Yesterday my husband decided to take the dog for a walk while I was at Sobey’s. Our dog Amber loves the city plowed trail behind our house. To get to it, my husband and the dog decided to go down the walk through. My husband fell on the ice of the unmaintained route. He scraped the side of his head and strained his arm. He was lucky he didn’t break a bone.
Discussions on social media from active transportation activists have talked about having the Cities of Waterloo Region plow all the sidewalks, as is done in Elmira. Waterloo decided to up bylaw enforcement instead. As you can see from the above pictures, the residents in my neighbourhood are very good at keeping our sidewalks clear. The only place on the sidewalk that is solid ice is in front of the pedestrian walkway. A sign says “No Winter Maintenance”. This seems to include the patch of public sidewalk in front of the walkthrough. I talked my neighbour who lives beside this patch of ice. He says that part of the sidewalk doesn’t belong to him. It doesn’t belong to the neighbour on the other side either. It belongs to the CITY OF WATERLOO.
The unmaintained walkthrough is used by children going to school, dog walkers, cyclists, and pedestrians generally, many with strollers. If the City of Waterloo is really for increasing active transportation, if the City of Waterloo is really for clean sidewalks in the winter, as they say they are, they should maintain pedestrian walk ways. I know at one time men from the House of Friendship cleaned the sidewalks in downtown Kitchener. It’s an idea that could work.
Fortunately, my husband will heal and probably won’t need physiotherapy, but I am sure that if we talked to the lawyer who got my older daughter $10,000 dollars after a car ran into her when she was cycling, the City of Waterloo would be liable, despite the “No Winter Maintenance” sign.
How does the city get away with leaving a solid patch of ice on the sidewalk when the rest of us have to clean our walks? How does the city get away having a heavily used pedestrian walkway left as a sheet of ice? This policy must be changed.
I am sitting here in tears. Tears of gratitude to my neighbours. As you may have guessed from previous posts, my husband is on the cancer journey. Two of our neighbours just came to our sidewalk with their dog dressed up in red lighted ropes and a long silver sweater. They had Happy New Year on a piece of cardboard along with other words of greeting for my husband. They had a socially distanced talk with John and Amber. Thank you so much.
My husband is a big walker of our dog, Amber. I never realized how much he is loved in our neighbourhood. We have had cards and little gifts and everyone always asking me how John is doing. (He is doing well on oral chemo). When it snowed, a neighbour snowblowed our walk. The last snow, a neighbour shovelled our walk and humbly said, “I was just walking by with my shovel and noticed you hadn’t done your walk yet.”
My friends have given me books to read and people have asked me how I am doing as caregiver. (Fine)
I would also like to thank the wonderful people at the Grand River Cancer Centre. Most of our visits with the doctors, symptom management staff, and dietitians have been by phone, which is actually not a bad thing for a tired cancer patient and they are so supportive. Plug here for hopespring.ca who have counselling, support groups, and even wig delivery.
Also, thanks to my two daughters and son-in-law who have also helped with the snow and my eldest daughter drops of Lady Glaze donuts for her Dad.
My 2020 started off with the funeral of one of my best friends, Laurie Strome, an extraordinary community organizer. Then came COVID and I retired from HopeSpring in April. Which was good, as John seemed off and I fought for a CATscan for him.
My grandchildren are taught from home as they have seizures, as does their mother. Their epilepsy is under control but helping teach kids with mild autism at home is not a treat. Thanks to my daughter and the kids’ teachers.
My daughter is also a PSW at a nursing home. If you think your year was bad, be an isolated patient in a nursing home. My daughter’s home is a good one, very safe, but it has been hard for her clients to be alone, she says. My daughter takes her violin and plays the piano for her clients as they had no events at all over Christmas. My daughter got her first COVID shot on Dec. 29. A great ending to 2020.
Happy New Year 2021. Despite it all “Life is Good”
In one of the few cases prosecuted by the GRCA, the owner was fined $10,000 and made to clean up the fill. This was a long and drawn out case. The owner hired a lawyer associated with a group who feel they can do what ever they want on the land they own. This is a similar philosophy to the anti-maskers.
A few years ago, a GRCA staffer did a study for an advanced degree. She looked at flood damage in a similar river system in the United States that did not have the Ontario rules and regulations that restrict building on flood plains and inside flood lines. The GRCA looks after flooding along the Grand and its tributaries. People complain about the restrictions, saying in this time of climate change, “It has never flooded here.” The study found that the system that allowed building suffered millions of dollars of damage, GRCA lands had very few problems. Some floods on the Grand do cause damage, but this is mostly to properties that were already in flood prone areas before Hurricane Hazel in the 1950s. The flooding caused by Hurricane Hazel is the bar for flood control in Ontario.
Conservative governments in Ontario don’t seem to like conservation authorities, which is odd since the original GRCA was founded by business owners disgusted with the state of the river. In the mid 1990s, conservation authorities were mostly funded by the province. The conservative Harris government took that money away and many GRCA staffers were laid off. The GRCA turned to the municipalities with a levy that funds the dams and flood control. Permit fees cover the work of dealing with building and property concerns. The GRCA works with property owners, developers and municipalities, using science, to keep our watershed and ground water safe and available and to prevent flood and drought damage.
While the present conservative Ford government has made a few good last minute changes to schedule 6 of bill 229, thank you, there are still some pressing problems with it. The association of large municipalities and many others have asked that schedule 6 be removed from a bill dealing with COVID relief. David Crombie, a Conservative and former federal cabinet minister, resigned as the Chair of the Greenbelt Council in protest over any changes to the present Conservation Authorities Act. He says schedule 6 will cut environmental protections in the province.
Schedule 6 will strip powers from local conservation authorities and expand ministerial authority on zoning and other potentially sensitive environmental issues. A conservation authority must now allow a development if the province issues a minister’s zoning order. The minister’s zoning order will bypass public input and force a zoning change. The conservation authority must allow the development but can include conditions. These conditions can be appealed by the permission holder. The conservation authority and the permission holder must enter into an agreement for requirements that the holder must complete to compensate for ecological impacts. This would mean that the owner dumping fill from a provincial road project on his property would just pay money to continue if the minister felt what he was doing was fine, despite the objections of the GRCA.
Apparently this change is due to the objections of the Toronto Conservation Authority to a development project that would destroy an important wetland. In a pro-development government with a minister who has been openly hostile to conservation authorities, this is a disaster.
The good news if this change goes forward, is that in a democracy, governments and government ministers inevitably change. It always amazes me how the government of the day seems to think they will always be in power. Imagine a future where the minister’s zoning order is controlled by a member of the Green Party.
However, this is a power that is not necessary. Conservation Authorities and municipalities are at the forefront of scientific environmental protection. Schedule 6 should be abandoned.
For more information on the Grand River Conservation Authority, the Region of Waterloo and environmental protection, read my paper presented to the International Making Cities Liveable Conference here: https://wordpress.com/post/janemitchell.blog/1943
The Region of Waterloo runs 5 wonderful, high quality daycares. The daycare in Elmira has just been expanded. They are located through out the Region. Now once again, a review by outside bean counters has suggested the daycares be closed as they are not “efficient”.
This means that these daycares cost more because their staff are unionized and paid what Early Childhood Educators should be paid. Unlike the workers in even the best non-profit daycares that must rely on parent fees. Council feels that the 6.8 million invested in these day cares would be better spread, a small amount for each, over all the other daycares in the Region.
The closing of the Regional daycares was rejected in 2015 for several reasons. Some of those reasons still stand and now there are more reasons to reject this proposal.
The parents whose children attend the Regional daycares need good quality care, like all parents. Some of the children have disabilities. With the extreme shortage of daycare spaces, any parent who gets a good spot “wins the lottery”. Do not use that statement against them, suggesting they are privileged. How are they privileged? Are there parents jumping the One List daycare queue to get a regional spot? If so, the public needs to know how and why. Elmira Children’s Centre is the only daycare in Elmira. I know there are quality non-profit spaces, just that there are not enough.
Right now daycares are running at 70 percent due to COVID. 2000 empty spaces and 50 at the regional daycares. Here is the problem with those figures. They are temporary vacancies caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Schools also have physical vacancies. Children at home are not attending before and after care. This is caused by families not sending their children to daycare and school because of the risk of COVID.
All of these children and all of the waiting lists will return when parents return to work. Even working at home, you cannot work properly at a job and look after a child or children at the same time. The Regional spaces will be gone.
What happens to the physical buildings and equipment? In the last go round of this idea, it was found that existing daycare providers were not interested in taking over the Regional daycares. At that time, the union with its higher wages and benefits had to be part of the sale. I expect their desire would be even less when they are dealing with the effects of COVID. What a shame to see the equipment sold off and the buildings mothballed. Staff let go into a fragile economy.
KPMG has stated that the Regional day cares are not efficient. Why? The daycares are unionized and the staff get paid what ECEs should be paid.
Kudos to the person who thought up the sneaky statistic that 10 percent of the childcare money goes to the 1.9 percent of the children who go to the Regional Day Cares. Region owned Sunnyside Home gets a greater percentage of Regional money than the other Homes for the Aged and Waterloo Region Social Housing gets a greater percentage of Regional funds than the other non-profit housing. Similar statistics can be made for both those important social services. With this reasoning, obviously they are next on the chopping block.
My children and grandchildren attended the quality non-profit daycare I founded and was the first president. It is not easy for a group of working parents to build and run a daycare. My mother mortgaged her house and the executive director of the daycare bought the property at much lower prices than today, although her husband was a student at the time. Many sacrifices. Why should those lost spaces be recreated by the working parents who are now going through serious financial loses and stress due to COVID?
Two new schools will also have daycares added in the near future. Our Region will still be growing with new families after the pandemic. Those schools and daycares are for student growth. The spaces of the Regional Daycares will be gone.
Who thought up the idea that it was unfair for the Region to run its own daycare programs, programs that existed before the Region became the childcare service manager. Parents and children should lose their spots because somehow it is unfair for them to have a daycare spot. Am I to assume that the wonderful daycare spots will also disappear simply due to a philosophical, cannot even bring myself to say moral, reason?
Selling the Regional Daycares is a Band-Aid solution to a continuing problem: Despite many promises, a lack of Federal and Provincial movement to create a daycare system that mirrors our public education system.
Thousands of people in Waterloo Region marched for Black Lives Matter and moving money to social services. Saying you will help BIPOC children by what? A course on how to treat racialized preschoolers instead of a good daycare space for them? That just doesn’t cut it. An 8 percent increase in policing and the closing and letting go of 200 daycare spaces and well paid day care workers doesn’t look good on Regional Council.
Council needs to find a temporary solution for the COVID childcare problem, not a permanent one.
I have been obsessed about my weight for sixty years, since the age of 7. In my political and work life, I worked hard at pretending that my size was irrelevant.
Two instances have led me to finally talk about my size. As you know, I had difficulty advocating for a CTscan for my husband who was losing a lot of weight. I felt that I wasn’t believed by the doctor because I was a fat woman worried about my husband who was not overeating. This may not be true but it is how I felt. It did not come out of nowhere.
A surgeon refused to fix my hernia that was the size of a basketball unless I lost weight. As usual, no suggestions on how I would do that. The wonderful surgeon who eventually fixed my hernia and twisted bowel during emergency surgery has told me to come to her as soon as the hernia reappears. Three years and it has not.
Fortunately my husband did get the CTscan, unfortunately his weight loss did mean that he has cancer. Thank you for all your prayers.
Secondly, my dear older daughter’s post was taken down on a feminist progressive Facebook site for saying a cartoon of a very fat Trump was fat shaming. People have also complained about Anderson Cooper calling Trump an obese turtle. The point being that rather than talking about Trump’s many nasty faults, people laughed about his big stomach or big butt.
It is of course not just Trump who is called out for being fat. Stacey Abrams and other female politicans have had their share of fat shaming.
For me, the first instance of fat shaming as a politician occurred when I was a school trustee on one of the first chat rooms about education during the Harris years. A man on that board posted a picture of me where he had photoshopped me fatter than I actually was at the time. The idea being, I suppose, that if you are a fat woman, your opinion means nothing.
The second instance was at Regional council when we were approving the extension of Westmount Road from Lakeshore to Beechwood. A delegation called the road “My (Jane Mitchell’s) big fat road project.” Behind him, one of his supporters called out “Why don’t you try walking!” Fortunately Angela Vieth, now a long time Waterloo councillor, pointed out in her presentation for the road that she often saw me walking.
Overall, though I know people comment about my weight behind my back, I went on to become Chair of the Grand River Conservation Authority and a long time Regional Councillor and people generally listen to my views.
Like smoking, taking drugs and alcoholism, there is a difference between making fun of a problem and working with compassion to help people solve it. I well remember how funny Dean Martin was in the 60s as a drunk, and the slapstick of drunks falling down. You don’t see that anymore.
I was skinny until I was 7 years old. We moved to an apartment while waiting for a new house to be built. Less exercise and I suddenly developed an appetite. It was the 50s, my thrilled mother gave me two hamburgers every lunch and I quit ballet when a little kid said, “Look at the fat dancer.” The lifelong struggle began.
In my teens and twenties, I was slim but I did not know it. I could have slipped into anorexia. I thought I was fat after my second daughter was born, but I wasn’t. I jumped on the scale three times a day and tried every weight loss scheme going. The weight loss industry made thousands off me. What did I learn? Diets make you fat. It is very difficult or impossible to lose weight. Please don’t tell me to push away from the table or take up running.
Obesity is an epidemic in North America. So is type 2 diabetes. Everywhere we look there are cheap high fat, high sugar and high salt foods, the triple threat humans are designed to crave. Our cities are built for passive car driving rather than active walking and cycling.
I have had a lot of stress in my life, from family members with epilepsy, parents with cancer, to the good stress of politics. Dear departed Mayor Lynn Woolstencroft once told me that many Mayors and senior level politicians become alcoholics. Some of us eat.
I continue to struggle with my weight, but I am working on a new change. Lifestyle. Retired, I am walking the dog, learning piano, writing and taking a diabetes course from the YMCA. Lots of at home exercise ideas in this time of COVID. This means accepting my body as it is.
I have learned from my daughters not to jump on the scale and to enjoy a new lifestyle. This does not mean that my own daughters have not struggled with body image. That is our society. I worry about my 7 year old granddaughter when she wants ice cream with her pancakes, yet she is thin and bounces on her exercise ball, not a care in the world. I don’t want her to grow up worrying about her weight and how she looks.
When I talk about stopping the fat shaming, I am not asking you to be politically correct. It is like Trump telling Laura Ingraham she was being politically correct for wearing a mask. I am asking that people be civilized and try not to hurt other peoples’ feelings.
As the meme going around social media says: Be Kind.”
Some good resources about women’s body image and fat shaming.
Good news. My husband has an appointment for a CT scan on Oct. 5. However, through my social media channels, I have learned that there are a number of people who are waiting a long time for their scan. It maybe that it is not considered “urgent” but of course it is for the person involved. They may be caught in the limbo of the hospital being closed a few months ago.
Before COVID, people were able to get a CT scan in good time. Since everything, including testing, was closed during the quarantine, scans can be behind by two months as the hospitals catch up. I have learned there are no private labs with CT scans in Ontario and, of course, the border is closed. The machines are very expensive to buy and maintain, unlike blood tests.
The number of COVID cases are climbing again and many people are getting tested, as they should. If this second wave fills up the ICU and hospitals, we may end up with tests stopped. Routine tests for breast cancer have actually never started up again. Update: breast cancer tests have started again.
You know where I am going. Wear your mask and keep 6 feet apart from other people. Follow the rules for parties, events and services. Listen to public health. My husband’s aunt died of COVID in March. My cousin is still suffering from it. COVID isn’t just killing those with the disease, the side effects of another quarantine will kill others.
My husband has asked me to keep his health journey private. So I won’t be blogging about this again. Thank you so much everyone for your caring and prayers.
In the month of August, I noticed my retired husband began to nap twice a day with a full eight hours of nightime sleep. He lost his appetite, giving half of his favourite pork chop to the dog and not eating the mashed potatoes with gravy. Veggies have never been a favourite.
We made an appointment with the doctor. His heart, lungs, blood pressure, really everything seemed fine. Negative to COVID. We suspect but hope not cancer.
Our doctor sent in a requisition for a CTscan. Due to the labs catching up from the pandemic restrictions, it could be two months before my husband gets a CTscan. The doctor has put URGENT on the requisition and we are willing to travel for a test that will be sooner. Still it may take awhile.
I know as the retired director of HopeSpring Cancer Support Centre, plus all the people around me that have or have had cancer, that two months to diagnose cancer means the difference between life and death.
Provincial Government, is there not some way to increase the capacity of the medical system so people can be diagnosed in a timely fashion?
I am sick of heart that my wonderful husband may end up a victim of COVID without having the disease.
Addendum: Please wear a mask, social distance and don’t go out if you are unwell. Don’t have big parties or go to large gatherings. If the COVID cases soar again, we could have another lockdown. We are now learning what the lockdown meant when everything was closed. A two month wait for people to have necessary medical tests. Breast cancer tests are still not happening.
There’s a little gem in Uptown Waterloo, Button Factory Arts. It supports artists with exhibitions. You can take classes from fused glass to learning water colour. There are also art lessons for children. There is an art therapist available. In this time, classes are on-line, outside or onsite.
Also in this time of COVID, non-profits have found that their donations are drying up. A lot of charities depend on in-person galas, auctions and performances to raise funds. The Button Factory raises a lot of funds through their courses and exhibitions. From March to the present, these in-person events have not been possible.
I am proud to be a board member of Button Factory Arts. We are raising 10,000 dollars through a GoFundMe to keep the organization going. We are very close to our goal, just over 2,000 short.
Please think of donating to this fine organization. Waterloo needs the arts.
Yesterday Kitchener Councillor John Gazzola said the following on twitter regarding being against bike lanes on Westmount Road:
In an effort to more fully explain my thoughts on cycling let me share my experiences. I have been cycling on Westmount Rd for the last 18-20 years. It is a very busy street with miles & miles of sidewalks on each side of it. I continue to ride on the sidewalk. No harm to pedest.
When my old dog was a puppy, we were leash training down a sidewalk. A cyclist riding on the sidewalk ran over my dog. We rushed him to the vet. He ended up OK but for his whole life, my sheltie was afraid of bicycles.
A month ago, I was standing socially distancing in a line waiting to enter a bus on University Ave. Along came a man riding his bicycle on the sidewalk. All of the people standing in line moved over. I did not. I yelled at him to get off the sidewalk. He swerved around me, swearing. Pretty clever making that rude hand sign with only one hand on the handle bars.
Whose sidewalk is it anyway? There are laws against riding on the sidewalk, but despite me asking Regional staff and police over the years, they have never been enforced.
Another person on twitter said as part of the bike lane controversy: Pedestrians don’t want cyclists on sidewalks, car drivers don’t want them on roads. I wonder if giving cyclists their own lanes would work!
If I had a nickel for every time a politician invoked the words “silent majority”, I would be rich. If I had a dime for every time a person (usually old), looked out their window and said, “that cycle lane, that bus is empty”, I would give Bill Gates a run for his money. There once weren’t sidewalks along stretches of Westmount. I’m sure home owners said, “No one walks on the sidewalks, we don’t need them.”
According to numbers provided by the Uptown Waterloo Cycle Tracker, located on the southeast corner of King and Erb streets, from the beginning of April through the end of July, a bicycle was detected 23,873 times. That’s up almost 5,000 trips from a year ago (17,928) during the same time period.
This is during the pandemic when there are no university students, the biggest bicycle users, in town.
I have also been told that there is apparently a bicycle shortage as more and more people buy bicycles. A friend (Thanks Suzanne) checked this out at Canadian Tire and found very few bikes for sale. People are riding bikes and they need to be able to do it safely. That is why Regional Council is putting temporary separated bike lanes on Westmount, University, and Erb.Oh yes, and Coronation Blvd in Cambridge.
The cries of pain from car drivers because narrower roads mean they have to drive slower. Yet it is common for constituents to complain that people should drive slower, say the speed limit. Cambridge, unfortunately has always had a number of very angry people. Council caved and removed the temporary lanes from Coronation boulevard before even a month was gone. This is unfortunate because the wide medium on the road that once displayed wonderful flowers and now is full of weeds could be narrowed to include separated bike lanes.
Now that we have heard from former Mayor Doug Craig that Cambridge has been once more ignored by the wicked Region that put bike lanes on Coronation Blvd, you can be sure they will stay removed.
You may not remember, but Mayor Craig said Cambridge did not want the LRT and so Cambridge got express buses for their first stage. Once Kitchener Waterloo got LRT, he and his council complained that Cambridge was once more ignored and left out. (Even though the Region has been working for several years on the Cambridge extension). Expect Cambridge to shout about their lack of bike lanes when the temporary lanes in Kitchener and Waterloo become permanent.
If I had a quarter for every time Cambridge shouted about being left out …
When I ran for Regional Council for the first time in 2000, the Region had just passed the no-smoking by-law. Like today, the province refused to pass a law banning smoking in restaurants, bars and other indoor locations. A man smoking on his front steps, who had probably been forced out there, asked me if I agreed with it. I did. I do not know who voted for the by-law but no-one lost a seat because of it. The whining and anger over that by-law was huge, as many bar patrons also smoked. The Region used by-law officers to enforce. Eventually the province stepped up. Today, you would never know there had been a controversy
The second instance occurred during my early years as a councillor. Regional Council decided to ban cosmetic pesticides. Interestingly, the medical officer of health would not put out an order for this ban. Council went ahead anyway. There was a lot of whining and anger.By-law officers that also regulate lawn watering regulated spraying. Even today, people still grumble about their dandelions. The province, once again, stepped in after the fact.
This brings us to today. We are in the middle of a pandemic and in the first stages of reopening restaurants, stores and bars. From March to almost the end of May, public health wanted everyone in their homes to stop the spread of this new disease so wouldn’t recommend mask wearing. Now that the numbers are down, but still a bit of spread, wearing a mask is recommended. Like the ban on the spraying of cosmetic pesticides, public health will not recommend a by-law mandating the wearing of masks in places where social distancing is difficult or in restaurants, bars and stores.
Health Canada says,”When worn properly, a person wearing a non-medical mask or face covering can reduce the spread of his or her own infectious respiratory droplets.” It is not known by how much wearing a mask will decrease people’s risk.
When we look at who gets COVID-19, it is important to note that only one case was traced to the large BLM march in Kitchener. I know from my daughter who attended, that almost everyone, including herself, wore a mask. They tried to social distance. Working from home, she quarantined herself for two weeks afterwards. On the other hand, a party in London with no social distancing and masks, has caused COVID spread.
I always wear a mask when I visit a store, and most establishments have their staff masked by provincial decree. Yet there are so many customers not masked. Some are going to be asymptomatic and spreading the virus. Why does everyone have to be masked when I visit the hairdresser (Thanks Control ) and the dentist (Thanks Waterloo Smiles) but not when I visit Basics?
Waterloo Regional Council is the Board of Health. They have passed health measures before both with the recommendation of public health staff and without the recommendation of public health staff. Certainly public health measures have been successfully passed locally before the province moved ahead.
We can’t carry on with everyone shut up in their homes. Everyone needs to wear a mask, hand wash or use sanitizer, not touch their face, and practice social distancing. Follow the recommendations of a safe bubble of ten people.
There will be whining and anger, that is no surprise. There has been whining and anger over the introduction of seat belts, smoking bans, and cosmetic pesticides bans. The world moves on.
Thank you Mayor Berry Vrbanovic for introducing this motion.