Opening Statement



Monday, 2 September 2013

Toronto Labour Day Parade!



At the parade with Sparky and Mike

We awoke early. Headed down to our friends GA and BSAs' Parkdale home along the Toronto lakeshore for their annual Labour Day breakfast. We gather with our fellow teacher friends there, enjoy coffee, croissants and cheese. Once we all arrive we head out together to the Labour Day parade. GA knows all the back street routes to get us close to the parade start at Queen St and University Avenues. Well, close enough so we can hop on a Queen street car for the last stretch of the trip, to avoid parking in the crowded downtown core or CNE [Canadian National Exhibition] grounds. For indeed, the Labour Day Parade, here in Toronto, is always a march into the CNE fair grounds for the last day of the exhibition, and the summer holidays.

Usually I don't really like to go but do so begrudgingly out of purpose. Quite frankly the CNE is the last place I want to be on the day before I return to school, when I'd rather just stay home and screw my head back on straight for the first day of classes. Not this year though. I arose bright and chipper, ready to enjoy the march, and a visit to the CNE. Why?


Unifor leads the Toronto parade with much happy hullabaloo!

Tomorrow will be the first time I have not had to get up for the first morning of school since 1979. That's when I returned to university after a four year break. If you count my grade and high school years before then, I have been going back to school on the first day, as either a student or teacher, for 49 years! But no more! I am now retired. For the first time since in decades I can roll over and go back to sleep in the morning. Likewise totally enjoy the CNE on the last day of summer holidays, for the next day is just another day for me. Ha. Anyway, I shouldn't rub it in.

There was quite a gathering as usual. The new Unifor Canadian "super union" lead the march, in mass, with their red tops, and large entourage, starting around 9:30 am on the route west on Queen St. then south along Dufferin St into the CNE grounds through the Dufferin Gates. Our 3 largest teacher unions, ETFO, OSSTF, and OECTA followed next. We all wore matching burnt orange shirts with the slogan:

"Champions of Fairness, Defender of Rights."

Orange = NDP? Well we sure as hell weren't wearing OLP red. As someone or other pointed out it isn't NDP orange. Still we split shades. I don't think the symbolism was lost on anyone. The OLP turned on the teachers over the last year or so, and shouldn't assume our support is there anymore.


We were well received all along the parade route!

OPSEU fell in line behind us, and union after union after union after that. A sea of union flags. I could not see the end of the line. One news estimate claimed 20,000 marchers showed up for a boisterous parade this year. We made our way along the streets. There were a good number of onlookers along the route, more than I have seen in a few years, all friendly and cheering us on. I moved up and down the parade line talking with my good union buddies from the different affiliates, most notably MB from TECT, and my good buddy and fellow TSU Brown Bag Boy [BBB- never mind] Jim Barnes. Mostly Jim as we exchanged observations on the last year at OECTA/ OECTA TSU. Jim was a fellow executive member, matter of fact he was on OECTA TSU executive for over 20 years. I look forward to being able to spend more time with him again, now that we are both retired, All around it was a happy reunion with many of our fellow teacher members, marching for the Good Fight once again.


OPSEU was immediately behind us.

We arrived in the CNE grounds after a good jaunt. Everybody who marches gets in free with a wristband. We all meet near the bandstand for drinks and eats. Wolfed back some BBQ ribs and quaffed back a few well earned coolies among much union merriment and mirth. Informally made plans for the next year ahead.

It was a hot muggy Toronto day, sunny and humid as hell. Suddenly the rain clouds rolled over and burst in a summer shower sending folks scurrying for the shelter of umbrellas and trees. Or just sitting there laughing. It's summer. It's hot. It was so refreshing. A pure summer moment. I stood under a tree with my union compatriots from a number of different affiliates laughing it up and finishing off our drinks until the rain stopped just as quick as it started. Pure summer!


Not even a summer shower could dampen this union party!

Afterwards we said our goodbyes. Janet and I wandered into the packed CNE grounds. I will be quite frank. I loved the CNE as a kid. It's a part of life growing up in Toronto. I loved working at the CNE through university, making enough in the last few weeks of summer to hold me until my student grants and loans came through, making sure I could kick off the new school year with some much needed cash. But otherwise?

I can't stand the crowds and trashy commercialism. I don't go on the rides anymore. We walked the grounds a bit holding hands. Janet went into the CNE Food Building, a mad crush of people, to pick us up something for dinner. I especially can't stand the Food Building. It mostly has crap for sale and you can't budge. The appeal is strictly in the junky sinful fun of it all.


So I sat on a bench watching the exhibition goers. A pan flute band irritating played beside me. God what's with the darn pan flute bands again, seemingly everywhere I go? Are they making a friggin' coming back?!? How many different variations of El Condor Pasa can one possibly sit through?!? But no matter, it was summer, it was hot. I leaned back on my  bench just drinking in all the colours, movement, smells and heat of another summer at the ex.

As much as I detest it, the CNE has always very much been a love-hate affair for me. I live in Toronto. I am born and bred here. So I invariably end up here every Labour Day. It's an annual tradition, just what ones does. Quite frankly, I have nothing I have to think about or do, for tomorrow when most of you all get up and head off to class, I can roll over and go back to sleep. What luxury! You don't know how long I have been looking forward to this. Nope.


The union reception live.
 
By the time Janet made her way back out of the Food Building, she had enough too. We gladly cut short our CNE visit, and walked back to the car. Came home mid afternoon for a long leisurely nap. What bliss!

Another year, another labour day march. I hope the parades went as well elsewhere across the province today!


Busy, busy: Sparky's teaching me the teacher retirement ropes!

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