Opening Statement

Friday 30 September 2011

What Conservative Election Debates?!?

With a big election issue, like tax cuts and the service cuts that will inevitably follow, it is wise to ask three things: Are they realistic? Are they practical? And are they measurable? Unfortunately, as we have seen in the Toronto mayoral race where Rob Ford promised to provide a balanced budget by "stopping the gravy train" it didn't make any sense whatsoever. Now Toronto is tens of millions of dollars in debt and facing severe service cuts. These could affect, daycare, libraries, policing, and snow removal. The list goes on and on.
Tim Hudak of the Ontario Conservatives is promising to "cut the excesses" to balance our provincial budget by simply "eliminating efficiencies". How credible is this? He has promised not to cut education or health care, which is 70% of the total spending.
How is he going to perform this incredible balancing act? Our teachers want to know. Wouldn't it make sense to talk to us, since we are actually in the classrooms providing our province's educational services? Duh.
Both the Liberals and the NDP are in constant dialogue with all the the teacher associations in Ontario. They have been since before 2003. Even when we disagree, as is inevitable, we still meet to talk, because it is our students and schools that are at stake in any decisions that are made. This did not happen with the Harris Conservative government from 1995-2003. Unfortunately it is not and has not been happening for the last two years or so since Tim Hudak became Conservative leader.
This is not fear mongering on behalf of our teachers. Do the math. His numbers do not add up. Most frightening of all, he refuses to even discuss what he plans to do or how he plans to do it, outside of the most glibberish of glittering generalities to be found in his so called "Changebook" platform.
OECTA has provided it's members with a frank update on the situation in it's September 29th "Speak For Children" update. You should receive an email copy from your staff rep, or local unit office, depending on how you forward these missives in your OECTA unit.

 A lot of our teachers, and indeed concerned parents and community members as well, are feeling very frustrated. The reality of the situation is that most of the Conservative candidates are even refusing to attend the local riding debates to answer any questions with the election less than a week away.
Wake up Ontario before it is too late! The well being of our excellent education system is at stake. Be prepared to take a big bite of the Tory apple should the Hudak Conservatives win next week's Ontario Provincial election! It's happened in 1995 to 2003, and now it could happen again. Get involved. Help out an education friendly candidate today. Call your local OECTA unit office for more information. It's still not too late to do your part!

Tuesday 27 September 2011

OECTA Endorsements + Catholic School Funding

All Ontario English Catholic Teacher's Association Toronto Secondary Unit [OECTA TSU] members should have received the election edition of our unit's "Highlights" newsletter. It includes the list of provincial election candidates OECTA has endorsed. OECTA reviewed each candidate and party platform on education in helping decide who made the list. You can trust these are all education friendly picks.

The newsletter has highlighted the fact that Conservative Party leader Tim Hudak refused to meet with our teachers for the past two years while developing his education platform for the election. I have discussed this too, in a blog earlier this month. Anyway, it should come as no surprise for our teachers who were around between 1995-2003 considering the Conservative party's track record during the Harris years. Neither Tim Hudak nor any other Conservative candidates have made the list. However rest assured fair due process was followed in screening all the candidates when asking OECTA's big election question, "Who Speaks For Children?"

We can't help it that Tim Hudak's Conservative Party refuses to meet with us as Catholic teachers to discuss their education policy. OECTA would be remiss if you weren't advised accordingly. It's a good idea to look over TSU Highlight's election issue carefully and think for yourself about what it says.

So that's Highlights for you. Look it over. It's highly recommend. Now for some unofficial election scuttlebutt of my own dear readers.

Your teacher's union knows you are no dummy. We are all teachers. We can think critically. These endorsements are recommendations. Just that. Nobody at OECTA who I met during my eleven years with your TSU, or your Provincial PAC for that matter, can or would even want to force you to vote this way or that. Any such "union thuggery" claims are pure baloney. As always you will hopefully look over the list, consider the information, and ask yourself "Who Speaks For Children?" best. OECTA has provided us as members with these endorsements in good faith as a Catholic educational advocacy group. Recommendations have been made but of course we can and will think for ourselves. It's disingenuous to claim otherwise.

You have probably heard some critics taking potshots at OECTA's one time $60 election fee increase passed at our Annual General Meeting [AGM] this spring. Was the vote conducted fairly? I know for a fact, as a member of our TSU executive that a members support for the motion or lack thereof, was not an issue in approving the applications among those who volunteered to attend during their March Break as your rep. I also know, having been at the AGM,  that 2/3's of the conference supported the motion. Also that amongst the 1/3 who didn't, most weren't actually against funding the "Who Speaks For Children?" campaign . They wanted to use up our strike fund for it first. In the end, after a very long and thorough debate a clear majority seemed to realize that would leave us in a very precarious situation should the Conservatives win this fall's Ontario provincial election.

One can only wish more members had read the pre-AGM materials that were sent out by OECTA before the spring AGM. If they had disagreed with the motion, which was clearly presented there they should've volunteered to come to speak up back then and vote accordingly. That's what our resolutions meeting and the spring AGM are for. The information, forum and procedures were all made readily available for us at school if you looked so that everyone could have their say!

You should know that it is no secret former Harris Education Minister and Tax Cut Axeman John Snobelen was working the Hudak backrooms in the lead up to this fall's election. He was telling all and sundry that the Harris Conservatives only made two mistakes when they won in 1995. They didn't go fast and hard enough in creating an education crisis.

If you will remember, Ontario's teachers became the scapegoats used to gut school funding in all the boards across the province so the new Conservative government could cut services to pay for it's promised tax cuts. Premier Harris even went on t.v. during the evenings to put us down as lazy, incompetent and overpaid. That might sound crazy if you weren't teaching then but please believe me, it is not something you as a teacher would ever want to experience at home, in your community, or the next day at school.

Of course OECTA wants to speak out now during the election so this doesn't happen again. As an educational advocacy group made up of teachers, our involvement in the election process should be no more suspect or of a surprise to anybody, least of all Tim Hudak. Concerned professional, corporate, business, citizen and developer groups do this all the time. We are just upfront about it. Issue advocacy is a very common part of our political process. That's been the case under all of the last three consecutive Liberal, Conservative and NDP governments. It can even be traced a lot further back than that, both at home here in Ontario and abroad.

I would like to further address some other misconceptions about our our teacher's union role at both the professional and contractual level. That will take a future post. Suffice to say, how could our Catholic teacher's union support Hudak's education plan for our members when you weren't even consulted about it? So of course he is going to complain when OECTA speaks out now and hope enough voters are naive enough to believe him. Pure political trickery, but then divisive politics is the name of his game. Some folk will say and do anything just so long as they win! We know that, unfortunately sometimes even at TSU.

Rather than belabour the consultation issue further, let me just change track a bit and say, "Thank God Catholic school funding hasn't become a big election issue -yet!".

Officially, the Liberals, Conservatives and the NDP have all told OECTA that they support public funding for our Catholic schools. The Green Party is running against Catholic school funding but so far haven't gotten very far with it. However, we know the Conservatives have in the past supported an ill thought out faith based schooling plan that would not have been good for our Catholic school funding model. They also supported Charter Schools, which defacto would mean we could end up privatized, rather than being publically funded.

Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty has always been firm in his funding support for us. However at the Young Liberal meetings there have been motions presented in the past to eliminate Catholic school funding. Nothing came of this but the situation warrants watching.

NDP leader Andrea Horwath has assured us the NDP supports Catholic school funding. However her opponent in the last leadership race, MPP Michael Prue, doesn't. You will notice in the Highlights list that OECTA is not endorsing Prue this year. I doubt it's a coincidence. NDP Education critic Rosario Marchese has apparently seen the light and reversed his stand. Since he's also done a lot of positive things for education in general, I'd suppose thats why he remains on the list. Still please note; there is at least one motion made at every NDP policy convention calling, so far unsuccessfully, for the elimination of public funding for our Catholic schools.

Let me give you an interesting tip. Some homework if you will. There are local candidate debates currently going on in every riding. It would be wise to consider asking all the candidates the following question at your local debate so you can further help decide for yourself which is best for our Catholic schools. I would suggest you ask them all a very simple but direct question:

Do you support continued public funding for the Catholic schools?

I've heard through the election grapevine that not all the election candidates have been sticking to their party platform in supporting us during the riding debates. This remains a rumour for now but I would suggest that it is pressing and persistent enough to warrant your immediate concern. At the grassroot's Catholic community level it's well worth asking every candidate this question at each and every riding debate across the province, even the candidates we've endorsed. If anyone refuses to attend the debate I'd be suspicious of that too.

If I heard a candidate say they didn't support Catholic school funding, or waiver or duck the issue at my local riding debate, I would certainly advise my family, friends, parish and school community asap. A quick phone call to your local OECTA unit office would also be very helpful too. All of our members should know, along with the candidate's party leader. Any rogue candidates who are against us can then be quickly identified and taken to task. Anything less could prove dangerously foolish, regardless of their party affiliation!

Most political pundits, both pro and con, realize that sooner or later Catholic school funding will become an election issue. If it doesn't explode this fall, then it most likely will at some point during the next two provincial elections should the current trends persist. True, the denominational rights of our Catholic schools are constitutional, dating to Confederation in 1867, and are included in the British North American Act which created the Dominion of Canada, as we referred to our new country back then. However, that does not mean the government is bound by law to fund us all the way through secondary school. This has only been done incrementally over the past century or so, not being fully extended right through secondary school until 1985. Conservative Premier Bill Davis rattled a lot of chains when he did so just before retiring from office. The rancor was quite aweful.

By the way, I don't think you can consider OECTA to be anti-Conservative. Bill Davis was made an honourary OECTA member. Moreover, every year the current Conservative leader is invited to our OECTA AGM. Every year they decline, except for former party leader John Tory who attended dinner to honour our teachers. Of course he was too "red" for most Conservatives, including Tim Hudak, and is gone today.

Those same chains that were being rattled during Conservative Premier Bill Davis final days are still being rattled today. If anything they are only growing louder, so please keep your ears peeled! It's our Catholic community that will lose out if enough popular and political support is created to cut public funding for our Catholic schools. Maybe others will argue it's a great way to pay for tax cuts, or that it wouldn't be approved if Confederation had happened today. Who knows?

Let's be prepared. Our publically funded Ontario Catholic schools remain quite unique, even across Canada now, and certainly abroad. Few of us would argue that it's better to be safe than sorry. Please look over Highlights and my blogs. Consider "Who Speaks For Children?" We need to take a strong stand for our profession, our students and our schools by electing an educational friendly government come October 6th. It's also very important that they will support our Catholic Schools in particular, during the difficult years ahead.

Hudak and Harris: Tim is him? Let's not find out the hard way! Once was enough! See my further election blogs below, of check my archives, below this column, for other interesting stuff...

Monday 26 September 2011

Tuesday's Ontario Election Debate?

[Post script: Was I right or wrong? You decide. The t.v./ newspaper straw votes, analysis and focus will once again decide public opinion, at least for anyone who wasn't watching or have much grasp on politics or media, I fear. I'm surprised they aren't yet all over Hudak's "foreigners" remarks. I didn't think he'd start tossing that position around again. It's a pity if the public and the media don't catch this. Also if McGuinty and Horwath don't run with it and try score a post debate homerun at Hudak's expense.]

How will Tuesday's 6:30 pm Ontario Election Debate go? Will it make or break any of the three party leaders? Premier Dalton McGuinty of the Liberals? Opposition Leader Tim Hudak of the Conservatives? Andrea Horwath of the NDP? Here's my best guesstimate:

Tim Hudak is not known as a great public speaker or debater except perhaps when he is amongst the party faithful. Let's see if he can mellow the mad white guy act tonight. Andrea Horwath is quite personable and has a sunny disposition. It is to her long term advantage to make that impression well known if she is to continue to shine in Jack Layton's glow, if not in this election then in the years ahead. Dalton McGuinty enters the debate with an advantage, this is his fourth election campaign. Both Tim and Andrea are rookies, it's only their first. That's very important!

Dalton needs to come across as steady, confident, and managerial. Sparing any curve balls that catch him off base he should be safe. If he can strip off enough voters from the NDP, who might feel safer in the Liberal rather than the NDP tent should they fear a possible Conservative election win, he could hit a home run. It wouldn't be unprecedented but is by no means for certain. NDP voters could stay the course hoping for an NDP balance of power in a Liberal or Conservative minority government too. Expect Andrea and Tim to go at Dalton like there's no tomorrow! Dalton must come off as unruffled. It could just come down to a question of style.

The front covers of the Wednesday Toronto Sun and National Post will declare that Hudak won the debate, regardless of how it goes. The Sun will declare a landslide win for Tim. The t.v. ratings will not be high but one would hope they will beat the Law and Order SVU reruns come 7pm. Likewise election day voter turnout will still be headed for an all time low. So it goes in an election weary Ontario without any defining issues on the frontburner. Basically either the Liberals or the Conservatives will still be able to win, barring any unexpected knock out punches, simply depending upon who can get out the most voters on election day.

Saturday 24 September 2011

Come To This Monday's Rally For Toronto!

Please find below the Toronto York Labour Council [ TYLC] poster and write up for this Monday's 5:30 PM rally at city hall. Mayor Ford's promised tax cuts are now resulting in huge service cuts for the City Of Toronto. Conservative Party Leader Tim Hudak is a self tilted "tax fighter" too. Let's make sure voters know what that really means. Please come out Monday.
Share my blogspot link to this flyer, and pass on

The TYLC speaks:
There will be thousands showing up on Monday, September 26th to speak out for city services. Labour Council President John Cartwright is speaking at over a dozen union meetings urging members to link the fight for good jobs at the city with the need to stop the Conservatives from taking Queen's Park. The latest news is about massive job cuts at the TTC, along with gutting the environmental work of the city. And don't forget selling off city assets like the Zoo, Homes for the Aged and threats to cut subsidies for 2,000 childcare spaces.

Please see my Ontario Provincial Blogs below about our "Who Speaks For Children?" Campaign:

Wednesday 21 September 2011

Some Notes On The Ontario Election Snoozefest

Getting bored with election news? Alas, having survived the Harris-Hudak years I would be remiss if I did not post a few blogs to warn my OECTA readers about this years Ontario Provincial election on Oct 6. I realize election talk can grow tedious, especially half way through an election. There hasn't been a real lot of reader interest even here. Still let me toss you some tasty inside tidbits from the teacher election grapevine, as well as a few of my own personal projections to maybe help spice things up a bit.

The fear inside Tim Hudak's Conservative "tax fighter" election war room is that he is currently dead in the water at the half way mark to election day. He'd planned to copy Rob Ford's Toronto Mayorial campaign. Now the wheels are falling off that election vehicle as the service cut implications of Ford's tax cuts have suddenly become so readily apparent here in Toronto. Figure out the math. Without big Toronto gains Hudak's unlikely to get enough seats to win.

Ford always was and still is a political wild card, especially now for Tim Hudak's provincial Conservatives. Still who'd have guessed he'd decide on his own to be so gung-ho in trying to implement his big service cuts at the worst possible time for his buddy Tim? Not the Conservatives. You know the saying, "You can fool some of the people some of the time..."  Well the infamous Ford Nation Uprising during this fall's provincial election is suddenly nowhere to be seen as Rob tanks at the polls. The reality factor has settled in as voters face huge service cuts across the city to pay for Ford's promised tax cuts in last fall's municipal election.

So what's next for Tim??? My bet? He'll fall back on the tired old "Broken Promises" chant from yesteryear. Atta boy Timmy, can you light our wicks with that one again?!?! Or will you just keep beating away with the same losing "tax fighter" swagger using Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty as your own personal punching bag? Will you find out that the negative attack ad swing has finally run out of steam in election weary Ontario as a sure vote winner? Gone the way of the Dodo bird and the naivity of the Ford Nation? Zzzzz. Yawn.

One can only hope! Of course a lot can still happen. There's two weeks between now and election day October 6th. That can be a few life times in politics. So if you are getting involved in our OECTA "Who Speaks For Children?" election effort, now is the time to step up the effort. Please don't figure it's game over, that we've spoken out for our students, saved our profession and schools and then head back home! The battle isn't over!

True Hudak's large lead in the polls has been reduced to a dead heat. Unless he can come up with a strong rescue "Plan B" this late in the election game, the punsters pretty well agree that if you translate the current  polls into a seat count, we will be looking at a minority Liberal win.

Andrea Horwath's NDP has no doubt taken a bounce in the polls amongst voters who don't know the difference between the Federal and the Provincial NDP but Jack Layton she isn't. Not yet anyway. I've met her on a few occasions and would bet in the long term she could be a real firecracker. For now Andrea is still a rookie and hasn't really caught fire. That's pretty much to be expected. As with Hudak, she hasn't had to take her party campaign out on the election road trail as party leader until now. She's more of a political party leader rookie in finding her feet than Tim who at least sat in Premier Harris' cabinet.

But let's say she creates a few Liberal and NDP vote splits. Or maybe she even wins a few more NDP seats from the Liberals. Either way the NDP could still allow the Conservatives to come down the middle either flipping more Liberal ridings in their favour, or reducing the overall Liberal seat counts in their favour at Queen's Park when the legislature resumes. It is for this reason that OECTA is not recommending it's members vote against any sitting Liberal or NDP incumbents, even if their Liberal or NDP opponents are also education friendly candidates.

Unfortunately for the NDP their election platform is not on the front political burner yet beyond their own hardcore party ranks. At best, in a minority Liberal scenario with a Conservative opposition, the NDP could still see themselves yielding a lot more influence, and getting a lot more much needed media attention. It could be fun to see Andrea hold Dalton's feet to the fire when he leans a little too right of centre for their tastes. Then again don't expect him to be around past two more years anyway.

It's no secret Dalton McGuinty has promised wife Terry that ten years as premier will be it. She's been pretty good about all this, living and teaching in Toronto for the past eight years, but enough is enough and it's about time for the loving twosome to move on. Another election win let's him wrap up business, resign on top, and allow for a leadership race, party renewal and a new face for the party. Possibly a win win win situation for everyone but the Conservatives and the NDP if you will. Could give the tired old Libs a lot more sizzle!

McGuinty's personal talk ads about health and education have helped offset his tendency to seem kind of distant and forced. I remember working with a Liberal focus group some time ago when Dalton had to enter an informal setting for a meet and greet, to make small talk, drink beer and connect. He was like the proverbial deer in front of your car headlights, frozen stiff. Back before his 2003 election win he was really wobbly, like a tin soldier wound up but tight and sent marching into a room. He's come a long way in the public relations department. Though still low key as an election road warrior he can project a competent if not spectacular managerial image and the province is doing well in the current economic crisis. Unless he is thrown off his game between now and election day Dalton might even be able to just keep it bland and score a majority, albeit a reduced one, by just staying the course. Like Bill Davis', or maybe more so like with Steven Harper 's cakewalk as of late.

So far this election has been a real snoozefest. Few would argue that. Conservative voters are known to invariably vote conservative or not vote at all. Hudak's tax fighter stance will appeal to his core supporters but not otherwise pick up much momentum or a whole lot more votes with Ford run amok. Now he's very vulnerable to being exposed on the ominous service cuts downside of tax cuts by both the Liberals and the NDP. Unless the provincial NDP can keep rekindling and move beyond Jack Layton's Federal NDP glow, they look like a possible spoiler at best by stripping away a few more Liberal seats.

Depending on their success at that I'd guess at a minority or majority Liberal government depending how many voters either party can actually get out to vote on election day. Truth be told that's what usually wins or loses an election. Without much voter interest both parties have a big job to do. I'd be cautious and bet my money on a Liberal minority but unless Andrea or Tim can come up with a quick game changer Dalton could now possibly pull a majority win hat trick come Oct 6th through sheer default. The next two weeks will certainly either have to suddenly become real exciting or a total sleep walk to provincial election day. Let's try to stay politically awake and active to see what happens next!

More election blogs below, and a lot of other stuff, especially in the July and August archives...

Sunday 18 September 2011

On Oct.6th Speak Out + Vote For Education!

How will you vote in the Oct 6 Ontario Provincial Election? Will you get involved by helping a pro-education friendly Liberal or NDP incumbent hold onto their riding? Or help elect one of their candidates in an open riding, if you live in one of these this election year? Consider this: Conservative party leader Tim Hudak's so called education platform was written without any consultation with our Catholic Teachers!

Our Catholic Teacher's union is an active well respected educational advocacy lobby group at Queens Park. We have an excellent record of supporting educational friendly MPP’s. We helped defeat the Conservative Harris-Hudak “Tory” government in 2003! Newer teachers might not know how bad the situation was back then compared to today.

Before 2003, education budgets were being slashed to pay for “tax cuts” and balance the Ontario provincial budget, on the backs of our students and schools! Schools were closed and programs cut. “Boot Camps” were set up for zero tolerance student “disciplinary purposes”. Support services were cut leaving our really troubled students without help!

Our teaching profession was under attack too! Premier Harris frequently denigrated us as being lazy, incompetent and overpaid! Told us to teach 7 out of 8 periods. Take useless ministry “upgrading” courses, 15 every 5 years, at our own cost. Teacher evaluations were punitive! We lacked a majority vote on the newly founded College of Teachers regulatory board. TECT teachers were even locked out of school during contract talks. OECTA faced decertification! On and on went the hostile Tory attacks on our profession, students and schools, but we fought back. That’s all behind us, for now. Or is it?

In 2003 OECTA began strategically endorsing education friendly politicians from both the Liberal and the NDP parties, supporting incumbents, and the party candidate who could best defeat a Tory at election time. As successful teacher educational advocates, our OECTA teachers' association is always consulted on education matters by both party's. Queens Park knows that you demand support for our Catholic school system! Unlike before our teachers aren’t “outside” of a hostile legislature. We have a definite “in” way to make sure our concerns are heard.

But now we stand to lose that all in this fall's 2011 provincial election! We can’t lose our hard earned gains through apathy, and the attending default it brings. The risk is too great and too real! Conservative Party leader Tim Hudak's attack ads feature prominently on t.v. these days, while the polls bounce back and forth suggesting his Harris Redux version of the Ontario Conservative party might well get elected again on Oct 6!

Have you seen his wife in the ads? Did you know he and his wife Deb Hutton were key figures in the Harris government? That she helped with the early drafts of the so called "Common Sense Revolution" that slashed school, medical and social services across the province? The happy housewife you see cuddling baby Hudak in his "just plain folk" t.v. ads is a cruel, deceitful rue! Hubby Tim has even claimed that slashing teacher’s salaries will help balance the Ontario budget deficit in the provincial legislature! What is he whispering in Lil' Miller Hudak's ear in those corny ads? If you don't think huge education cuts can happen again like during the Harris-Hudak years, look at what a mess Rob Ford's Toronto is! As the saying goes, if Hudak is elected Oct 6th, "You haven't seen nothin' yet!"

As Catholic teachers we cannot risk coming full circle back to the devastating attacks on our teachers, students and schools, should the Conservatives get elected on Oct 6! Please visit OECTA's" website for more information on how you can help! Volunteer to get involved with a Liberal or NDP riding association now as they take a clear pro-education election stance. Toronto members can contact your TSU office for more information.

OECTA will be providing a list of endorsed incumbents and candidates soon for your consideration, so we don't risk splitting the Liberal-NDP vote and inadvertantly letting the Conservatives win. That's what happened when Harris was elected in 1995. Think about this, for yourself. Keeping in mind the well being of our profession, our students and our schools. We have one of the highest ranked education systems in the world. Let's keep it that way. As Catholic teachers, we have and still can make a difference!      

Who Is The Real "Tax" Man + What Does He Want? Have You Seen This Tim Hudak Ad?

For more Ontario election info, commentary, and views, please continue reading the posts below;

Friday 16 September 2011

Youtube: OECTA Who Speaks for Children?

A tip of the hat to Vic + Cheryl at Government Relations. Keep up the great work for our kids!

OECTA TSU has forwarded member information for our "Who Speaks For Children?" Ontario provincial election campaign at Thursday's staff rep meet. Hopefully it will be distributed by the staff reps at your school asap. Other materials were also sent to them in a OECTA Provincial mailing last week. You may have seen the billboards. TSU's radio ads should be starting within the Toronto area very soon.

The above video has proven to be my most viewed post since last April. "Who Speaks For Children?" is a fine and tasteful campaign that reflects our teacher concerns as an education advocacy group. Did you know that the Tim Hudak's Provincial Conservatives have refused to meet with OECTA over the past two years while formulating their so called "education platform", unlike both the Ontario provincial Liberals and the NDP? It has been developed without any teacher input or consultation whatsoever! Obviously your expertise does not count for much when they determine our students' educational policy. Is this the type of Ontario you want?

Visit our provincial website for more information on the parties educational plans. Ask yourself "Who speaks for children?".Then please make sure you get out there and help a good education friendly candidate win.

Please vote on Oct.6th. As Catholic educators we can make a difference!

Please see my original posting below for more information on why this election is so important for our profession, our students and out schools:

OECTA's Fall 2011 Provincial Election Campaign  is called: "Who Speaks for Children?" Quite frankly, the public isn't going to worry too much about a hostile Tory government going after our teacher contracts and pensions next year should Tim Hudak win. They do care about the quality of education their children receive from us. We know once Tim starts cutting, that will decline terribly, like during the Harris years. So we should be seen as the dedicated professionals that we are, speaking out for our students, in order to keep the respect and resources that we need to get the job done right.

As your previous TSU PAC [Political Advisory Committee] Executive Liaison, and a long term political activist, I worked with our TSU PAC over the past eleven years to actively help you lead the charge. OECTA Provincial is now rolling out it's full 2011 provincial election campaign. Contrary to what we might hear in the news, I believe this info video is actually very positive. It emphasizes what we as Catholic teachers look for in endorsing any political party or candidate, regardless of their political stripe. We are here for the students! Mr. Hudak, are you?

Please contact the TSU office, and/ or your TSU Staff rep if you would like more info. Ask your fellow teachers who taught during the Harris years what it was like! Let's get involved now before it is too late!

For more information on our OECTA TSU PAC election activities, see my directory located below the blogs. The June Post explains why our"TSU Rocks The Madison Pub" was such a big success. Those of you who filled out a survey form there, to help with the election, are being contacted by this year's PAC. Your staff reps will also have additional forms available at school. Please get involved and do your bit!

Monday 12 September 2011

A Visitors Guide To My Blogspot Site!

Greetings to my many readers from outside Canada, most notably the Ukraine as of late! Also everyone from the US, Saudi Arabia, South America, the Caribbean, the UK, Russia, Europe, South East Asia, Afghanistan, and Iran. On and on the list goes! Wherever you are, I'm glad you are coming to my blogspot, and am truly honoured. I'd like to let you know what's here and how my site works. This then is my non-OECTA-TSU teacher union member guide to my blogspot.

I am the 3rd Vice President of our Catholic teachers union here in Toronto, OECTA-TSU [Ontario English Catholic Teachers  Association Toronto Secondary Unit]. TSU is the local unit of our province wide OECTA organization, representing about 2200 secondary school teachers. We are responsible for collective bargaining , monitoring it's implementation, and assisting our members with their work related problems. We also take an active lead in working with our school board administration on JSS [Joint Safe Schools], JHS [Joint Health and Safety] and Joint PD [Joint Professional Development.] We are very active politically at the provincial level through our OECTA Government Relations department as an "educational advocacy group" for our students, schools and profession, with the Ontario Ministry of Education and our three main Ontario provincial political parties; the Liberals, the Conservatives and the NDP [New Democratic Party]. Full info about our unit can be found at

This blogsite is my personal way of communicating teacher and union news and views to the members who elected me. The views are my own. However, this is not all I do at this site.

This blogspot also includes a lot of my own personal writings on my travel, political and other interests, including music and diving etc. etc. I will pretty much share anything of interest that comes across my scanner if I think it is appropriate or worth discussing. Since you don't live here you might also be interested in my many posts on life in Toronto, and other related pieces, from my Toronto Ontario, Canadian perspective. For what it's worth I am locally born and bred here in Toronto. I think that is much reflected too!

This then is how you might access the different features on my site:

Slideshow: Top left corner. Contains my latest photographs, usually related to my posts or school and union life here in Toronto. It also features photos from my travels and many various non-school activities.

Side Columns: Photos and info on my travels and other activities, right now snorkeling on the left, the Cuban Schools Project on the right, and my Mexico trip to the Mayan ruins in the centre below the blogs.

Bottom: There is a large number of flash games, and other novelties, myYoutube bar with different themes and quite a bit of just for fun stuff. Also one big intriguing photo at the very end few seem to see.

The Directory/ Archive: This is below my blogposts in the centre column. You can check out my postings by the month. As a rule of thumb, school and union related postings will be archived throughout our school year months of September to June. July and August are my holiday postings on everything else. Of course this can vary but use that as a rule of thumb, especially if you are interested in OECTA TSU.

The Centre Posts of course are my most current blogs. I usually post every 3 or 4 days, sometimes more, rarely less. Some may be just work related, which you might find interesting if you are a teacher. Others are a lot more wider in scope and will deal with various issues school or otherwise related. These are more like my own think pieces on an important topic.

Below each post is a Comment Bar. Please use this to provide your own constructive thoughts and comments. I'd also like to know which articles, topics and features etc. interest you so I can provide more of these if I can. Please also contact me by email at

Welcome to my blogspot! Please pass this link on if you know others who would be interested. And keep tuned, it should be a very interesting school year ahead!

PS: Hope to hear from you soon. Would love to know where you are from etc. etc. etc.

Friday 9 September 2011

Remembering 9/11

[My regular teacher school and union blogs will continue after the anniversary of 9/11]

During our New York Trip In August, I often spent sunset down at the old WTC Twin Towers Site, relaxing on a bench and reflecting on all that has happened since 9/11. It was my first visit. I didn't know what to expect really. The site was a very busy beehive of activity as the workers prepared for the big 10th anniversary memorial this weekend. The original foundations remain, but are being turned into fountains of a sort, with water running down their sides, not unlike a waterfall of tears. The new glass and steel tower is about half the height of the original WTC and growing taller every day. I was greeted by the buzz of construction cranes, machinery and crew working around the clock for the big occasion.

As I sat there, I found myself wondering how many folk around the world have died as "collateral damage" in other bombed out buildings since that day. More? Less? Was the "War on Terror" such a good idea? As I sat on my bench the sunset over the 9/11 site disappeared behind the New York skyline in a burst of fading crimson. I recalled my political science studies in university. We learnt that theoretically one of the main objectives of terrorism is to get the target to react in a detrimental way and disadvantage themselves, usually by exercising repression at home and lashing out aggressively against others. That's when the real most serious damage occurs;  from what the leaders of the victim country do or don't do themselves in the wake of the terrorist act.

Immediately after 9/11 the United States as a people had the sympathy and a shared mutual concern with much of the world. It almost seemed like a moment of unity. The post cold war world era had been knocked ajar and the world as we knew it seemed inevitably posed to pivot in a new direction, one way or another.

I'd bet many of us around the world, for a moment anyway wondered; how can we work together to effectively stop terrorism? Many, many other countries could identify with the situation because they had suffered from terrorist acts too. And quite basically, the very thought of the thousands of innocent 9/11 victims was and remains a very sickening thought, even in Canada where we have so far been spared this horror.

Before 9/11 the US deficit was not a big issue nor was there any Homeland Act limiting civil liberties in the United States. For many nations it was a time of peacetime prosperity. Even the number of wars around the world had significantly declined since the collapse of the Soviet bloc. After WW1, WW 2 , the Cold War, and a century of unprecedented war and strife, our future in the new dawn of the 21st Century had for a very brief while seemed a lot brighter indeed.

When the August sun had set and all was dark at the 9/11 site, except for the work lights, I was no closer to  any other sound conclusions about what we can now do than any of us I suppose. Had war in Afghanistan and Iraq really been the right way to go? It sure doesn't seem so. Then what were the other alternatives? There are no easy answers, then or now for that matter, for how we can get out of this mess. Everything has changed, and not for the better.

Then again life goes on. The World Trade Centre, now the World Financial Centre is being rebuilt, hopefully not to be knocked down again. As I write there is another alert in the US of a possible terrorist attack set to coincide with this weekends 9/11 memorial. The post modern imagery of American airliners being hijacked and crashed into the symbols of US commerce and military might, then causing a collapse is rarely mentioned or considered, out of respect for those who died perhaps. I'm afraid we don't live in very rational, patient or prudent times. The cycle of violence spirals on.

I remember in the 1990's I used to communicate on the internet with the night staff at one of the offices located in the twin towers. We'd exchange music files on Napster back when it was all the craze. They had a huge MP3 library and were pleased to copy a few Beatle concerts from me. I never heard from them again after 9/11. Did they finish their shift and go home? Or did they die too? I suppose I'll never know. Still the unsettled feeling pales so significantly against the great loss of the many American people, and others from around the world who have lost their innocent family members and loved ones through terrorism and war since 9/11. I know my heart and prayers will be with them this weekend. May God bless!

PS: I have posted some photos from the 9/11 site taken last month and out of respect will keep them up for the weekend. This weeks "Welcome Back" posting is below.

Tuesday 6 September 2011

Welcome Back!

Welcome back to the new school year! I hope you will enjoy the fall edition of my blogspot. Like you, I am very busy with my students right now. The autism class I've been setting up for the past two years seem eager to be back. We even have a few new Grade 9 students who've joined us. The parents, new and old, who have been dropping by to say hello are just great. We must be doing something right! :-)

As you probably know from my June blogs, my students are severely autistic, there's no question about that, so I am very pleased too that we all seem to be such a happy group! Also, let's face it, as much as we love our holidays, teaching is a vocation. There's nothing better than seeing our colleagues and students again come September! At most schools anyway. Hopefully yours too.

My autumn blogs are a bit slow in being posted right now because I am so busy with school. If you wish to check out my July and August archive directory, below the centre column of blogs, you will can find out about my trips to Mexico, Cuba and NYC this summer. There's still also photos posted all over my blogsite on the side columns and below. Or you can click on my slide show to see my Flickr archives for more. Mexico was incredible; snorkeling and exploring the Mayan ruins at Chitzen Itza. The Cuban Schools project is also doing great. I was happily surprised by those of you who've approached me to say you might be interested in helping out with or at the Cuban Schools. Sure! Welcome aboard!

I am working on a few new blogs about teacher issues for this fall, as your TSU 3rd VP. See my blog Manifesto from last June if you need more info on what this is all about. The views here are totally my own. I share them with you, the members who duly elected me, so you know what's going on. I look forward to having a frank, honest and direct discussion with you about our shared school and union concerns, activities and so on and so forth. I sometimes send out notices when I think there is something you might be interested in. You can always reply with "Delete" in the subject bar if you don't want these, but few do, and I really urge you to stay tuned. My aim is to be constructive. There will be some real interesting stuff coming up in the year ahead.

On your new 2011-12 TSU [Toronto Secondary Unit] union executive, I am very pleased to be the executive liaison for our BTC [Beginning Teachers Committee] once again. I have also picked up the RAC [Religious Affairs Committee], as promised during the May election. Again, see my directory if you want to know more about this. Other than that? After eleven years of chairing or being the executive liaison for PAC [Political Advisory Committee], this portfolio has now been given by executive to another executive member. It's a big weight off my back in some ways. Whew! It's been a lot of work, and I can only wish Frank well with it. I had hoped to pick Membership Services too, but no. Methinks the very idea of this blogspot has not exactly tickled some folk pink but I say what needs to be said. Anyway, I will look forward to seeing what other TSU duties I might still pick up over the next little bit.

Your TSU executive met the week before school. The committee lists should officially go out from our office this week. We've been asked not to disclose this information until it is given out to everybody. Fair enough, but stay tuned. There will be more informative and constructive school and union news and views coming in the days, weeks and months ahead.

Retirees: I'm glad you like the blogspot. Your invitations should be coming out soon if not already for the official breakfast TSU will be holding in your honour. Call the main office for more information.

For my non-TSU teacher readers please know there will be a lot of other interesting issues coming up too. I promise to keep my blogspot lively and entertaining for the average everyday reader in a non-teacher union type way too. I've received well over 5000 reads since I started the site in May, from TSU members and other interested readers around the world [the US, UK, Cuba, India, Afghanistan, Mexico, Cuba, Russia, etc. etc.] I am truly honoured!

A special hello must go to my autism education readers! Yes the important work goes on, and I will be discussing this more too, and thank you for your missives and inspiration, especially on Twitter.

Our teacher counterparts in other countries may be interested in how we are organized and in learning more about the work our teacher unions do here in Ontario, Canada. I will try not to use too many acronyms without introducing them first, but I am sure many if not most of the teaching issues discussed will be familiar to you all. So this then is how we try to handle them here.

Otherwise? Well, it's back to my lesson preps for tonight. So as they say in Cuba and Mexico:

A Su Salud!/
To Your Health!

David Chiarelli

PS For the record, this blogspot has had 859 visitors since school ended for the holidays in June. There have been 5470 readers in all since I started it in late April. The vast majority of you are from here, the rest from around the world, as I mentioned earlier. Thanks everyone for your interest and support.

Thursday 1 September 2011

A Canuck's Guide To Manhattan NYC

Janet and I had a fabulous four days visiting Manhattan Island New York City! I've posted photos and or itineraries of Soho, Noho, Greenwich, Little Italy, Chinatown, Canal Street, the WTC site, Time Square, Central Park, Broadway, Fifth Ave, Park Ave, the Brooklyn Bridge, La Guardia and Harlem etc. etc. etc. How now to summarize and make any sense of our trip?

Welcome to my Canuck's Guide to NYC or "Neu Yawk" as the locals seem to pronounce it! We are bonafide baby boomer, Toronto born Canadians aka "Canucks", eh. I've not been to Manhattan since 1992. It was Janet's first visit. We can only share our own recent travel experience with you. Hopefully that might be interesting and  helpful to my fellow Canadian readers, and also perhaps readers from elsewhere too. Anyway here goes.

Hotels: We stayed at the renovated art deco New Yorker Hotel on 8th and 33th Streets in Midtown West; smallish but comfortable and clean rooms, in a convenient location, within easy walking distance of Time Square and beside a subway stop. Reasonably priced in the New York mid range, it was the height of fashion in the 1930's or 40's with the big bands, and big name celebrities. It shares it's art deco style with the Empire State Building built just down the street. The Tic Toc Diner on the ground floor of the New Yorker remains a popular eating spot with it's matching decor and just plain folk menu. Think fancy greasy spoon without too much grease. Visit for breakfast or late at night! Tres kool!

Transport: There's a subway station right outside the door of the New Yorker. The New York subway is pretty big but easy to follow with its A, B, C lines etc, also cheap and quick. It's really been cleaned up, even the homeless people are friendly, helpful and polite. The graffiti seemed to be gone. The cattle car trains seemed rather rough and tumbly and are made to handle large, large numbers of folk efficiently, which they did when we were there. Don't expect upholstered seats like on the Toronto TTC and avoid at rush hour at all costs. Otherwise it can be a good, cheap way to get around quickly.

The Hop On and Hop Off Buses are another option. A flat rate 48 hour full route pass means you can travel around the island seeing all the sites, getting on or off to visit the main areas and so on as you please, or just enjoying the tour on the frequent open air rooftop buses. Problems? Bad news when it rains, low branches and overhead traffic lights means don't don't don't stand up, and service ends ridiculously early in the evening. Otherwise not a bad idea to consider on a whirlwind trip.

Taxis? Everywhere and relatively cheap within Manhattan compared to most places I've been.

Car Driving and Rentals: No way unless you like trying to drive through permanent gridlock.The traffic usually reminded me of our own Highway 401 during Toronto rush hour on a bad day. Parking is in very tight supply and not at all cheap or convenient. Then add the street lights which most everyone drivers and pedestrians alike ignore. Very strange. In short; forget about it. I'd leave the driving to others.

The Sites: Buy a good travel guide or two to figure your top ten. It could easily take a week just to visit these during peak season what with all the crowds and so on. Think of Manhattan New York this way: It's a post modern version of itself that's now become the world's number one tourist site. Let me explain before we visit some of the sites we chose.

A million and a half people still live there either in exclusive condos, older rent controlled apartments, and in still heavily residential areas like Harlem. Many more people just work there in the many office towers. Otherwise? There's retail, retail and more retail, innumerable tourist sites, restaurants and over 250 Starbuck Cafes.

There's been a huge flood of tourists. Everything is slowly but surely being bought out and restored as heritage and tourism sites you can visit. The actual physical form of the Manhattan that you now see no longer necessarily serves its original purpose. Quite simply Manhattan New York often looks like a beautiful vision of what it was and perhaps of what you or the city would like to think it to be. For example, Little Italy isn't really a large sprawling Italian family neighbourhood anymore. Ditto China Town. Kerouac's MacDougal Street blues dissipated long ago but walking through here and throughout Greenwich Village we still remember and want to see the beats. Same with Bob Dylan at the Cafe Wha? or the Bitter End. The neighbourhoods remain similiar but with a new virtual character.

Take South Street Seaport  for a case in point.It's a gorgeous waterfront attraction with tall ships to photograph and a man made sand beach. The renovated warehouses are trendy shops and sea food restaurants. No swimming but there's nice lawn chairs and even couches. There's not much if any of the port activities being carried on here anymore aside from the upscale marina perhaps.

Within a short walking distance is the Brooklyn Bride. You walk over a special pathway on Brooklyn Bridge which is a great way to see the city skyline but I wouldn't want to drive across in a car.

A lot of the original, authentic life and functions in Manhattan itself may have very well have moved on long ago, and this reconstruct, or call it what you will, is what you actually see now instead. That's not to say it's bad just an interesting reflection perhaps on our life and times. The police are nice and friendly now, never gruff. The New Yorkers we met seemed pleasant and helpful and could even be a lot of fun. Gotta love the accents too!

One local suggested to me that the city lost it's past arrogance, and indifference between it's different communities and friendly outsiders since 9/11. They now know a sense of inclusiveness. Everyone needs to live and get by together in Manhattan. We were only there four days, so I don't know for sure about that, but we really enjoyed ourselves and felt relaxed and very at ease, frequently exchanging pleasantries with the locals and other visitors alike. Quite a change from twenty years ago, when it often seemed either very sleazy or stand offish, and I felt like you should just shut up, myob, and have eyes on the back of your head.

Because of our time constraints we were very selective on what we did during our four day visit. We regretfully avoided the top deck view from the Empire State building because of the long, long line-ups, and also a number of other must see sites. Peak tourist season probably isn't the best time for that. Still here are some of our trip highlights that impressed me the most;

Soho and Noho: Yes Soho has expanded north to Noho now while holding onto a lot of it's character. Expect off beat small restaurants, shops, patio bars, and music clubs with parks liberally spread throughout these areas of the city. Pretty laid back and a nice neighbourly walk.

Greenwich Village: More of the same. Still has live jazz in Washington Square Park with small combos playing bop. Lively but laid back. It's a pleasant rest stop just sitting on a bench under a sprawling tree watching Greenwich sidewalk life go by and pondering who else might've sat here in years past.

China Town and Little Italy:  China Town is a only a few square blocks now, and it looked pretty run down and squalid. The real Little Italy is now just basically Mulberry Street, and not necessarily the best place to go for pizza. I stand to be corrected, but one look and we moved on from both places.

Time Square: Imagine downtown Dundas Square Toronto with all it's neon lights and screens multiplied by ten. Matter of fact most everything in Manhattan seemed like Toronto times ten, be that good or bad, you choose. Truth be told I prefer Toronto's smaller scale to live and work but we quite enjoyed ourselves. During certain times, and I'm not sure when as a rule, all the traffic is cut off and tables and chairs are put out in the square instead. We loved sitting down just to watch the circus of life all about us. The huge neon tower to the north has raised benches underneath it. Players in costume wander around promoting their theatre show. Army recruiters in full dress march around trying to get the young folks to join the US Marines.The NYPD will pose with you for photos. There's the minstrels and beggars. The police station and army recruitment centre are prominently placed in the centre of the square. I didn't see any seedy crap games in the doorways or smutty looking shops like twenty years ago. The only bootleggers were going "Psst! Psst!" and trying to sell us fake designer purses and Rolex watches. Although very crowded and kind of cheesy what with all the signage and souvenir shops, Time Square has really been cleaned up. It was as different as night and day from when I last visited in 1992.

The New World Financial Centre/ 9-11 Site: I sat on a bench here a few times watching the sunset . I didn't know what to expect really. It often seems to me that ingrained images of the jetliners and collapsing twin towers, rerunning over and over again on t.v. and in our minds, have figured pretty significantly in our collective conscience of everything that's changed in the world, as we once knew it ten years ago. The site wasn't sad or hushed, quite the opposite. It's now a beehive of construction activity with at least six huge flag drapped cranes working around the clock on the monument and new tower. The latter is now about one half the size of the old WTC and rising taller. The original twin tower foundations remain as huge squares with waterfalls running down the four sides. Security remains quite tight, mostly because it is a construction site I would suppose. When I ambled in for photos I was perhaps quite properly and no doubt unceremoniously kicked out to go back to sit on my bench. Huge fences surround the site, where the tourist and commuter crowds mill about. There are gaps left here and there you can look through, and of course the view from my bench, with the crimson setting sun provided an interesting muse. I was left with a few impressions I'd still like to reflect upon some more. I posed for a photo with a US Army Afghanistan vet. He wore his fatigues and waved a big American flag shouting "Take no prisoners!" [!?]. It was a lot of fun sharing in his overstated enthusiasm but of course the really big tenth anniversary ceremonies will be this September 11th. Maybe I'll write more about the site then.

Central Park West and 5th Ave: The Central Park West Dakota building where John Lennon was shot and killed is of course still a mecca to see even if you can't go to the actual spot inside the driveway anymore. The Strawberry Fields memorial is across the street in Central Park. Yoko Ono still lives on the 6th floor south east corner. I looked up and the curtains were open but I don't know if anybody was at home. I highly doubt she'd appreciate a visit. Jackie Onassis Kennedy's posh 5th Avenue digs remain a popular site for a photo, especially in the awned entrance way with the address prominently displayed above but I passed on that too.

Harlem: Nothing was happening at the Apollo Theatre when we were there but it is still  open for business. I thought we might see some good R+B names on the marquee or even go in for a show but no luck. The street out front looked bleak and run down. The brownstones further along are apparently being bought up and renovated by successful blacks coming back to reclaim their heritage. Perhaps Harlem will go through a rebirth soon too.My understanding is it's still pretty poor, residential and not a big top site to see despite it's rich and important cultural history.

Shopping: Canal Street and Battery Park seem vastly overrated or maybe we just visited at off times. Everyone now knows you can buy counterfeit fashion, watches and jewellery here. Or maybe sometimes they are real, and hot off the counter from any one of the local brand name stores. All very dubious. You are supposed to haggle, and if they don't get their price the seller will walk away.

A Tip: Most all the big famous stores have a consignment area where the rich and famous sell off their swag, purses, outfits and jewellery. They've only been used once or twice at most. Virtually brand new and for a fraction of their usual outrageous price. Legal and for real!

Macey's: Janet was only in there a hour. It reminded her of shopping at the Bay when there aren't any sales, or Winners when there's nothing you'd really go gag ga over, or are off sizes. Maybe it was just an off day, because we have heard otherwise. You are entitled to ten percent off as a visitor on top of the alleged sales on top of sales on top of sales.

Century 21: Think of a fancier even more upscale Winners but it isn't necessarily going to be cheap or have a big wow factor. Still worth a visit or two.

Music Stores: I collect albums and cds. This is a specialty market these days but if you are interested:

Generation Records in Soho has an amazing collection of rare "live and studio" factory made cds [read real cds not cdrs]. Pricey but the real McCoy, if you collect these.

Bleeker Street Records in Greenwich Village: More of the same but different titles and a larger collection of regular rock stock with a quite diverse and in depth collection of titles. 

Off the Street in Lower Manhattan: Prog rock heaven! Ask and you shall receive. There are actual drawers full of additional titles you will be directed to. Probably the most extensive King Crimson collection I have ever imagined or seen. Import Brian Eno digipacks at a reasonable price. Overall not exactly cheap but well worth it and with good bargoons to be found. Custom made receipts available for customs. Call to see if you can find out when the manager will be there. The young staff are helpful but he apparently lives and breathes the genre. 

J+R Music and Computer World across from City Hall Park: A whole city block of electronics, computers, cameras, cds, albums and dvds. Discounts on top of discounts. Electronics in the US no longer seem to have the same wow factor in price and selection. Do you really want to worry about warranties and getting them home? Worth a gander if you don't care and God only knows what you might find if you take the time, the stock is huge. The CD's? Imagine the big flagship HMV music store in Toronto multiplied by five with an incredible selection of titles  mostly in the $3-$10 range. Rock, oldies, jazz, country, classical and blues. Vinyl too. They will ask if you want to pay in Canadian dollars using your credit card to avoid the exchange service fees. I visited twice, and maybe covered only about half the cd and record store. Plus the top third floor is all dvd's which I never got to. Boo hoo!

Food? Unfortunately we did not find out enough about the best restaurants and where they were before we arrived. We don't need Chef Ramsey. Manhattan also hasn't any shortage of every fast food and big name eatery you can name, just like Toronto. The Starbucks were a welcome airconditioned coffee, snack and internet break but for meals it was different. You need to know where the good places are, then how to get there, and perhaps plan your day accordingly. The Tic Toc Diner at the New Yorker ended up conveniently solving many a tummy rumble and was quite fun and even good in a pinch.

Souvenirs? If you must, check out a few stores, maybe in Time Square. The prices vary a lot and you can haggle them down further. I suspect they sometimes don't really care just so long as you buy something. Me? I broke down. An eighteen inch metal statue of the Empire State building with a removable King Kong figure that you can attach to the top. Haggled the price down a good bit, and had them open the box to make sure I got Kong. To each their own.

And last but not least La Guardia Airport. JFK and it are closer to NYC than Newark which is actually in Jersey. Be aware of this when you are booking a fight! A cab from La Guardia to central Manhattan is about $40, a shuttle bus about $15. Be aware that the shuttle will stop at every hotel, so it depends on which one you are coming from or going to. A driver from our hotel cost about $50 and provided quick and personalized transport in a nice cab which was well worth it, on our way back. Considering the New Yorker Hotel was the first shuttle bus stop upon our arrival, I figure we did pretty good. We came in and out just under the wire. Total chaos erupted at La Guardia during the earthquake, which we just missed as we arrived at our hotel. Later on the hurricane warning, which took a long time to sink in, resulted in a mad rush in the wake of our ace cabbie back to the airport, on our way out. We missed getting caught up in both!

La Guardia seemed grimmy and strictly functional, unlike Toronto's Pearson Airport. There were frequent delays and cancellations which were confusingly announced and mishandled, resulting in sheer madness, overcrowding, long line ups and pricey airline offers for our seats. Janet and I stayed the course, the flight passengers just before and after us being in total turmoil. Outside of a short delay in the airport lobby and being stuck in a very along line up of jets awaiting departure out on the tarmac, we got home only a few hours late. No big deal but we were very lucky indeed.

So that dear friends is my tale of two Canucks in Manhattan NYC! Hope you enjoyed it even half as much as we did going. Overall yes, we would highly recommend the trip and plan to go back again. I won't wait twenty years this time around. Janet either. No way!

Communist Girls ARE More Fun!

Communist Girls ARE More Fun!
See below ...

Communist Girls Are More Fun #1

Communist Girls Are More Fun #1

Communist Grrrls are More Fun #2

Communist Grrrls are More Fun #2

Communist Grrrls Are More Fun #3

Communist Grrrls Are More Fun #3

Communist Girls Are More Fun #4

Communist Girls Are More Fun #4

Art at the Paris Louvre: What does it mean?!?

Art at the Paris Louvre: What does it mean?!?
A careful analytical study!

Help! I Have No Arms!

Help! I Have No Arms!
Please scratch my back.

I can't find my underwear!.

I can't find my underwear!.
Have you seen them!

Weee! I can fly!

Weee! I can fly!
Look! I can crawl thru walls!

I have a headache!

I have a headache!
And a broken nose.

I have a square hole in my bum!

I have a square hole in my bum!

Here try this, it's very good!

Here try this, it's very good!
No. You have a bird face.

I have an ugly baby!

I have an ugly baby!
No I'm not!

Let's save all our money + buy pants!

Let's save all our money + buy pants!
OK but I need a new hand too!

Oh no! I got something in my eye!

Oh no! I got something in my eye!

You don't look well.

You don't look well.
No. My head hurts +I have a sore chest.

Would you like a bun?

Would you like a bun?

Chichen-Itza: Lost Maya City of Ruins!

Chichen-Itza: Lost Maya City of Ruins!
The Temple of Kukulkan!

Gotta love it!

Gotta love it!
Truly amazing!

Under Reconstruction!

Under Reconstruction!

Temples + Snakes!

Temples + Snakes!

The Snake!

The Snake!
It runs the length of the ball field!