills is precious – we can’t just fill them up.”

Several years ago, the County bought up the land surrounding the old Hillsburgh Landfill Site because of pollutants seeping underground. Recently, it sold the southern 41 acres of that land to the Town of Erin for $300,000, so the Barbour recreational complex can be expanded.

Maieron says the County-owned lands just to the north of the existing transfer station would be perfect for a new recycling centre or transfer station, since that type of land use is already accepted in the area.

He seems to have support in Erin, but the majority of county councillors do not agree with him on the cost-effectiveness rural pick-up. The County had hoped to serve both Erin and Guelph-Eramosa with a large transfer station near Ospringe, but opposition in Erin has put that plan on hold.

Alan McGeary of Erin, who last year organized a 1,400-name petition to keep the Hillsburgh Transfer Station open for now, applauded Maieron’s efforts to promote curbside collection and improve recycling.

“It is time for the county council to listen to the people who pay their salaries,” he said, earning a round of applause at the meeting.

I like Maieron’s plan, both for the convenience and the environmental benefits, but I think some rural people may object to only getting pickup only every two weeks, and may actually prefer to drive to the transfer station.

“Maybe municipalities should have a choice of service levels,” he said. “Living in the higher-assessed areas, we’re paying the ticket.”

The recently-ended rural collection pilot project found most residents in Minto were not interested in pick-up, since they have an excellent transfer station nearby, while those in Guelph-Eramosa appreciated the service, and will continue to get it, since they have no transfer station.

“The ice is cracked, with Guelph-Eramosa getting collection,” he said.

About 20 people attended the meeting, which was broadcast live on Erin Radio, and many said the waste service in Wellington County is very poor compared to neighboring regions. Some were skeptical that universal pick-up could be provided without an increase in taxes, especially since Maieron said he has been trying for years, without success, to find out the exact costs of running transfer stations.

Erin homeowners already pay an average of $4.50 per week through their property taxes for county waste services. Rural residents then pay $1 per bag at the transfer station (no charge for recyclables). Urban residents can pay $1.75 per bag for curbside pickup, but each week, hundreds of them opt to drive to the transfer station, saving 75 cents per bag.

You can let Maieron and other county officials know your opinion on current waste services, and what you hope to see in the future, by filling out a survey. Have it sent to you by contacting him at, or check the Town website,, where Mayor Rod Finnie hopes to have it available soon.

December 10, 2008

Are we too cautious to accept a coalition?

As published in The Erin Advocate

The upheaval on Parliament Hill last week has launched a furious debate about the type of government Canadians are willing to accept. The debate is long overdue, but it occurs at a time when politicians should be taking action to preserve our quality of life.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has convinced the Governor General to suspend parliament, delaying a non-confidence motion that would remove his minority government from office. The Liberals and New Democrats, with the backing of the Bloc Québécois, may still form an unprecedented coalition government after parliament resumes next month.

The delay of government business during an economic crisis is alarming, but it will give Canadians a chance to consider their options. Could a coalition provide stability, broad representation and effective action? In an interview last week, Wellington-Halton Hills Conservative MP Michael Chong said the coalition would not be good for Canada.

“It is time to set aside the political games, and focus on the real concerns of Canadians, like jobs, and people’s savings,” he said. “I am appalled that the Liberals would enter into an agreement with the separatists.”

The Bloc Québécois would not be a coalition member, but has promised not to defeat it for 18 months. Chong said while a coalition would be legal, it would put the Bloc too close to the executive powers of cabinet. He urged the opposition to “step back from the brink” since they have already forced the government to retract parts of its economic statement. “We were wise to remove the partisan elements,” he said.

Too bad the wisdom did not kick in a little sooner, because now it looks like sheer panic. With the backing of only 37 per cent of voters and minority of seats, Stephen Harper had an obligation to forge enough of an alliance with at least one other party to keep parliament working.

He not only failed to consult, but took provocative action to damage the opposition. Then, in a desperate effort to save his job, he has offended the nation by trying to whip up false fears about Quebec separation. He was always glad to have Bloc Quebecois support when they voted with him, and he even plotted with them, hoping to replace a Liberal minority government.

Harper is also wrong when he labels the coalition “undemocratic”, considering that the MPs who have agreed to cooperate represent a majority of Canadian voters. It is true that Canadians did not vote specifically for a coalition, and have every right to be skeptical of such a break with tradition. But since we live in a fractured society, we should learn more about coalitions. They are recognized throughout the world as valid democratic forms of government. The situation may be risky and unstable, but it is not undemocratic.

As for the Liberals, perhaps they were in power for so long that they forgot one of the primary responsibilities of the opposition: to have a leader in place who is competent to take over as prime minister if the need arises. Instead of choosing one of their top contenders, they compromised on Stéphane Dion, a man incapable of communicating effectively with the public. The Liberals need a leadership convention in January, not in May.

I would be willing to give the coalition an opportunity to govern, but I do not think it will happen. The Conservatives will launch a massive public relations campaign, and alter their economic plan to include most of the opposition demands. The Liberals are likely to splinter under the pressure and the coalition will fall apart, to be remembered as an experiment that Canadians were too cautious to even attempt. The next election will be soon.

The crisis also shines a spotlight on a serious flaw in Canada’s constitution – our attachment to the British monarchy. Her Excellency, the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, Governor General of Canada, represents Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Canada’s head of state.

Of course, elected politicians handle almost every aspect of government. But when there is a crisis, we must turn to the Governor General, who is suddenly faced with serious decisions. Jean will be guided by law, tradition and concern for the interests of Canadians. She was not, however, chosen by Canadians, only appointed by a prime minister. Governors General can never earn the authority that they hold.

The time has come to cut the final colonial cord and set our own course as a grown-up nation. Canadian politics should be none of Britain’s business – as the British themselves would agree. We have our own constitution and the power to amend it. We should do so, and take full control of our affairs.

December 03, 2008

Proper etiquette helps fight the flu

As published in The Erin Advocate

Now that the flu season is upon us, are you following the proper etiquette for coughing and sneezing?

From a young age, we are trained to cover our mouths, to avoid spraying germ-laden water droplets into the air. When we cough or sneeze into our hands, however, we then spread germs when we touch doorknobs, phones and computer keyboards.

Public health officials are campaigning to re-train everyone to cough or sneeze into their upper sleeves, if no tissue is available, and to wash their hands if they forget.

The Ontario Ministry of Health runs a website called, where you can get information, and see an instructional video on sleeve-coughing.

Are you following the ministry guideline of washing your hands properly, at least five times a day? It is not rocket science, but it can be difficult to get into the habit: 15 seconds of lathering with soap, rinsing with warm water, then a thorough drying. You can also use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

Avoiding the flu is important, even for generally healthy people who could easily withstand a bout of it. There is the risk that you could transmit the virus to someone who is more vulnerable.

“The most effective way to protect yourself from flu is to be vaccinated yearly,” said Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Nicola Mercer.

Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health is hosting a Flu Clinic next Tuesday, November 9, from 3 pm to 7 pm, at Centre 2000. It is a walk-in clinic only – no appointments.

Flu shots are free to everyone in Ontario who wants one, a policy that has saved lives, especially among the elderly. Flu immunization decreases physician visits, hospitalization and the incidence of pneumonia.

Free flu shots are also available from your family doctor. If you don’t have a doctor, and cannot make it to the Erin clinic, call the health unit at 1-800-265-7293, ext. 4624, to book an appointment in Guelph, Fergus, Orangeville or Shelburne.

A new formula for the vaccine is created each year, so people need to be re-vaccinated. It takes about two weeks for the protection to take effect. You can still catch the disease, but it is likely to be less severe if you have had the shot. The vaccine does not contain any live virus, so you cannot get the flu from the flu shot.

The only people who should not get the shot are children under six months of age, people allergic to eggs, and those who have had a serious reaction to a previous flu vaccine. It is most beneficial to those at risk of complications if they get the flu: young children, pregnant women, those over 65 and those with asthma, diabetes or heart disease.

Some people do not like getting a needle. There is a nasal spray flu vaccine, but it is not available in Canada, said Susan Otten, manager of the local immunization program. She suggests that three seconds of discomfort with a flu shot is better than three weeks in bed with the flu. Anti-viral medication for those with the flu is usually held in reserve to fight serious outbreaks, she said.

Some are concerned about possible side effects. Mild seffects such as swelling at the injection spot are rare. Cases of red eyes with respiratory distress are extremely rare. Also extremely rare, with an uncertain connection to the flu shot, are cases of a nerve disorder called Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS). The risk of illness and death due to influenza is far greater than the risk of serious side effects.

Some do not trust the mainstream advice of doctors, and consider the flu shot an overly-aggressive intrusion into the immune system. They may turn to alternative treatments, such as those offered by Homeopath Stephanie Marwood, through the Kulhay Wellness Centre, at 165 Main Street in Erin – (519) 833-0031.

She is offering free treatments with Influenzinum, a oral remedy that is an extreme dilution of this year’s regular flu vaccine. It does not contain the material substance of the vaccine, just its healing energy and essence, she said. Manufacturer Homeocan says it can help prevent flu and its symptoms, but like the regular flu shot, there are no guarantees.

“It works with the energy of the body,” said Marwood. “It is very gentle and there are no side effects.”

I do not know if the homeopathic method is effective – I would probably be too skeptical to benefit from it. However, I do believe that people have a right to make choices, and the responsibility to educate themselves, when it comes to health care.

November 26, 2008

Erin residents rally to fight Rockfort quarry

As published in the Erin Advocate

The proposed Rockfort Quarry may be in Caledon, but it has many Erin residents worried about potential harm to their well water and the rural environment.

They made their voices heard at a public meeting last Wednesday at the Caledon Country Club, hosted by the Coalition of Concerned Citizens (CCC), which has fought the quarry plan for almost 12 years.

Proposed by James Dick Construction Limited (JDCL), the 220-acre open-pit mine would replace farmland on the Erin-Caledon border at Winston Churchill Boulevard and Olde Baseline Road, providing dolostone for the construction of highways, bridges and buildings.

The latest in a series of environmental studies by JDCL has been reviewed by Caledon, Peel Region and the Credit Valley Conservation Authority. All three will take formal positions on the project early in 2009. On December 10, 7 pm, at the Community Complex in Caledon East, people can get more information and express their views to Caledon Council. On May 25, a hearing begins at the Ontario Municipal Board, possibly lasting six months.

“We estimate it will take $1 million to wage the fight,” said Willa Gauthier of Erin, who hosts a huge, annual fundraising garage sale at her farm. With a golf tournament and other events, about $100,000 is raised annually, she said. The CCC has launched an additional fundraising drive, to hire the best possible advice and expert witnesses for the OMB hearing.

CCC concerns include industrialization of a rural area, harm to trout fisheries and rare wildlife, damage to wetlands, reduction in the water table, contamination of waters above and below-ground that flow south into the Credit River, reduced property values, noise, dust and up to 1,000 extra trucks per day on Caledon roads.

“These threats are simply too risky, harmful and expensive to judge this as an acceptable site,” said Bob Gardner of Erin, a CCC director. He said methods proposed for mitigating water impacts are “uncertain at best”, and have never been tried on this scale.

JDCL would cut up to 100 feet into the water table. A pump system would re-infiltrate quarry water back into the ground. A “grout curtain” – a series of deep holes drilled outside the excavation, filled with impermeable material – would hold back water.

Greg Sweetnam, Vice-President of Resources at JDCL, said the technology is tested and “state-of-the-art”. He said the site would be developed gradually over 10-15 years, with stringent testing and government inspection, so that any hint of trouble could be corrected before any impact was felt.

“There is next to no risk,” he said. The site is ideal, he said, because there are relatively few homes in the area, and it is close to where the stone product is needed, reducing the cost and pollution of trucking. He said the site is not sensitive enough to have been excluded in any of the studies.

“We’re just arguing about extraction timing,” he said. JDCL promises rehabilitation that will include lakes and forest, inspired by other former quarries near Rockwood, Belfountain and Elora. “It will look like a national park in 50 years,” he said.

Caledon is already the fifth largest producer of aggregates among Ontario municipalities, with extraction of 4.7 million tonnes in 2007, according to an industry report. Rockfort could produce up to 2.5 million tonnes per year, with production totaling 39 million over 30 years.

Hydrogeologists have mapped an area in which well water could be affected if JDCL is unsuccessful in maintaining water levels – a worst-case scenario. The map shows serious impact very close to the quarry. A moderate impact zone includes Caledon lands, part of Halton Hills near Terra Cotta, and an area of Erin: west from Winston Churchill to a point between the Eighth and Ninth Lines and a short distance north of 5 Sideroad in the area of Rogers Creek.

Jana Vondrejs of Erin knew nothing of the proposal when she moved into a house across the road two years ago. JDCL says on its website that noise and vibration from drilling and blasting will be “controlled”, but she is very worried.

“If they do this, it would ruin a very special place,” she said, adding that the Town of Erin “is not supporting us as they should.” John Walker of Erin wants town council to hold a meeting to get residents’ views.

Erin Mayor Rod Finnie was not at the Caledon meeting, but later said an Erin meeting was a “possibility”, and suggested residents contact the Town in writing. Both Erin and Wellington County registered objections to the quarry with the province about 10 years ago. Erin stays informed, said the mayor, but has avoided the high costs of direct involvement. After Caledon Council votes its position, Erin Council could decide whether to support it.

Personally, I am opposed to this quarry – by instinct, and what I have heard so far. I have no expertise in environmental risks or the aggregate business, but as a taxpayer I have hired experts to evaluate the evidence, and the OMB to judge wisely for the common good. It may be a cumbersome system, but it appears to be working.

November 19, 2008

Cromaboo, Part Two

As published in The Erin Advocate

In a 1948 letter to the Fergus News-Record, Baptist Johnston of Toronto said, “I am sending you a copy of ‘The Cromaboo Mail Carrier’, written by my great-aunt, Mary Leslie, in the 70’s, under the nom de plume of James Thomas Jones. … Some of the characters were so thinly disguised that my Aunt was threatened with a lawsuit for damages, and on that account the book was withdrawn from circulation.”

Last week’s column was about this 1878 novel, one of the first published in Wellington County, which used the name Cromaboo for the village of Erin. It can be read on-line at

It is not known who threatened the lawsuit. Many village residents are portrayed in a negative way, though never identified by their real names. There’s a “disreputable veterinary surgeon” who poisons our hero, Robert Smith. Could it be the doctor who avoids treating patients? Or perhaps the postmaster, said to be “obstinate as a jackass”?

Although it is fiction, almost any of the 700 inhabitants could have taken offence when a character says that the people of Cromaboo are “all of a lower class, and they are so dreadfully immoral; nearly everybody”.

When some well-to-do folks in the story invite the serving-class Robert to sit at the dining table with them, they are acutely aware of breaking a social taboo. Mary Paxton, the leading lady who resembles the author, is fond of Robert and uncomfortable with the shackles of class distinctions.

“It is the man after all, not his class or occupation, that makes the difference," she says. When Robert’s long-lost father returns and reveals that the family actually has upper class connections, it paves the way for Mary and Robert to wed. That was to occur in the sequel, but alas, it was never published.

The novel also provides a view of the times, as logging companies stripped Ontario of its forests. One character describes the newly-cleared land as “denuded of its beauty and scarred with ugly stumps and weeds.” She remembers an earlier time in the 1830s when she saw Niagara Falls “not as you see it now, but guarded by mighty forests”.

How did the author come up with the name Cromaboo? It could be from “Crom-a-boo”, the war cry of the prominent Fitzgerald clan of Ireland. Crom was the name of a castle that the Fitzgeralds acquired after helping in the Norman invasion of Ireland in 1169-72 AD. It could be translated as “Crom forever”. Another source says the term Crom-a-boo was outlawed by King Henry VII, since it encouraged dissent.

Perhaps the choice of Cromaboo was simply a way for the author to put an obscure Irish label on Erin and show off her European education.

I heard about this novel through an extensive article written by Barb Mitchell, published by the Wellington County Historical Society in 1994, which provided some of my background information. She drew on research done by historian Hazel Mack, who published books on Wellington County in 1955 and 1977. Mary Leslie’s personal papers are stored in the Archives of Ontario.

Leslie worked exclusively as a writer, but was not successful. Strand magazine in England refused to publish the Cromaboo novel in installments, calling it “a little too outspoken”. She had many short stories published in newspapers, but two text books written for Ontario schools were rejected. When she borrowed $100 to publish a book of poetry in 1896, called The Rhymes of Kings and Queens in England, she was unable to repay it with receipts from book sales.

She lived on her family money until middle age, but lost her house during a recession and lived in poverty with her sister in Belwood, near Fergus. She published another book of poetry, Historic Sketches of Scotland, in 1905, and died in Toronto in 1921.

If you have information or comments for me, send an email to:

November 12, 2008

Novel outraged Erin residents

As published in The Erin Advocate

The term “blackguard” is rarely used these days, but if ever it is applied to you, be aware that it refers to a rude, unscrupulous, foul-mouthed scoundrel.

So when a book came out that called Erin “the most blackguard village in Canada”, residents became irate and attempted to have it banned.

Mary Leslie, an upper-class lady who lived on the road between Guelph and Erin, published “The Cromaboo Mail Carrier: A Canadian Love Story” in 1878. Not many copies were sold, but it holds a special place in Canadian literary history, as one of the earliest novels published in the western part of our newly-created country.

As was common for women writers at that time, she uses a masculine pen name (James Thomas Jones), to increase the chances that her work would be taken seriously by publishers and the public.

She gives the name Cromaboo to the village, and the name Gibbeline to Guelph, in an attempt to fictionalize the setting. Her style is dramatic and exaggerated, so there is no way to know whether her descriptions are based more on fact or fantasy. Still, scholars believe that this novel provides unique historical details about rural culture in that era.
Some Erin residents, apparently seeing too much of themselves in various unsavoury characters in the story, threatened to sue the author.

I examined the book at the Wellington County Archives, where they make you wear cotton gloves, so the oil on your skin will not harm the fragile pages. You can read all 296 pages on the Internet – just go to and search for “Cromaboo”. Here is the opening passage:

“Cromaboo is the most blackguard village in Canada, and is settled by the lowest class of Irish, Highland Scotch and Dutch. It consists of seven taverns, six churches, and about one hundred shabby frame houses built on little gravelly mounds. Fights are frequent, drunkenness flourishes, vice abounds; more tobacco is smoked there than in any village of the same size in the Dominion; swearing is so common that it passes unnoticed, and there is an illegitimate child in nearly every house – in some two, in others three, in one six – and the people think it no sin. Yet even in this Sodom, there was at the time of which I write, a Lot.”

She goes on to introduce the village postmaster, Owen Llewellyn, proprietor of the stagecoach that carried the mail from Gibbeline. The other main characters are the hero, Robert Smith, a lower-class 18-year-old stagecoach driver who is in love with the heroine, Mary Paxton, a 32-year-old upper-class lady who lived on the stagecoach route. Her life closely resembles that of the author.

The story notes the progress of the village: “Ah! Times are changed. Now the great Credit Valley Railway passes through Cromaboo, but at the period of which I write such a thing was not dreamt of; a rough uncovered waggon ran between that village and the great town of Gibbeline.”

In real life, that rail line was completed through Erin the year after this novel was published, followed by incorporation of the village.

Cromaboo turns out to be not such a bad place, but the plot evolves ever so slowly. Much of it is about the snobbery of upper class people, the influences of religion, and the evils of alcohol (Erin voted to ban its sale in 1915).

In one dramatic scene, the stagecoach is attacked by Yankee ruffians, who had been hiding in the swamp near the Sixth Line, intent upon raping Mary, who was a passenger. Robert knew the attack was likely, but was ready with his pistol to repel the villains.
“You have saved my life and my honour,” she says.

Leslie sometimes unexpectedly addresses her readers: “Do not be discouraged my reader, and give up the story…I promise to introduce you to the most fashionable people. I promise you romance, adventures, love-making in galore, and finally orange blossoms and wedding favours; kisses – blessings – only have patience.”

The story does not live up to these promises, since the main characters never get around to professing their love for one another. Much more was planned for a sequel called The Gibbeline Flower Seller (Robert’s new occupation), but it was never published.

So how do Mary and Robert bridge the gap between the upper and lower classes? How did the author survive after her novel was forced off the market and she lost her house? And just where did the name Cromaboo come from? The answers to these and many other burning questions will be revealed in the sequel to this column, to be published next week.

November 05, 2008

New strategy needed in Afghanistan

As published in The Erin Advocate

If you have walked along Erin’s Main Street lately, you may have seen a reproduction of a Globe and Mail front page from May 8, 1945 displayed in the window of the Erin Chiropractic Centre. That was VE Day – Victory in Europe – when German forces finally surrendered to the Allies in World War II.

The headline proclaims, “This is victory”. Beneath a photo of a weary solder is an excerpt from a poem called The Song of the Pacifist, by Robert Service:

“When our children's children shall talk of War
as a madness that may not be;
When we thank our God for our grief to-day,
and blazon from sea to sea
In the name of the Dead the banner of Peace
. . . that will be Victory.”

He wrote it after serving as an ambulance driver for the Canadian Red Cross in World War I, the “war to end all wars”. It claimed the lives of 67,000 Canadians, with the total of our dead and wounded representing three percent of Canada’s population at the time. Today, with the war in Afghanistan in its seventh year, the meaning of victory remains elusive.

Remembrance Day is next Tuesday, November 11. Fortunately, it helps raise us above the gritty questions of politics and strategy, to honour those who have died in the service of Canada and the quest for peace around the world. We pay tribute also to the wounded, and to the families of our soldiers, who bear the heaviest of burdens in the war effort.

There will be a Remembrance Day Service and Parade this Sunday, November 9, with a 10:45 am service at the Erin Cenotaph and two minutes of silence at 11:00 am. A parade to the Royal Canadian Legion on Dundas St. E. will be followed by a non-denominational service. On November 11, the cenotaph service starts at 10:45 am.

After Remembrance Day, Canadians should ask some serious questions about Afghanistan. We honour the fallen and show concern for those now fighting when we hold our politicians accountable for our military actions.

Why has the federal government tried to obscure the cost of the war, which may now hit $18 billion by 2011? A parliamentary report in October concluded that MPs had to vote on spending for the mission without knowing the real costs. This is unacceptable in a democracy, one for which so many have given their lives.

Despite the unexpectedly high expenditure, it appears to be insufficient. Despite major progress in some areas, our Coalition has been unable to establish control in southern Afghanistan. We don’t have the troops or firepower to fully suppress a well-funded, highly-motivated enemy. It is now widely accepted that a military victory is not possible in Afghanistan under current conditions.

The loss of 97 Canadian lives is not in itself a reason to reconsider the mission. We expect soldiers to risk their lives to protect our interests, and they accept the risk. But if the current strategy is not working, it makes sense to take a step back until a better one is decided upon.

Our troops should remain in Afghanistan until 2011 as planned, but reduce their active combat role in Kandahar province. We have earned international respect by already doing more than our duty there. I know that parliament has passed a motion to have troops stay in Kandahar, but a change is possible.

Ultimately, we must weigh the costs against the potential benefits. Do we dig ourselves in deeper by applying overwhelming force, or do we accept that bringing stability to the region and countering the global terrorism threat are primarily tasks of diplomacy and economics?

The Afghan poppy crop generates $3.1 billion a year, allowing the Taliban to buy weapons, bribe government officials and pay its soldiers three times what they would make in the Afghan army. NATO forces have no mandate to eradicate the crops and labs, or go after those who run them. The trade will never been totally eliminated, but Afghan government is not yet strong enough to significantly reduce it.

We must find ways to suppress the Taliban’s military funding, influence and recruitment and build up the confidence of all Afghans – including those now loyal to the Taliban – to determine their own future, and work out their differences in peace.

As MP Michael Chong said at the Erin all-candidates meeting recently, “we are not going to defeat the Taliban – they are part of the solution”. He also said we can help mediate between Afghanistan and Pakistan to help negotiate some security for the Pashtun people on both sides of the border.

That sounds more reasonable than invading Pakistan, a possibility that has been raised in the US.

The task of converting tribal cultures into a modern democracy will take many decades, if indeed they want to be converted. Reconstruction has improved conditions in some areas, but the United Nations says Afghanistan remains extremely poor, with lack of basic health care leading to extremely high rates of maternal and infant mortality. Some 1,400 civilians have been killed this year, mostly by Taliban forces, but 395 in Western air strikes. Clearly, war is the worst solution for everyone involved.

This is primarily America’s war, but they have been too busy in Iraq to deal effectively with Afghanistan. An expected surge of US forces would improve the situation for Canadian troops, but it will not solve Afghanistan’s problems.

There is cause for hope, with George Bush about to fade into history, and US General David Petraeus leading a reassessment of American strategy in the region – essentially an admission that the original strategy has not worked well. The review will reportedly focus on reconciliation, economic development and regional diplomacy.

Here in Canada, let us see what the new US president does, and whether a new strategy is actually adopted. Then let us consider whether we will continue fighting in Kandahar province for three more years.

Please make your views known with a Letter to the Editor, or send an email to:

October 29, 2008

Myanmar comes to Erin

As published in The Erin Advocate

If someone asked you to find Myanmar on a map of the world, would you know where to look? Before going to the Myanmar cultural event at Centre 2000 recently, I knew only a few things about the country (known as Burma until 1989).

I remember U Thant, the Burmese diplomat who was Secretary-General of the United Nations from 1961 to 1971. I have read about Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, the opposition leader who has been kept under house arrest by the military government, since her party won an election in 1990.

And of course, most people have heard about the terrible cyclone there, which left more than 140,000 people dead or missing last May, and about the government’s initial reluctance to accept foreign relief aid.

That’s not really a lot to know about a land of 50 million people, which was conquered and named Burma by the English in the 19th century. It is the largest country in mainland Southeast Asia, located east of India, south of China and west of Thailand.

As so often happens, the controversies that make it into the news shed very little light on the everyday people and customs of a country.

Kim Terzi of Erin organized the event at Centre 2000, with members of the Myanmar Cultural Association of Brampton (MCAB), featuring crafts, dance and cuisine. (I can highly recommend the curried beef and mango salad.)
“I wanted to help people know about the culture – it is a very peaceful country,” she said.

Erin residents, including Mayor Rod Finnie, were entertained with a series of graceful dances, including the Candlelight Dance of the Rakhine State, part of the Festival of Lights, which pays respect to elders in the community.

The Brampton association has been prominent at that city’s Carabram festivities, with more than 4,000 people visiting their pavilion this year. They also won an award for their booth at the CNE. More information can be found at

The association is helping three villages back home recover from the cyclone, raising money for medical supplies, tillers, seeds, food and clothing. Many communities in the severely-damaged rice-growing region near the Bay of Bengal are not accessible by road, making relief efforts especially difficult.

Myanmar is primarily a Buddhist nation, and is known for its golden pagodas, or temples. The environment ranges from mountains in the north, to tropical jungle, to the vast Irrawaddy Delta to the south, near the capital city, Yangon.

MCAB Secretary Bessie Terzi helps operate a family business, Mya Yadanar, which imports handcrafted treasures directly from artisans in Myanmar.

“It is called The Golden Land,” she said.

The country is famous for its lacquerware, elaborate bamboo bowls and containers with a high-gloss finish inlaid with gold or other elements, often presented as gifts by the country’s kings.

Then there are the creations in Amboyna Burl Wood, an aromatic hardwood with spectacular grain patterns, the intricate hand-painted umbrellas and the gold-embroidered scarves and tapestries, many featuring images of the elephant. Find out more at

The country is also a major producer of gemstones, especially jade. The Unites States has imposed economic sanctions on Myanmar because of the poor human rights record of the military government, including a ban on importation of gems. Gems are still sold, of course, mainly to Chinese and Thai merchants, with a recent auction raising about $175 million, according to an Associated Press report.

October 22, 2008

Jamboree is quite the party

As published in The Erin Advocate

I dug up my old cowboy boots a few weeks ago, found the oilskin cowboy hat I use for working outside in the rain, threw my new guitar into the back seat and headed on down to the Olde Tyme Country Jamboree at the Erin Legion.

My singin’ and guitar-playin’ normally happen either at church or at folk music circles, so most of it is not country. Still, there ain’t much music I don’t like, and working up a moderate country twang is as easy as rollin’ off a log.

I was expecting a concert-type event, but it is really a big party, with lots of people up dancing to every song. As a newcomer, I was made to feel extremely welcome. Folks were more than just polite, they were eager to sit down and talk.

“People are very friendly,” said Legion Entertainment Chairman Mark Southcott. “They come from all over the place.”

The Jamboree happens monthly at the Legion, except for December. The next one is this Sunday, October 26, 1-5 pm, followed by a roast beef dinner. Regular admission is $5, but if you sign up to sing or play a couple of songs, you get in free. Dinner is $10, with $2 off for entertainers.

It got going ten years ago, at the suggestion of Ken Paisley. From the start, the musical energy has been provided by Rod’s Country Classics, the house band that will back you up on just about any song you can come up with. It features Brian Stevenson on drums, Boyd Dolson on electric guitar, Wilma Dolson tickling the keyboard ivories and Rod Salisbury playing the fiddle.

“It was a success right from the start – Rod brought in an audience,” said Mark, who is retiring and moving to the Sarnia area soon. The Jamboree is an important fundraiser for the Legion, and organizers would love to have more people from the Erin area come and see what it is like. Cowboy attire and the ability to square dance are not mandatory.

When I was there, about 25 people got up to entertain with the house band, creating an amateur talent show that was lots of fun. When it was my turn, I did Yankee Lady by Jesse Winchester and Kisses Sweeter Than Wine by Jimmy Rogers, and was surprised to have lots of people not only dancing, but singing along.

Jamboree lovers will travel all around southern Ontario to meet their friends at events in places like Grand Valley, Shelburne and Caledon East.

The Erin Jamboree is “the best one”, according to Al Anscomb of Inglewood. Three years ago, he had an elderly friend who was no longer able to attend jamborees for health reasons. Al and his buddies put together a musical group, now known as the Caledon Country Boys, to play at the nursing home.

“We would take the jamboree to him,” said Al. “So many good things can happen when you do something nice for someone else.”

Word spread about the group and before long they were being booked to play in many locations – including a recent gig on Main Street in Erin during the Fall Fair.

The Erin Legion, Branch #442, is located at 12 Dundas Street East. For more information on the Olde Tyme Country Jamboree, give them a call at 519-833-2212.

If you have ideas for future Erin Insight columns, or other information for my edification, send an email to: Those with spare time can go on line to check out previous columns at

October 15, 2008

Few applicants for tax rebates

As published in the Erin Advocate

I saw an ad the other day about a Wellington County program that provides partial rebates of property tax increases for low-income seniors and disabled persons, and decided to get more information. It turns out that very few people are applying.

The program provides a rebate of any increase over $150 on the total tax bill for property owners 65 and older who receive the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS), or disabled persons who receive benefits under the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP).

People need to re-apply each year to the Town office, and the deadline for this year is November 1.

Only 21 applications came in from the whole county for 2007, down from 47 in 2005, said Emma Reddish, Property Tax Analyst at Wellington County. The average rebate was $300. The program can be of particular value if taxes rise due to property reassessment.

“People should not pre-determine whether they qualify based on tax bill comparison – if they receive GIS or ODSP they should apply or call,” she said. “Applications are extremely easy to fill out.”

All rebated amounts are shared between the local municipality, Wellington County and the Boards of Education. The rebate is only made once all the property tax for the year has been paid. The program used to apply to tax increases over $300, but in the spring of 2006, County Council lowered the threshold to $150.

Low-income disabled persons who do not receive the ODSP may still qualify for tax relief, since eligibility may be determined on a case-by-case basis in consultation with the County Social Services Department.

There is more information at the bottom of your tax bill. You can get an application at the Town of Erin office, the County Administration Centre, or on-line at Call Emma at 519-837-2600, ext. 2940, or email:

• • •

I’ve never been fond of idle chit-chat, especially in written form, so the idea of launching a blog had never really crossed my mind.

Recently, however, a number of people have asked if the Erin Insight column is available on-line. The opportunity to publish my writing at absolutely no cost, to an unlimited number of readers, was certainly worth investigation.

It was so simple; I set it up during a lunch break. Now, you can aim your trusty web browser at, and read, well, what you are reading right now.

That might seem redundant, but it opens up some interesting possibilities. For example, my Mom and Dad can now read the column, as can anyone else who does not get The Erin Advocate. Columns will be posted on the blog in the week after they appear in the newspaper.

When the site appears on your screen, you will see the most recent column, followed by previous ones. You can scroll through them, call up various ones by title, or click at the side to see related columns according to topic.

Over time, I hope it will create a portrait of Erin from many different angles.

A blog (short for web log) is like a diary or scrapbook. You can set a simple one up for free with Google or other companies, or pay a small fee to get a fancier site.

The author has control over who can read it; some blogs are restricted to family and friends, but mine open to everyone.
Some blogs have many authors posting submissions, so they become complex, wide-open forums for debate. I plan to keep mine simple. I will be the only one posting articles, normally the same as what appears in the newspaper, but sometimes with extra material that would not fit onto Page 7.

Many blogs allow readers to attach their own comments to a story, for all to read. I am not providing that option, at least for now, mainly because I do not have time to screen and moderate the process.

If anyone wants to contact me with alternate views, additional information or ideas for future columns, send an email to: This will be private correspondence; I will not publish your letter, quote from it or use your name, unless you request that I do so.

To comment publicly, send a Letter to the Editor, to the address on Page 6, or via email:

October 08, 2008

Is victory possible?

As published in The Erin Advocate

It was a simple question, but there could be no simple answers.

I attended the federal all-candidates meeting at Main Place in Erin last week and posed the following question about the war in Afghanistan: Has the mission been worth the cost, and is victory possible?

The commentary that followed for the next ten minutes was thoughtful and passionate. The candidates, perhaps wisely, avoided answering the question directly.

Noel Duignan of the NDP said our troops should be immediately withdrawn from their combat role, but that Canada should continue its commitment to strengthening the government of Afghanistan.

“Whether the war can be won or not – I can’t speak to that. I’m not an expert in that field,” he said. “Whether it was worth it or not, it’s an open-ended debate. I believe to a point it has been worth it. Our soldiers have died over there. Hopefully they haven’t died in vain.”

He said Canada should try to eliminate corruption in the Afghan government. “If that doesn’t happen, then I believe maybe everything was in vain.”

Brent Bouteiller of the Green Party said the US-led NATO force should be replaced with “a more culturally-faced” United Nations force.

“This will allow us to remove our forces by the end of 2009,” he said. Canadian troops could remain to provide logistics training to the Afghan army, he said. He deplored the destruction of valuable food crops in the attempt to destroy poppies being grown for the opium trade. He supports a Poppy for Medicine program that would build legitimate production of morphine and codeine.

The website says that in 2006, Afghanistan produced 92% of the world’s total illegal opium, directly involving at least 13% of the country’s population.
Jeffrey Streutker of the Christian Heritage Party said Canada should act independently, not being told what to do by NATO or the UN.

“The purpose of the military is to guard our borders,” he said, suggesting that a continued role in Afghanistan would be justified “if it can be proven that our military’s actions are still helping prevent attacks into Canada, and at the beginning that was the reason. I believe that requires some study.”

He suggested that efforts to reduce corruption, redevelop land, build the economy, and “help them realize that they can be self-sustaining” would reduce the chances of an attack on Canada. He said setting a withdrawal date would be “very dangerous”.

Bruce Bowser of the Liberal Party, who grew up in a Canadian military family, said he is pleased that the mission has not been an election issue.

“The best we can do when our soldiers are in harm’s way is to support them in the way we have, keep them in our prayers and stand behind them,” he said. “I think the government has done a good job of collectively saying we’re committed to having our troops in Afghanistan to play a role in fighting against terrorism.

“I don’t think there’s a question in anybody’s mind we want our troops back home as quickly as possible, and there’s a date we’re working towards, but in the interim I think the best thing we can do is continue to support our troops and cheer them on.”

MP Michael Chong said we have a responsibility to “stay the course” and help the people of Afghanistan establish a stable government.

“It would be the height of irresponsibility to unilaterally withdraw our troops immediately, leaving in our wake chaos and destruction that would quickly fill the vacuum.”

He voted in favour of the parliamentary motion to withdraw forces from Kandahar province by the end of 2011. He said it is premature to say whether “Canada’s military presence in another part of the country” would be appropriate.

“There are three intractable problems that we have to tackle. First, we are not going to defeat the Taliban – they are part of the solution. Secondly, we are not going to eliminate the opium trade.

“Third, we have to work with the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan to mediate the fundamental differences that these two states have between where the international border is and who is responsible ultimately for the Pashtun people, in terms of their security and their presence on both sides of that border.”

October 01, 2008

Terra Cotta Conservation Area gets a boost

As published in The Erin Advocate

The Saturday night dances at what is now the Terra Cotta Conservation Area are well before my time, but I do have good memories of camping and skiing there and bringing my young children to swim in the huge, one-acre pool in the early 1990s.

That all ended with funding cutbacks in the mid-1990s, but the 20-km network of trails, with links to the Bruce Trail, is still great for dog walking and getting away from urban noise.

Last week the Credit Valley Conservation Authority (CVCA) held an open house to launch a new management plan for the Terra Cotta and Silver Creek Conservation Areas, which with nearby CVCA forests form a protected zone of about 2,000 acres along the Niagara Escarpment from Winston Churchill Blvd. to Trafalgar Road.

“This gem of a property needs more attention,” said Judy Orendorff, CVCA Director of Lands, who is hoping to have an official reopening with new facilities next year. “We are ready to move from planning to action.”

Terra Cotta Conservation Area is to become a “Centre for Environmental Learning”. Located just south of Erin and north of Terra Cotta village, the Area has undergone some major transformations.

After the CVCA acquired the land in 1954, they got rid of the dance hall (near the current picnic pavilion) and eventually turned the roadside lake into a concrete swimming pool.

At the height of its popularity as a recreation destination, there were more than 100,000 visitors annually, for camping, picnics, mini-golf, swimming, fishing, ice-skating, cross-country skiing and hiking. The cars would line up all the way to Terra Cotta.

It was quite the attraction, but the activity trampled one of the finest natural areas in the Credit River watershed. The funding cutbacks created an opportunity to restore the hardwood forest and turn the concrete pool into an attractive natural wetland.

Lack of funding has meant minimal care. The Area has remained open for hiking and fishing (there are three small lakes created with dams), but the unused buildings have been in poor condition and there was little educational activity.

The Regional Municipalities of Peel and Halton have each contributed $372,000 for 2008, and improvements have started, mainly with new public washrooms in the former pool changehouse building.

The same amount is being requested from Peel and Halton for 2009, and the Credit Valley Conservation Foundation is seeking grants and corporate donations to increase the funding. Like all local municipalities, the Town of Erin financially supports CVCA operations, but no special levies are planned for this project.

Most improvements are designed to make the area more accessible, interesting and convenient for visitors, boosting appreciation of the natural features and general support for environmental protection.

Next year, a Watershed Learning Centre will be built. There will also be a Visitor Welcome Centre, a new gatehouse and expanded office space. The picnic shelter will be upgraded with a locked room to be used by groups renting the facility.
New signage is intended to make the area an outdoor classroom.

There will be a new fishing pier to reduce wear and tear on the shoreline, trails will be rehabilitated and water flow will be re-channeled to improve fish habitat. Harmful invasive species such as Giant Hogweed and Garlic Mustard will be removed.

The public is being asked to support the newly-created Friends of Terra Cotta, not only with donations, but also with time and energy for things like fundraising events and trail restoration. To get involved, call Partnership Development Coordinator Sharlene Hardwar at 905-670-1615, ext. 447, or email: More information is available on line:

There is a $5 fee to park at the Terra Cotta Conservation Area (on the honour system) and $50 will get you an annual pass to all 10 CVCA Areas, including Belfountain Conservation Area.

Rae Horst, CVCA’s Chief Administrative Officer, points out that the local environment is facing some serious deterioration, with water shortages in Georgetown and Orangeville, rivers that are not suitable for swimming or drinking, and a decline in bird populations.

“Natural corridors will help species survive,” she said. “Hope is not lost. We can substantially improve the environment in the GTA, and this project is part of that. We need an aware and supportive public.”

September 24, 2008

Stirring up trouble

As published in The Erin Advocate

While visiting the Wellington County Museum near Fergus recently, I opened the door of the County Archives office, not really knowing what to expect.

Turns out they have friendly staff who can help you find information about people and places back into the mid-1800s. Having nothing in particular to research, I asked to see their oldest copy of The Erin Advocate.

Out came the microfiche and there it was, tattered but intact, dated December 17, 1880, in its first year as a weekly paper. Published by Sylvester Dilts, it had subscriptions at $1 a year if paid in advance, and ad rates at 8 cents per line for the first insertion.

I enjoy the ads in old papers, like the one from the Erin Furniture Depot, in which D.S. Travis promises, “Furniture of a superior make to any hitherto sold in Erin”. Or an in-house promotion by The Advocate for job printing of posters and cards: “Neatest and Latest Style of the Art…Executed on the Shortest Notice”.

What really caught my eye, at the top of page one, was the headline: WOMEN: Schopenhauer’s Peculiar Opinion of the Sex. Here is a brief excerpt, for educational purposes, from a piece of writing that even in its day would have been considered outrageous and inflammatory.

“The mere aspect of woman proves that she is destined neither for the great labors of intelligence nor for great material undertakings. She pays her debt to life not by action but by suffering; she ought therefore, to obey man, and to be his patient companion, restoring serenity to his mind.”

“Women perjure themselves so readily in Courts of Justice that it has often been a question whether they ought to be allowed to take an oath. …What may be called the European Woman is a sort that ought not to exist. Those who help in the house and look after the house ought to be the only women in the world.”

Two questions stand out. Who was Schopenhauer, and what was his misogynist tirade doing on the front page of The Advocate?

Arthur Schopenhauer was a German philosopher who lived from 1788 to 1860. He is known for his analysis of human motivation, arguing that basic human instincts supersede reason, and that human desires can never be truly fulfilled. He extolled the value of negating the will.

As a prominent Pessimist, he held that we live in the worst of all possible worlds, since if things were any worse, we would be extinct. He said that evil was the only real force in the world, and that anything good was just a brief respite from a boring, painful existence.

His ultra-intolerant views on women probably stem from tempestuous relationships with his mother and other women – though he also had praise for some.

He was a strong advocate of animal rights, remarking that animals are incapable of deception. He praised artistic achievement as more essential than science and reason. His work was considered influential on composer Richard Wagner, psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud and philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.

In 1851, at the age of 63, he became famous throughout Europe and North America with publication of a series of essays that include: On the vanity of existence, On suicide and On women – a translation of which found its way into Erin’s newspaper, 29 years later.

Publishers in that era often mixed classified ads with local, national and international news, fiction and trivia on their front page. Anything to attract readers.

I doubt there were many students of European philosophy in that little village.

My guess is that Mr. Dilts figured he could get away with printing part of a philosophy essay from a published book, titillating some male egos and enraging some female ones.

That was in the old days. Enlightened media outlets in the new millennium would never give attention to extremist views just to stir up trouble.

September 17, 2008

We’re all on the health team

As published in The Erin Advocate

A lot of things need to happen for the new Family Health Team to reach its full potential, and strong community support will be a key factor in its success.

The team approach to local health care is new to some people, but it has worked well in other areas. The East Wellington Family Health Team (EWFHT) is funded by the Ontario Ministry of Health to provide service to Erin, Hillsburgh and Rockwood – the entire region from the Guelph city limits to Winston Churchill Boulevard, and from Ballinafad to Orton.

It came into being on May 1 this year, and is led by Executive Director Michelle Karker and Clinical Lead Dr. Duncan Bull. Patients of local doctors continue to be served at the existing medical offices in Erin and Rockwood, but major changes have started and many more are planned – including a new $3 million medical clinic in Erin and a smaller one in Rockwood.

The doctors are on staff. They do not bill OHIP for patient visits, and they are part of a collaborative team that will initially include a nurse practitioner, a dietician, a mental health counsellor, a program lead (for health promotion activities), registered nurses and a registered practical nurse.

“It is a personal choice for doctors,” said Karker. “They can earn a good living and not have to worry about running a business. Many doctors want a better quality of life.”

The team now includes doctors Duncan Bull, Carla Lennox and Shane Neilson in Erin and Jane Hosdil in Rockwood, but they are not accepting new patients. There is funding for three more doctors in Erin and two more in Rockwood, but with the shortage of doctors and nurse practitioners, recruiting is a major challenge. About 6,000 people in the area have no family doctor.

In the team model, patients have one primary doctor, but can be treated by other local doctors when needed. Treatment by other professionals will be conveniently available in the same building.

There will be no need to travel to Rockwood, since some staff will split their time between the two locations, though patients will still be referred out of town as necessary for testing or to see specialists. Patients will retain the right to have a family doctor outside the EWFHT.

For now, the team has leased office and treatment space in the basement of Dr. Jon Walcott’s optometry office at 18 Thompson Cres., near Kennedy Flags. Patients should be receiving some of the new services there by the end of October.

The team approach is a huge leap forward, not just because of the addition of provincially-funded staff positions, but also because of the more modern philosophy on which the team is based. They will treat illness, of course, but they will have the time and the mandate to work on prevention.

They will work for the whole community, not just their registered patients. For example, there will be health promotion activities in areas like diabetes care and heart health. Services may also be extended to outlying communities in the team’s region.

“It is for the community at large. This hasn’t existed before,” said Karker. “We are also a registered charity, so we can fundraise for things we need.”

What can individuals do to help? First of all, talk it up. If you know people in the health care field, promote Erin as a great place to live and work. The team has a volunteer board of directors – call the team office at 519-833-7576 to find out more. Mayor Rod Finnie is helping to initiate fundraising efforts – contact him at 519-855-4407 ext. 232 or to find out more.

When the fundraising starts, consider making a contribution. You will likely be helping to buy extra medical equipment that is not covered by the clinic budget.

The province will cover the cost of leasing the two clinic buildings, with the lease to be renewed every five years, but they will not build them. The team itself wants to focus on health care, not construction, and Mayor Finnie says the private sector has not been prepared to take on the Erin building.

That leaves the Town and the County as potential landlords. Either government could borrow to finance construction, and recover the money through the lease. The mayor and County Councillor Lou Maieron have urged County Council to do the borrowing, but the matter is unresolved.

It shouldn’t stay that way too long. A modern medical office is an important part of attracting medical staff. Discussion has started about potential direct financial contributions from the County and even the Town, and about whether the clinic would be on Town-owned land, said the mayor.

“It is about improving the health of the whole community,” he said.

Now that the province has come through with funding, the project should proceed as soon as possible.

September 10, 2008

Remnants of simpler times

As published in The Erin Advocate

As I was browsing through antique stores the other day, I got to thinking about the future. In the year 2108, what will they treasure as antiques from the things made in 2008?

Will they have gadget museums, and marvel that many of our inventions became obsolete within months? It is more comforting to contemplate the past.

I wandered into Beaver Mills Design on Main Street. There I saw beautiful 19th century papier mâché trays and hair brushes with silver handles. Often it is the infusion of art into practical items that makes them so attractive.

The quality of wood in some antique furniture is also a marvel, not to mention the skill of the makers. Polished mahogany, fruitwood and walnut are a pleasure to behold.

The most unusual thing I saw at Beaver Mills was a military campaign stool from the 1800s. It is like a lawn chair without the seat, a wicker panel that props up at various angles, allowing an officer to sit on the ground in relative comfort.

Further along the street, I was intrigued by a day bed at the Renaissance store. The intricate woodwork and upholstery were very interesting, but I liked it because it suggested a more leisurely era in which napping was more common – at least among the well-to-do.

One would need a large house for some of the pieces, like a set of 12 dining room chairs with carved wooden arms, or a huge mirrored wardrobe.

Antique shops like these do not have the space for large quantities. It is quite the opposite experience stepping into Rainbarrel Antiques, in the Old Community Hall, just inside Stanley Park.

It is a bit like a giant garage sale, but the selection is more interesting, with antiques ranging from Early Canadiana (1870s) up to the 1940s. There are so many objects of everyday life from bygone times that it is hard to take it all in. In this type of browsing environment, the pleasure is in the little things that spark memories.

For example, as a child I collected pennants, triangle-shaped souvenir flags of places I visited. My collection is long gone, but I enjoyed looking at Rainbarrel’s collection, complete with corny illustrations like a grizzly bear for Field, BC or a hunter shooting a deer for Shediac, NB.

I bought a pair of books called A Pictorial History of the World’s Great Nations, from the Earliest Dates to the Present Time, published in 1882.

There are treadle sewing machines, cedar chests, pioneer-style tools, furniture, framed art, fancy hats, yellow glass dishes from the 1930s and a stunning bridal dress and lace veil from the 1940s. There is a small forest of lamp stands, and re-usable materials like windows and table legs.

Rainbarrel owner Shirley Campbell is retiring and the store will close in October, so don’t wait too long if you plan to visit.

Where else will you find the Mork and Mindy board game? How about the K-tel vinyl recording of the Greatest Hits of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons?

You can now buy a USB turntable (not at Rainbarrel) – just plug it into your computer, play the old record and it creates MP3 files of the music. I have been thinking of getting one so I can put favourite songs from my LP collection onto my iPod, before it too goes the way of the dodo.

September 03, 2008

Gift horse needs a close look

As published in The Erin Advocate

The premier was in fine form last week, speaking like a father figure to his needy and troublesome children, the municipalities of Ontario.

“We want build even more infrastructure. But our government can’t do it alone. We need a partner. That’s where you come in,” he said to officials gathered in Ottawa for the Association of Municipalities of Ontario annual conference. “True partners always treat each other fairly.”

Does Dalton McGuinty really have to lay it on so thick?

It was a case of wrapping bad news with good as he announced $1.1 billion in extra one-time funding for towns and cities to make whatever improvements they want to their roads, bridges, public transit, water pipes, community centres or social housing.

Chronic under funding, however, has left a provincial backlog of $50 billion in municipal infrastructure projects.

Still, a drop in the big bucket is better than nothing, and some say we should not look a gift horse in the mouth. (Gift horses are not the same as Trojan horses, though it is best to wary of both.)

Inspecting a horse’s teeth is a way to check its age and state of health. If you get a horse as a gift, and immediately look in its mouth, the giver may be offended. Looking a gift horse in the mouth is to appear ungrateful. Spending by the province, however, is not a gift. It is our own money finally coming back to us.

Wellington County will get an extra $3.3 million and the Town of Erin an extra $622,448. To put that in perspective, Town budget figures show capital improvements in the roads department at $766,500 in 2007, and $1.9 million in 2008.

I am sure something worthwhile will be done with the money. But one question will be: do we spend it on things we would likely have done anyhow, and lower property taxes, or spend it on extra projects and forego the tax benefit? Personally, I would go for the extra projects.

Often it is not a matter of building new infrastructure, but of fixing the old stuff before it crumbles away. The work is too expensive for towns to handle on their own, but they do not know from year to year how much help they will get from Queen’s Park.

This new flow of cash comes from a $1.7 billion budget surplus the province had last year. Surpluses are based on the government’s own estimates, and tend to make them look good, even though the money is spent a year later. The first $600 million is going (by law) to reduce the debt, and the rest to what McGuinty calls “a priority of our choosing”.

He didn’t call it a gift, but it was delivered with pomp and a superior tone. He made it clear that he could have decided to spend the $1.1 billion on health care or education instead. In the same speech, he also warned that since Ontario’s economy is not doing well, there would be no extra money next year. But the real bad news, especially at the county level, was his warning that plans to reverse the downloading of social service costs would proceed slowly.

“We won’t be able to move as quickly as we first thought we could when it comes to taking on new financial obligations,” he said.

Progress has been made as the province takes back some of the costs that Mike Harris dumped on municipal governments. But if they could take back much more, municipalities could make more progress on infrastructure.

Conservative MPP Ted Arnott has been rightly critical of the government for not providing stable funding for small towns from gas tax revenues.

Mind you, the Conservatives were not known for stable funding. And let us not forget one of the reasons Harris downloaded so many costs: the tag team of Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin had severely cut funding to the provinces to control the federal deficit in the mid-1990s. And why did we have a huge federal deficit? Could it have been all that borrowing and spending by Trudeau and Mulroney on things like infrastructure?

I don’t expect the province to spend wildly during an economic downturn. But I am offended when they treat the spending of my money on my community as a gift for which I should be grateful.

It is within their means to make infrastructure funding more stable and predictable, so that municipalities can do a better job of planning projects that are badly needed.

August 27, 2008

Make a connection with Erin artists

As published in The Erin Advocate

Getting art into my home could be such a simple process. See it. Like it. Decide if I can afford it. Buy it. Enjoy it.

Browsing through galleries, studios and craft displays is one of my favourite activities. When it comes to parting with my cash, however, doubts get in the way.

What if I do not like the piece two months from now? What if I am paying too much? Will I know what to say when friends ask why I bought it? What if I get addicted to buying art and spend all my money on it?

When I was young, I did not have the money to buy art. Now that I can afford some modest purchases, perhaps I still see art as a luxury. Maybe I am frugal to a fault.

Monica O’Halloran-Schut, an Erin sculptor, says my condition is actually quite common. And fortunately, there is a cure.

She is one of the founders of the Hills of Erin Studio Tour, now in its 20th year. It has grown from six artists at five locations, to 37 artists at 17 locations. Drop in at some or all of the studios and galleries on the weekend of September 27-28, 10 am to 5 pm. For details, check the website,, call (519) 855-6320, or email:

“The Studio Tour is a good way to meet the artists,” said Monica. “Stop and take a look at the art. It is handmade, one-of-a kind. Art can become part of your everyday objects.”

For those who rarely buy art, she points out that many pieces are not expensive. And once you do buy something from an artist you have met, you have a relationship that would not exist if you bought something that was mass-produced.

“You will see things you have never seen before, and you will meet your neighbours.”
It was a desire to make artistic connections with people that took Monica from the insurance industry to the floral design business back in the 1970s. Eventually, she and her husband Dave moved from Toronto to Erin Township. In 1988 she saw an advertisement in the Erin Advocate from Rosalind Baumgartner, looking for fellow artists to organize a tour for the public. The original group, from the Hillsburgh area, included Rosalind, Monica and Dave, Jim Reid, Stan Hall and Carol Tyler.

The work of the current artists includes weaving, oil painting, furniture, pastels, concrete, drawing, watercolours, acrylics, wreaths, collages, jewellery, reclaimed objects, turned wood, photography, hats, sculpture, pottery, book binding, baskets, glass, forged metal and figurines.

“These artists continue to push themselves,” said Monica, noting that Erin’s rural setting creates a good atmosphere for creative endeavours.

Some of the Erin artists are also involved in the Headwaters Arts Festival, which has events and workshops over a wide area that includes Erin, Caledon, Orangeville, Hockley, Mono and Shelburne. It includes an Art Show and Sale September 27-28 and October 4-5 at the SGI Centre in Alton. Check the website,

Monica last month received the Artisan of the Year award from the Hills of Headwaters Tourism Association, for her work with the Erin tour, the Headwaters festival and the Headwaters Arts organization.

Her studio is called Croi go Lamh, meaning Heart to Hand in Irish Gaelic. She has gone from weaving fibres to explorations of mineral textures and metal techniques, with inspiration drawn from natural objects.

She carves her larger pieces from lightweight building insulation, and then applies architectural surface materials. Other work includes wearable silver sculpture, made by coating small natural objects with art clay silver, a putty made with silver reclaimed from used X-ray film. A firing kiln burns away the original object, leaving a unique, shiny creation. Find out more at

Many of the artists in the Erin Tour are also participating in a Preview Showing at the Burdette Gallery near Orton, which continues until this Sunday, August 31. Get directions at

August 20, 2008

Googling the Town

As published in The Erin Advocate

Have you ever Googled the place where you live?

Like searching out your own name on the Internet, checking the hits on Erin can lead to some interesting, but time-consuming tangents.

The Google search engine produces 54.9 million references to Erin, but if you narrow it down to “Town of Erin”, the total is a mere 10,100.

You could inadvertently learn all about Erin Mills, or Erin Brockovich, or the many companies that use Erin in their corporate name.

Are you curious about Erin, New York, located east of Elmira in Chemung County near the Pennsylvania border? How about Erin, Nigeria, south of Abeokuta?

Wikipedia, the popular on-line encyclopedia, lets us know that the word Erin is derived from Éirinn, a form of the Irish word for Ireland, and that it originated with the Gaelic name Eireann.

Wikipedia also has a very brief article (a “geography stub”) on our Erin. In addition to some basic facts, it says, “The town’s new industrial park is attracting a number of new industries, due to its cheaper tax rate, accessibility to transportation, and its location within the ‘Technology Triangle’, a series of high-tech driven cities including nearby Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge.”

Fascinating stuff. The Town, or anyone for that matter, is welcome to edit or add to the Wikipedia article. Fortunately, it has a link to, an excellent source for local information.

The Town of Erin website is a treasure trunk of interesting stuff. Of course there are the municipal things, like agendas, minutes and permits. But you will also find an excellent photo gallery, lots of local history articles, details on coming events, and directories of businesses and community groups. It is an attractive marketing tool that will be seen by people thinking of buying a home or setting up a business here.

It also links to many other sites of local interest, such as: Credit Valley Conservation, Wellington County and Health Unit, erincinema, Hills of Headwaters and the Agricultural Society.

I got caught up in this web of Erin links while researching another burning issue – what to name this newspaper column. When naming something these days, it is wise to go on-line to see who else is using the name. Many thanks to the readers who gave the matter some thought, after I requested help two weeks ago.

John Sutherland phoned to suggest Erin Gleanings, since I tend to gather up things that have not made it into the regular news.

Jane Vandervliet suggested Teetering on my Soapbox. “Reflects need for firmer stance,” she said. “After all an ‘opinion’ column requires the writer to actually have one.” Ouch.

“Don’t be afraid of ticking people off. Persuasive writing is all about challenging others to think with the goal of change for the better for all.”

No offence taken, Jane. It is true that I tend to cautious, trying to see various sides of an issue. Also, my intent is a mix of news, trivia and opinion. Maybe I will take a few more risks when the time is right.

Hill Cox emailed a series of ideas, including: Shades of Green, The Spirit of Erin, Phil’s Focus, Erin’s Advocate, Village Views and Erin Perspective.

I liked Shades of Green, since it is a bit Irish (like me), and a bit environmental (all the rage these days). Google has almost 1.5 million references to “Shades of Green”. I would be sharing the name with a hosta nursery in Aylmer, Ontario; a forest website; an environment series on CBC; a housing estate on Vancouver Island, various landscaping firms and an Armed Forces Recreation Centre at Walt Disney World in Florida. Ultimately, it was too ambiguous.

Heidi Duncan (who named her business Heidi Hoe) dropped off a list that includes: Soapbox Stories, A Wee Tale to Tell, Much Ado About Nothing, Erin’s Hullaballo, Shamrock Stories and – meant with good intentions I’m told – The Phillage Idiot. I am feeling inspired. Less need for self-deprecation when readers are willing to help.

Anyhow, it is thumbs down on all the above. My favourite is Erin Insight, suggested by Hill Cox. The term doesn’t turn up in Google, except for a couple of references to insightful people named Erin. Not as racy as some, but it is likely to stand up better over time.

Of course, the column name does not refer just to “insights” of mine, but to those of people I interview or who send me their views. I have avoided putting my own email address in the column, but I will soon set up a new one for dialogue on column topics.

August 13, 2008

Hazardous waste service inadequate

As published in The Erin Advocate

As a dedicated saver of the planet, I have been obliged in recent years to set up my own Hazardous Waste Depot. It is also known as my garage.

So it is with some eagerness that I await the annual Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) Event Day, hosted by Wellington County staff.

I missed the event last year, so I will be bringing two years’ worth of toxic material to the Centre 2000 parking lot, on Boland Drive in Erin, this Saturday, August 16, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. There is no charge.

The cars and trucks will be lined up, loaded with old motor oil, compact fluorescent light bulbs, latex and oil-based paint, automotive and household batteries, medical sharps, glue, gasoline, pesticide, drugs, mercury thermometers, cleaners, antifreeze, propane tanks and aerosol cans, to name only a few. (Check the Solid Waste Services page at for a full list.)

Of course, I could always drive my HHW to the City of Guelph HHW Depot, formerly the Wet-Dry facility, at 110 Dunlop Drive, Tuesday through Saturday. (Call 519-767-0598 or visit for details.)

But I don’t have a large quantity of HHW, and it is just not worth a special drive to Guelph. I also do not illegally burn it, dump it in the ditch or throw it in with the regular garbage.

If I lived in another part of Wellington County, I could bring a certain amount of HHW to my local transfer station or landfill site (Aberfoyle, Belwood, Elora, Harriston or Riverstown) throughout the year. I am also welcome to drive to these other stations and use them at no charge.

These locations are set up as “Selected HHW Depots”, and will accept ONLY: Automotive Motor Oil and Filters, Antifreeze, Batteries, Aerosol Cans, Propane Cylinders and Medical Sharps.

The Hillsburgh and Rothsay Transfer Stations are the only ones that do not take any hazardous waste. County Councillor Lou Maieron is surprised at the inconsistency.

“It is unfair that the eastern portion of the county is not serviced,” said Maieron. “They should give us the same standard of service. People are definitely paying enough in taxes.”

The councillor has long advocated a comprehensive waste plan that would include rural collection, composting and local drop-off of household hazardous waste. There is a rural collection pilot project for regular garbage and recyclables being conducted in Guelph/Eramosa and Minto, and County Council will decide this October whether to expand it to other areas.

Meanwhile, there has been protracted wrangling about whether the Hillsburgh Transfer Station will stay at or near its current location. I have not been able to find out if that debate has affected the question of making the Hillsburgh station a Selected HHW Depot.

The facilities to handle limited types of hazardous waste would be inexpensive, and easily moved if a new location was established elsewhere, according to Councillor Maieron.

Hillsburgh is the second-busiest station in the County, which means that a year-round depot could divert a significant volume of hazardous waste from residential garages, or from improper disposal.

“If you make it convenient, people will use it,” said Maieron.

If a community is to treat environmental protection seriously, once a year for hazardous waste is not enough.

Here are a few more pertinent facts for handling your HHW.

• Alkaline batteries up to size D can also be disposed of in special tubes located at all County libraries.

• The County does not accept industrial, commercial or agricultural hazardous waste. If you live on a farm, only the household portion of your hazardous waste can be dropped off.

• Do not bring empty containers to the HHW event, even if they previously held paint, oil or pesticide. Treat them as regular garbage or as recyclable plastic. Let any wet empty paint cans or brushes dry out, leave the lids off and put them with regular garbage.

• If you have medical sharps (needles, syringes, lancets), put them in a rigid puncture-proof plastic container (like a bleach bottle) labeled “SHARPS”. Soak them in bleach for 24 hours, pour off the bleach, seal the container and tell the attendant that you have it.

Call Solid Waste Services at 519-837-2601 for more information.

August 06, 2008

Column could use a snappier name

As published in The Erin Advocate

When I told a friend I would be writing an opinion column, she said, “That sounds great. You won’t even need to know what the heck you’re talking about.”

Fortunately, being right all the time is not in the job description, at least when it come to opinions. I may be right all the time, as I sometimes convince myself, but it is not a requirement.

When I was a news reporter, it was simple. You found out the important details of an issue and got other people to give their opinions on it. They were the ones who would feel the heat if others disagreed.

Now here I am with the freedom the pick my own topic, and sound off as I please. I have not been elected, but I have my own little soapbox to stand on. I have not been ordained, but I can preach weekly. It is a frightening prospect, both for myself and for readers.

I have been cautious so far, and I know of no complaints to the editor. Perhaps I need to try harder.

Often it is not about being right, but about covering the interests of people who care about a topic. Recently I wrote about tourism, mentioning local shops, restaurants, natural attractions and accommodations. My friend Neville Worsnop, of Century Church Theatre in Hillsburgh, pointed out that I did not mention theatre. It was a valid point, because live theatre does draw people to small towns, and they spend money on other things while visiting.

Theatre never crossed my mind while writing that piece, though I have spent years volunteering to support it in Erin. When I fail to notice the obvious, I blame the advance of years, but I never get any sympathy.

Concentrate, Phil. The column is almost half done. Time to broach the main topic.

When I wrote the first column, I suggested to Joan Murray that we not have an official name, since I could not think of a good one. To my surprise, she gave it a name anyhow: “Life in the Town of Erin”.

This is intended to serve until we come up with some other inspiration. Or we could make it permanent, which would be all right. It stresses the local angle and imposes no other restrictions.

But maybe the column could use a snappier name. Something a little edgy, but not so edgy as to alienate any major sectors of the population. A clever combination of words to entice busy readers to tarry a while.

And who better to help with naming than the valiant readers who have made it this far? If you have suggestions for a column name, mail them to the address on page 6, or email them to: There is no prize, other than having your name in the paper (plus bragging rights) if yours is chosen. I may mention other submissions as well, and I promise not to make fun of any of them.

To help the process along, here are some of the name ideas that have already been considered.

The Way I See It: I was thinking of this one, but while I was thinking, my tennis buddy Bruce Hood went and took it for his column. Sheesh. As they say at Sunday Morning Tennis, if you snooze, you lose.

Horsefeathers: A bit too agricultural.

Off on a Tangent: Still a possibility, since it describes my normal method of processing ideas, but it is unclear if that should be encouraged.

The Devil’s Advocate: Somewhat appealing, since it plays on the newspaper name. It suggests a writer who takes a contrary view just for the sake of argument. That is not how I want to be, especially not all the time, and the negative slant would be hard to maintain.

Sunshine Sketches of a Little Green Town: Upbeat, but presumptuous, to say the least. The Irish twist is insufficiently subtle, and the extra-terrestrial allusion (little green men) could cause some to take offence. Nothing but trouble. Rejected.

Some people say I have a slight tendency to over-analyze. Others call it severe. I am still trying to figure out which group is right. What if the first group is just being polite, or worse – sarcastic? Maybe they are both partially right. In any case, I doubt that both are completely wrong.

My computer has an alarm that sounds when a column hits 700 words, and it has been going for a while, so I must wrap it up.

Maybe I should stick with Life in the Town of Erin. Let me know.