A touch of humour about a serious problem

From our man in Port Hope – he had the problem and wrote about it with humour, at least he can laugh about such a dirty problem!

14045885_10154404535712744_2253888774787796295_nI first became aware of the problem when my friend Denis handed me a piece of the elm he was splitting and said “Smell this.”

Ah, wood. The smell of the forest primeval. Nature itself. Hewers of wood, drawers of water. It’s what we are, us Canadians. It’s in our DNA.

I inhaled deeply.

Primevil alright, it smelled exactly like human waste. Feces. Excrement. Distinctly like shit.

The elm(s) in question are not on our property. They line the driveway at the side of our house on the neighbours’ side. The limbs Denis was splitting were lying in our driveway, having been sawn off at great height the day before. Those limbs overhung our property and thus were fair game for a woodsman whom I had instructed not to spare that tree -at least not the part hanging over our side.

Chinese Elm best lends itself to waist-high hedges. When left to grow unchecked it becomes brittle, produces more suckers than a time share seminar, and, every June issues forth a month long snowfall of dime-sized seeds in numbers even Carl Sagan would have difficulty describing.

“Billions and billions” as the great astronomer once said. Only of the cosmos, not weed trees.

And weeds they are. Huge weeds. Unattractive and angry looking as trees -or weeds- go.

Cunning too.

The Chinese Elms came into our lives about twenty years ago when the neighbour next door, a determined woman, decided that the neighbourhood could always use more trees. Not being versed in the skills of an arborist (or even having a copy of The Golden Book Of Tree Identification) she nonetheless made regular forays into the surrounding countryside armed with a five-gallon pail and a spade. If she spotted a sapling she liked she dug it up and brought it home for replanting. Her property is now a candidate for a Worst Forestry Practices volume, the chapter on ‘Invasive Species’.

And it’s not even a forest. It’s a yard. A yard so crowded with Manitoba Maples, growing at 45-degree angles, that they’re slowly committing suicide by strangling themselves with their own roots, their only redeeming feature.

Much of southern Ontario has just come out of a six-week drought. No rain, warmer than normal temperatures and very high humidity. It is under conditions like these that trees send their roots deeper into the ground in search of moisture, any moisture.Even the moisture of human waste will suffice when survival is at stake.

Yep. Sewer pipes. Household waste. A veritable smorgasbord of nourishment for trees of all kinds. Which brings us to the hamlet of Orangeburg, New York, population 4,568, where in the 1860s, something called Orangeburg Pipe was born.

Orangeburg Pipe, known to plumbers as ‘paper pipe’, is a bituminous coal tar-impregnated wood chip sewer pipe that was in use until the 1970s -not a bad run for a product so dubious in its design that in at least one jurisdiction, Ann Arbor, Michigan, the citizenry rose up in a class action suit demanding that the city replace all Orangeburg Pipe as part of any road resurfacing that was undertaken.

Tar-paper sewer pipe is no match for thirsty trees. Especially old tar-paper pipe. And if you’ve got an old house in this area, [Port Hope ON] you’ve probably got Orangeburg Pipe.

And thus it was on Sunday last, whilst entertaining a small group of friends and relatives, we were informed by one of our guests that the toilet was not flushing -a phenomena that only occurs when you have guests. One needn’t be Kreskin to predict such things. Voracious human-waste-eating elm trees and substandard paper sewer pipe had conspired to put an end to our little gathering.

But…the next day, thanks to the best plumber in the area, a temporary fix was effected. Things would be fine, Woody said, just don’t use too much toilet paper for the time being. And, sometime next month Woody will return and excavate from the house to the sidewalk, removing the Orangeburg and replacing it with whatever the latest advancement in sewer pipe is.

I should have put two-and-two together when Denis handed me the piece of stinky elm. After all, the answer to the mystery of our clogged toilet was right under my nose.


Another one from Port Hope

Listening last Sunday to CBC’s ‘The One-Eighty’ with Jim Brown, I again heard the voice of one Jason Shron, train enthusiast extrodinaire, tireless proponent of high speed rail, and owner of Rapido Trains -which, it should be made clear, is a manufacturer of model trains.

When it comes to advocating for big fast things with steel wheels on steel rails blowing through town at a thousand miles an hour, the voice of Jason Shron is ubiquitous.

Mr. Shron was born in Montreal and now makes his home in Toronto, a home which includes a full-sized Via Rail coach interior in his basement.

The last time I checked, a high-speed rail service between Toronto and Montreal would cost something in the neighbourhood of $24-billion. But what’s money when the combined forces of train buffs and environmentalists are concerned? It would be a mistake to underestimate both their influence and the sheer cunningness of their simpatico relationship.

Environmentalists, to a man (usually the one wearing the Birkenstocks), cling to the myth that trains are superior in their respect for the environment than automobiles or airplanes or just about anything with or without wheels this side of a recombinant bicycle. Certainly a rush hour GO Train with 2400 people aboard is far and away more environmentally efficient than any automobile. A half-full Via train hauled by a diesel-powered electrical generating station on wheels? Not so much. If at all.

Train buffs cheerfully piggyback on the environmental argument because, well, any other argument they might make is charmingly transparent. Any argument is better than actually saying out loud ‘I really, REALLY like to watch trains go by!’. Which, of course, is no argument at all -especially when incomprehensible amounts of money are involved.

In order to facilitate a dedicated high-speed rail line between Toronto and Montreal, watercourses would have to be rerouted or buried. Roads would need grade separations or be stopped up altogether. Wildlife would be displaced, humans expropriated. And all for what? If not the environment then it has to be fetishism. Train fetishism. The kind of fetishism Jason Shron appears to be in the throes of.

Of course, in places like Port Hope or Cobourg, high-speed rail would have undeniable benefits. Imagine being able to stuff the grandkid’s snowsuits full of old newspapers on the coldest winter days and, standing shivering at trackside, waving madly at all those wonderful rich people as they whizz through town in the blink of an eye! Surely we wouldn’t deny a paltry $24-billion for a privilege such as that, would we?

Instead of non-stop high speed between Toronto and Montreal, which its advocates like to call ‘thinking outside the box’, why  not try a little thinking inside the box for a change? How about every Via train in either direction between Toronto and Montreal or Ottawa, stops everywhere -not just here sometimes and there other times but everywhere every time. Why? To be what Via should be -a feeder for the airports in those big cities. In Toronto, for instance, dump the Union Pearson Express and when a Via train arrives from Montreal or Ottawa it simply continues to Pearson Airport, which, like Via, is a federal government entity. Returning from Pearson, the Via train assumes a schedule to wherever, be it to Montreal or Windsor or Ottawa.

Such a plan would be anathema to train buffs -to say nothing of Via management whose last example of thinking outside the box involved festooning their locomotives with a huge jolly Kool-Aid pitcher, seemingly oblivious to the phrase ‘drank the Kool-Aid’ and what that phrase meant.

Anyway, Jim Brown’s interview with Jason Shron should be seen as pure entertainment, a chat with a genuine eccentric, harmless and easily dismissed. I’m not so sure. Mr. Shron, train buffs, and the high-speed rail crowd are indefatigable in their zeal. They could, in time, end up costing the rest of us a lot of money. And, at the same time, accomplishing nothing that makes train travel any easier for the rest of us to access.

Here’s a link to The One-Eighty with Jason Shron: http://www.cbc.ca/player/play/2680650179

Daniel J. Christie

Finally something we can get excited about

imagesIf one remembers the debate at Cobourg Council two months ago when the man with the most votes of the losers in the 2014 Municipal Election was appointed to replace resigning Councillor Rickerby one would also remember that a policy about filling future vacancies was commissioned.

Well that policy is now, itself, an agenda item for the next CoW meeting. A comprehensive policy has been written and lays out how vacancies will be filled. You, the reader, must be aware just how important this policy is going to be as there will be a vacancy, coming very soon, as another member of Council is leaving.

Now given the fact that the next person on the list of unelected candiates does not have enough votes to be substantial it appears that Council really only has two choices – appoint somebody in the back room without a formal selection process or to live by this policy and use a formal selection process. That process is written below and we consider it to be so groundbreaking in concept that it is reprinted verbatim from the Policy. We sincerely hope that Council will elect to use the formal process or we will all be left wondering why they might choose to adopt the Policy, if they choose not to use it!

The new policy explains that there will three choices for Council when this eventuality comes around in the next few weeks.

Quoting from the policy it reads: The full policy is here

3.4. If a vacancy occurs for a Councillor, and is to be filled by appointment, Council may choose to fill the vacancy by appointing:

a) Any qualified individual as outlined in Section 256 of the Municipal Act, 2001.

3.5 Municipal Council may decide by resolution on or before the Council Appointment Meeting, how the Appointment process shall be conducted when a Municipal Council vacancy occurs. Council may:

a) Choose to appoint the Candidate who received the most number of votes in the previous municipal election and the amount of votes received were significant enough to warrant appointment of the Candidate to Municipal Council; or

b) Choose to appoint an Eligible Elector to fill the vacancy without a formal selection process; or

c) Choose to appoint an Eligible Elector to fill the vacancy through an established formal selection process.

So there we have it but examining 3.5(c) we find the nuts and bolts of a very innovative and democratic process which if ever used  should excite every Citizen in this Town and we congratulate the Council for bringing this policy forward.

Reading, Section 4.0,  we find the process is this:


4.1 The Municipal Clerk shall post a Council Vacancy Notice on the Municipal website and in the local newspaper for two (2) consecutive weeks after the vacancy is officially declared.


5.1 Any individual wishing to be considered for appointment to fill the Council vacancy shall complete and sign a declaration of qualification/consent to appointment form, approved by the Municipal Clerk, and will submit the form to the Municipal Clerk in person by the date and time established.

5.2 Any individual wishing to be considered for appointment to fill the Council vacancy will be required to provide identification to prove his or her identity and qualifying address to the satisfaction of the Municipal Clerk. In order to be a qualified to hold office as a Municipal Councillor, a person must be:

• 18 years of age or older; .

A Canadian Citizen;

• A resident of the Town of Cobourg, or an owner or tenant of land in the Municipality or the spouse of such an owner or tenant; and

• Not be prohibited from holding municipal office or from voting under any Act.

5.3 The Municipal Clerk shall certify a list of Candidates/Electors who are eligible for appointment, prior to the Council appointment meeting which shall include the Candidates’ names and give notice as to the date and time for the Council appointment meeting.

5.4 Any Council documentation related to candidates will be published in alphabetical order by surname.

5.5 A vote to fill a vacancy on Municipal Council by appointment will occur at an open Council meeting.

5.6 Notwithstanding the requirements of the Procedural By-law, the agenda for the meeting shall be set by the Municipal Clerk to allow for the orderly proceeding of selecting a candidate.

5.7 At the meeting, the Chair will make a short statement for the purpose of the meeting and the general order of the proceedings to be followed.

5.8 The Municipal Clerk shall read out the names of all the individuals certified to be eligible for filling a Council vacancy (alphabetically by surname). These names shall be the official list of candidates.

5.9 Each candidate on the official list of candidates will be provided with ten (10) minutes to speak prior to the first round of voting. The order of the candidates to speak will be drawn by the Municipal Clerk.


6.1 If the Official List of Candidate(s) includes only one candidate, the Municipal Clerk will declare that candidate elected and a resolution or by-law will be prepared and submitted to Council for enactment.



7.1 If the Official list of Candidate(s) includes more than one (1) candidate, rounds of voting will be concluded as follows:

a) In accordance with Section 244 of the Municipal Act, 2001 no vote shall be taken by ballot or by any other method of secret voting.

b) The Municipal Clerk shall progress through the Official List of Candidates in alphabetical order and call out the Candidate name to be voted on by Municipal Council.

c) Council will vote on each Candidate announced by the Municipal Clerk at the same time by way of public vote, by the show of hands.

d) Each member of Council may vote for one (1) candidate only in each round and all members of Council present shall vote during the appointment and selection process.

7.2 Rounds of voting shall continue until a Candidate has received more than one-half (1/2) of the votes of the Members of Council present.

7.3 Where a round of voting does not result in a Candidate receiving more than one-half (1/2) of the Votes of the Members of Council present:

a) In any round of voting, one (1) vote shall be considered the lowest number of possible votes. Where Candidates receive zero (0) votes, they will be automatically excluded from the Official List of Candidates in the next round of voting.

b) The candidates with the fewest number of votes will be automatically excluded from the Official List of Candidates in the next round of voting.

c) Voting shall continue until one Candidate receives more than one-half 1/2 of the votes of the Members of Council present.

d) The Municipal Clerk will ask the Candidates present in person if they wish to withdraw their name from the contest after each round of voting.

e) The Municipal Clerk will record the votes and announce the results verbally at the end of each round of voting. 7.4 When voting has concluded and a Candidate has received the highest number of votes necessary, that Candidate shall be elected to fill the Council Vacancy.

7.5 In the event of a tie vote, and with reference to s.62 (3) of the Municipal Elections Act, 1996, the Municipal Clerk will break the tie by writing each of the remaining candidate’s names on an individual piece of paper. The Municipal Clerk will place both names in a container and pull one piece of paper which will be the Candidate that will be declared elected by Council.

How about some good news and then some really bad news

videoWith the welcome news that Cobourg Council will begin ‘streaming’ its meetings comes the absolutely horrible news that they will only be available for three months. For those who have waited for the campaign promise and strategic plan entry the news that ‘streaming’ video will be coming at us over the interwebthingy is  a big “What kept yah”. But the idea that only three months worth of history will available on “civicweb” is a big letdown and heresy to all of who value history as it is being made.

Summer Time send us your pieces.

From Dan Christie:

Donald Trump: Man Of Peace
One of my favourite Dylan albums is 1983’s ‘Infidels’. For the affecianado, all of Bob Dylan’s work contains insights, real or imagined, that can be conveniently applied this way or that to whatever argument a person might be making -especially as those insights apply to politics.

One of those “Oh No” moments

NonameAs a person who was born and raised in the UK,the events of the last few days have been puzzling to observe and even more puzzling to understand. What condition produced the surprising result of the Brexit debate – that to leave?

Assorted jottings and comments

Election Fraud:

It is unthinkable for the majority that such a headline might exist in the mighty Kingdoms of North America and those who propogate it could be considered to wear tin-foil hats. But the rumblings of such a thing gets louder and louder each day. This what one blogger wrote the other day,

A camel is a horse produced by a committee!

ymca1At the next CoW meeting Cobourg Council will read and discuss a report produced by a committee composed of Town Staff, Elected officials and YMCA members and Staff. This committee has been meeting since a resolution was passed by Council in April 2015 that discussions take place exploring the possibility of putting a shared facility at the CCC.

A shifting time

Cobourg_CoatofArmsThe busiest person in the Cobourg Town Hall this week was the poor sod who has to put names on plates and hang them in their respective doors or desks. One new Councillor, one leaving Director of Public Works and a new one taking his place.