Riding the Desecration Highway

This afternoon I rode over from Bridlewood, via the Trans-Canada Trail, Huntmar Drive and Old Carp Road, to the South March Highlands K2 trailhead to put up posters for the September 10 Celebrating the Natural World @ Beaver Pond Park and then returned via Terry Fox Drive.

It's a nice highway with nice wide cycling lanes and it's enjoyable to ride, but as I was riding through I could not help but realize that the beauty of what used to be is now desecrated by the highway. I realized then that the perfect name for the Terry Fox Drive Extension is the Desecration Highway.


Algonquin Union Presents: Celebrating the Natural World @ Beaver Pond Park

“A Living Temple” – South March Highlands
Honouring Grandfather William Commanda

Beaver Pond Park (end of Walden Dr., Kanata)
Saturday Sept 10th, 6am - 11pm

(click on images to enlarge posters)


Jack Layton - In His Own Words

August 20, 2011
Toronto, Ontario

Dear Friends,

Tens of thousands of Canadians have written to me in recent weeks to wish me well. I want to thank each and every one of you for your thoughtful, inspiring and often beautiful notes, cards and gifts. Your spirit and love have lit up my home, my spirit, and my determination.

Unfortunately my treatment has not worked out as I hoped. So I am giving this letter to my partner Olivia to share with you in the circumstance in which I cannot continue.

I recommend that Hull-Aylmer MP Nycole Turmel continue her work as our interim leader until a permanent successor is elected.

I recommend the party hold a leadership vote as early as possible in the New Year, on approximately the same timelines as in 2003, so that our new leader has ample time to reconsolidate our team, renew our party and our program, and move forward towards the next election.

A few additional thoughts:

To other Canadians who are on journeys to defeat cancer and to live their lives, I say this: please don’t be discouraged that my own journey hasn’t gone as well as I had hoped. You must not lose your own hope. Treatments and therapies have never been better in the face of this disease. You have every reason to be optimistic, determined, and focused on the future. My only other advice is to cherish every moment with those you love at every stage of your journey, as I have done this summer.

To the members of my party: we’ve done remarkable things together in the past eight years. It has been a privilege to lead the New Democratic Party and I am most grateful for your confidence, your support, and the endless hours of volunteer commitment you have devoted to our cause. There will be those who will try to persuade you to give up our cause. But that cause is much bigger than any one leader. Answer them by recommitting with energy and determination to our work. Remember our proud history of social justice, universal health care, public pensions and making sure no one is left behind. Let’s continue to move forward. Let’s demonstrate in everything we do in the four years before us that we are ready to serve our beloved Canada as its next government.

To the members of our parliamentary caucus:
I have been privileged to work with each and every one of you. Our caucus meetings were always the highlight of my week. It has been my role to ask a great deal from you. And now I am going to do so again. Canadians will be closely watching you in the months to come. Colleagues, I know you will make the tens of thousands of members of our party proud of you by demonstrating the same seamless teamwork and solidarity that has earned us the confidence of millions of Canadians in the recent election.

To my fellow Quebecers:
On May 2nd, you made an historic decision. You decided that the way to replace Canada’s Conservative federal government with something better was by working together in partnership with progressive-minded Canadians across the country. You made the right decision then; it is still the right decision today; and it will be the right decision right through to the next election, when we will succeed, together. You have elected a superb team of New Democrats to Parliament. They are going to be doing remarkable things in the years to come to make this country better for us all.

To young Canadians: All my life I have worked to make things better. Hope and optimism have defined my political career, and I continue to be hopeful and optimistic about Canada. Young people have been a great source of inspiration for me. I have met and talked with so many of you about your dreams, your frustrations, and your ideas for change. More and more, you are engaging in politics because you want to change things for the better. Many of you have placed your trust in our party. As my time in political life draws to a close I want to share with you my belief in your power to change this country and this world. There are great challenges before you, from the overwhelming nature of climate change to the unfairness of an economy that excludes so many from our collective wealth, and the changes necessary to build a more inclusive and generous Canada. I believe in you. Your energy, your vision, your passion for justice are exactly what this country needs today. You need to be at the heart of our economy, our political life, and our plans for the present and the future.

And finally, to all Canadians:
Canada is a great country, one of the hopes of the world. We can be a better one – a country of greater equality, justice, and opportunity. We can build a prosperous economy and a society that shares its benefits more fairly. We can look after our seniors. We can offer better futures for our children. We can do our part to save the world’s environment. We can restore our good name in the world. We can do all of these things because we finally have a party system at the national level where there are real choices; where your vote matters; where working for change can actually bring about change. In the months and years to come, New Democrats will put a compelling new alternative to you. My colleagues in our party are an impressive, committed team. Give them a careful hearing; consider the alternatives; and consider that we can be a better, fairer, more equal country by working together. Don’t let them tell you it can’t be done.

My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.

All my very best,

Jack Layton

Source: http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/story/2011/08/22/pol-layton-last-letter.html


Much Ado About The Wrong Thing - Canadian Forces DisIntegration

As a political scientist and somewhat of a historian I prefer our system of government based on a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy. I also appreciate the role that our historical links to the United Kingdom play in our multicultural society, including their role in our political and justice systems.

Therefore I am not particularly upset about including "Royal" in the names of the Canadian Air Force and Canadian Navy. But that is not the point, however much Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party would like to direct the debate to that minor issue, by using references to Canadian history.

The point is to start to undo the integration of the Canadian Forces. The forces were integrated for two reasons, one operational and one more symbolic, but of operational impact.

Operationally the goal was to obtain efficiencies by having one command structure and developing one set of priorities and to eliminate competition between the three services, Army, Navy and Air Force.

Symbolically the goal was to have our servicemen all identify with each other through the Canadian Forces, rather than simply with one service.

It's not about being Royal. It's about being separate services rather than one combined Canadian Forces all working together with one loyalty to Canada.


When Beavers Abandon Their Dam: Heron Pond, South March Highlands

This summer a breach in the dam at Heron Pond in the South March Highland was discovered that appeared to be a natural occurrence. In such cases the beavers will usually repair the dam, but this did not happen and it appears they have abandoned the dam and the pond. This has caused the water levels in Heron Pond to drop dramatically so that what once appeared to be a lake now appears to be drying up.

This has caused concern amongst nature lovers and others who appreciate hiking and biking along the pond, but in reality it might provide an opportunity to observe and study a changing ecosystem if the beavers do not return to the pond and it gradually reverts to forest or pasture or a yet to be determined other natural state.

The following photos were taken before and after the beavers abandoned the pond. The first two in each series were taken from what mountain bikers call The Shield, a flat rocky area on the trail that goes through the Metcalfe Realty lands northeast of the pond. The last three photos in each set were taken from what mountain bikers call Pete's Wicked Trail in the city-owned South March Highlands Conservation Forest southwest of the pond.

Click on the images to see enlarged versions




The Geology of Kakakiwaganda Lake (Rock Lake)

Every summer we spend about a week at our favourite Bed and Breakfast Whispering Pines On the Bay which is about half-way between Sudbury and Killarney Provincial Park. Not only does it have gracious friendly hosts and interesting guests from all over the world, it is also located on beautiful Kakakiwaganda Lake, or as the locals call it, Rock Lake.

We also get out kayaking on the lake at least once every visit and one of the most interesting things about the lake is the geology and rock formations along the shore. The photographs in the slide show below were taken from my kayak as I paddled around the lake.

(select 720p to view in high definition and full screen to view full screen)


Three Things Every Casual Cyclist Should Know

While I am by no means an expert, as a serious cyclist there are some things I have noticed that I would like to share with my readers, some of whom are thinking about taking up cycling in a more serious manner.

1. Almost everyone has their bicycle seats set too low. Even when I got my first good bike, the bike shop set it too low because they simply asked me what felt right rather than suggesting setting it at the proper height.

For most efficient pedalling a bike should be set so that when your pedal is at the very bottom of the rotation there should just be a very slight bend in your knee. An exception is for mountain biking where in the case of downhill or very technical trail riding you might set it with a bit more bend. I notice most casual riders have an extreme amount of bend in their knees when they are cycling. If that is you, try reducing the bend and you will notice the difference.

2. Almost everyone keeps their tire pressure too low and rarely checks it till it is obviously almost flat. If you are always riding on pavement you should keep your tire pressure near the recommended maximum stated on the tire. This will provide more efficient cycling with less rolling resistance and less effort required.

My hybrid tires' maximum is 75 PSI but I run them at about 60 because I ride my hybrid on gravel and easy dirt trails as well as pavement. For that reason I also use hybrid tires with a fair amount of tread on them.

My mountain bike tires', used for trail riding, maximum is 50 PSI but I run them at about 40, which is fairly normal, though some mountain bikers run much lower tire pressures in certain conditions. Unless you know why you are running really low tire pressures avoid them.

Hard core roadies with serious road bikes and extremely skinny smooth tires will run at very high pressures, but if that is not you it is probably best to keep to under 80 PSI and never more than the maximum rating on your tires.

3. The majority of cyclists neglect to keep their drive-train (chain and gears) lubricated. Preferably one will check and re-lube their chain regularly with special bike lube. But if you are a casual cyclist with an inexpensive bicycle you are probably better just using heavy grease that only needs to be reapplied a few times a season. That way you will be sure not to have your chain running dry.

I ride an inexpensive bicycle in the winter to avoid exposing my good bikes to salt damage and I use lithium grease on it, supplemented with chain saw bar oil to deal with the slush and salt on the roads in the winter.

I also want to add two further comments that should not really need mentioning but by watching a lot of cyclists out there they obviously do need to be emphasized, and that is headgear and footwear.

Always wear a helmet, You never know when you will need it. It is not a panacea but it definitely can be the difference between walking away with no harm or with a head injury, in particular a concussion. And in worse case scenarios in can mean the difference between a serious injury and death. Being alive is far more important than looking "chic".

And please, no flip-flops or sandals. Never wear footwear that exposes your feet or toes. Decent running or walking shoes are fine. In the winter I wear my winter hiking boots. You don't even want to think about the pain of your exposed toes being dragged along pavement or gravel.

And finally, I will mention two other things I have noticed. Parents seem to think their children are smarter than them and thus protect their children's brains but not their own, essentially sending the message that "once your older you won't have to wear your stupid helmet". And teenage girls seem to think that keeping a spare helmet hanging from their handlebars is more important than having one on their head. Perhaps they think being pretty is more important than being smart, but trust me, a smashed brain is not a pretty sight.

These are not the only things one should know about cycling but they are the most obvious things I have noticed novice riders neglecting.


Solving Urbandale's Beaver Pond Forest Subdivision Marketing Dilemma

The normal method of promoting house sales by telling buyers their houses will be close to the wilderness of the South March Highlands probably isn't going to work for Urbandale, because reminding potential buyers that they just clear cut the Beaver Pond Forest is probably not their best marketing strategy.

So I am going to try to put myself into Urbandale's mindspace. One thing they have got to be thinking right now is why does Bill Teron dare criticize them and why is he still a hero and they the villains. After all, it was Bill Teron who, as a developer, assembled the land for development and sold it to Campeau, who sold it to Genstar who sold it to them. And they have a good point.

BUT, they also have to realize that when they acquired the land they also inherited the responsibility for all the actions that got the land to the point it is in the development process, and that includes the bullying and blackmailing that led to the meaningless 40% agreement, which leaves very little land protected - narrow strips of "protected land" are not ecologically sustainable and a developed golf course is not environmentally protected land.

I think they are quickly going to learn that normal does not apply in this case. Normally potential house buyers see rows of pretty streets and and brand new houses and have little thought to what was there before. Urbandale knows that in this case all potential buyers are going to be completely aware of what was there before - the Beaver Pond Forest - part of the most significant environmental lands in Ottawa, the near wilderness South March Highlands. They are going to know it has been clear cut to build the houses they are looking at and that every new house purchased paves the way for more destruction of the South March Highlands.

It may be easy to dismiss the first factor - it's done now, we can't bring the trees back. But the second one is going to gnaw on potential buyers because they will feel the responsibility and guilt of helping to destroy the rest of the forest that KNL/Urbandale plans to develop. And while there may be some potential buyers that don't care, even some who take glee in being anti-environment, anti-earth - is that really who Urbandale wants to market their houses to. No doubt concerns over the destruction of the Beaver Pond Forest is going to affect sales of all Urbandale homes in the Ottawa area.

There is a way out - a way to turn Urbandale into the hero rather than the villain and one that would gain them my praise. Why would I praise the people who just clear cut the Beaver Pond Forest. Because I believe it is never too late to do the right thing, and because I believe in redemption.

The solution of course is obvious. Remove that last factor, the threat to the rest of Urbandale's South March Highlands lands that purchasing a house in the former Beaver Pond Forest represents.

Urbandale can protect the lands by donating them to the City and they can even gain a financial advantage by doing it in as way that maximizes their tax benefit.

Of course I would still expect them to respect the First Nations archeological and cultural heritage within the Beaver Pond Forest site and find appropriate Storm Water Management plans that do not pollute the rest of the South March Highlands.

Urbandale could use some good press right now and it certainly would boost their marketing ability all over Ottawa. And sometimes (even better late than never) being a hero just feels good.

Lyon Sachs and Mary Jarvis are you ready to feel praise rather than condemnation. Are you ready to become heroes.


His Spirit Will Live on: Grandfather William Commanda (Ojigkwanong/Morning Star)

How does an atheist write about the death of a great spiritual leader. It would be hypocritical to use the conventional references to his passing on to a greater place or going to meet his creator. But there is nothing hypocritical in speaking of his spirit living on, for it will in his works and accomplishments and his teachings and especially in those he inspired to carry them on in the future.

I have never personally met Grandfather William but I know people that have and I can attest to how inspired they were by him, as I was indirectly, and I know they will carry on his spirit and teachings.

Grandfather William was a man of the land, who understood and loved the land, and was a friend of the South March Highlands who recognized it as the special place that it is and declared it sacred. As an atheist I may not understand "sacred" the same way Grandfather William did but I understand just how special the land that sustains us all is and especially that very special place in Ottawa known as the South March Highlands. All of us who know the land within the South March Highlands, and are working to protect it, have lost a true champion in the death of Grandfather William.

To Grandfather William I say Meegwetch.

A Message from William Commanda regarding the Proposed Development in South March Highlands

APTN News: ‘Grandfather’ Commanda, an Algonquin man of ‘wisdom’ and ‘inspiration’

Ottawa Citizen: William Commanda, Algonquin spiritual leader, dead at 97

Ottawa Citizen: Archival story: Morning Star's rise

CBC News: Algonquin elder William Commanda dies

CBC News: Keeper of the wampum: William Commanda, Algonquin elder


Dumping Shit in The Ottawa River

This blog post contains graphic language because there is no way to pretty up dumping shit in the city's drinking water source.

If I were to walk into the Ottawa River and take a crap I would probably be arrested, and not just for indecent exposure but for polluting the river with human excrement.

However the City Of Ottawa routinely dumps shit in the Ottawa River due to a an inadequate and outdated sewage system. Yes, the City has been fined for some of these occurrences, but the fines are not paid by the decision makers who set the city's spending priorities but by citizens and taxpayers. Indeed the people who drink the water and swim in the Ottawa River, the victims of this environmental crime, are the ones who are punished for it, not the decision makers responsible for it.

Should there not be a law, or at least a policy, that the City spend money on improving the system responsible for this environmental crime before giving it to developers to build a shopping mall, condominiums and professional sports facilities. Should there not be a law that requires the City to spend federal and provincial infrastructure funding on reducing the amount of shit they dump in the Ottawa River before they spend it on building a road that destroys the most bio-diverse and environmentally important area in the city just to serve the desires of developers.

Indeed, should it not be legislated public policy that the City's decision makers must put the interests of taxpayers and citizens before the wishes of developers.