Democracy Turning Into a Dictatorship and Taxpayers Are Footing the Bill

And it’s another Christmas miracle.

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson dipped into the bag of taxpayer-funded goodies on Friday and has found millions of unspent dollars to help the mess that is the city’s light rail system.

Just add the costs onto the – is it too early to call it – a $2.1 billion boondoggle?

And now the promise of fewer buses on our roads isn’t to be, at least not in the immediate future. Not only aren’t we getting what we were promised, and what we’ve paid for, but we’re now having to pay more for who knows what.

What an absolute mess. 

And what does council think of Watson’s announcement of another $3.5 million being pumped into putting back buses that have just been recently removed?  Well, they weren’t asked or consulted. Just another blow to the concept of democracy at Ottawa City Hall.

And let’s not forget councillors like Gloucester-South Nepean Coun. Carol Anne Meehan were anxious to have a meeting to discuss the never-ending LRT problems. So too were Somerset Coun. Catherine McKenney and River Coun. Riley Brockington, but that idea was quickly dismissed by Watson, though he sent Hubley, his good soldier to deliver the news.

Well, it seems even more obvious now that a meeting should have been held to discuss the problems of LRT and together talk about a way forward. This is a city-wide issue and a city-wide problem. Councillors were duly elected by their constituents across the city. And those same councillors should have had a say on behalf of their constituents.

It’s been a long time since Watson cared much about consultation. And now, it’s just not part of his repertoire. On Friday, another mess of an LRT day, Watson took matters into his own hands. Our mayor isn’t even pretending to head up a democratic process. Just because he can do something doesn’t mean he should.

This has become something far more akin to a dictatorship where Watson feels empowered to ignore his council. And that’s just what he does, while doling out little goodies to his band of yes men and women. He likes to say he’s the one who represents the entire city, essentially that he knows best.

I like to say he doesn’t.

Collectively, he and his council know best.

Watson implied he and transit chair Allan Hubley made the decision together to add $3.5 million worth of buses.

That’s hard to believe. While it’s impossible to blame the horrendous problems of the present LRT system directly on Watson, he is certainly to blame for putting Hubley in as transit chair – a role that is well over the Kanata councillor’s abilities. Everyone knew it at the time and that’s even more abundantly clear now.

 Pretty sure any discussion between Watson and Hubley – if there really was one – went something like this. Watson: “This is what we’re doing. And this is just a courtesy call.” 

And while you can’t lay all the blame on Watson for this mess, he does own much of it – if only because he insists on ignoring his council. Surely I wasn’t the only one who worried whether the testing done was solid enough to take over the system. And for sure, I know I’m not the only one who is concerned about whether this system will ever actually work. Adding the buses back on is a serious – albeit necessary – step backward.

So here’s where we’re at. As taxpayers, we’re paying for a $2.1 billion transit system that doesn’t work. And we’re now paying millions more to put back the buses we took off the streets to help that pricey but flawed system. And there’s more spending to come. Is there any real chance that a transit user will use LRT when they can get on a reliable bus? Will transit riders give LRT another chance? 

Adding insult to injury, we’re now working on phase two of light rail. 

Equally egregious – the councillors who you elected to take your interests directly to city hall – are being ignored. 

And so are you.

Bus Drivers Aren’t Robots

OC Transpo drivers shouldn’t feel pressured to accommodate the scheduling mess created by OC Transpo, according to an internal memo obtained by On the City, From the Burbs.

“We will not stand by and allow our members to be treated like robots. We deserve better than this and the fall booking schedules are unacceptable,” Crabtree, the president of the Amalgamated Transit Union 279 representing the drivers, wrote in a memo to drivers.

Crabtree makes it clear the mess wasn’t created by the drivers, and nor should they feel they have to make up for OC Transpo’s problems.
“We need to be united and tackle this scheduling issue head on. If you need to use the facilities and are running late due to insufficient run times and lack of recovery time, please do not hesitate to do so. I would like to clarify. It is not the members of this Local who create scheduling it is your employer. ATU Local 279 will hold the employer accountable and demand a better schedule for our members,” Crabtree writes.

“I would like to inform everyone that ATU Local 279 is addressing the lack of run time and poor scheduling. We are in the process of gathering information and would appreciate input from our members as well.”
Small wonder transit users are upset. Their $2.1 billion investment which was supposed to be a system for the future just isn’t working with any sort of reliability.

Good on Crabtree, he’s absolutely right. This isn’t a problem that can be solved by bus drivers, nor should it be their responsibility. Do they need to do their jobs? Of course. But they shouldn’t be blamed for its problems, not should they be expected to make up for its dismal performance.

The dismal rollout of the much anticipated light rail system has everyone in Ottawa talking.

Recently, an Ottawa transit commissioner asked people frustrated by the system to protest to OC Transpo.

“Send your feedback to OC Transpo!” Sarah Wright-Gilbert told Twitter followers on Friday. 

Seems everyone is equally as frustrated with what’s happening. In her weekly newsletter, Gloucester-South Nepean Coun. Carol Anne Meehan weighed in on the woes of the system. Like Crabtree, she didn’t pull any punches.

It should be clear to everyone by now that the Bus System in Ottawa is broken. Riders have lost confidence in the buses that are the backbone of our transportation network. City brass say they are hearing the complaints and are acting. I am a frustrated Councillor trying to find answers and solutions for commuters in the south end. Thursday, I sat down with Pat Scrimgeour, Director of Transit Customer Systems and Planning for OC Transpo. I was armed with a list of your complaints about bussing and LRT. “Frustrated riders giving up and taking their cars.

Of course, that’s the concern isn’t it? What if we’ve paid $2.1 billion for a system that creates bigger traffic woes for the city the we had?. And while I say we’ve paid $2.1 billion, we’ll be paying for it for a long, long time.
And now we’re starting on the Second Phase of a project that’s supposed to work with Phase One. And we’re paying for that too.

The mind boggles.

Mob Mentality Sinks Chiarelli – Who’s Next?

Hey Councillor Shawn Menard, be afraid, be very afraid.

On Wednesday, you and your colleagues decided to punish a fellow councillor without any sort of due process.

Even a killer, found with a smoking gun in his hand standing over his dead victim, gets a fair trial.

But College Coun. Rick Chiarelli has received none of that.

And let’s face it Coun. Menard, it would seem Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson dislikes you only marginally less than he despises Chiarelli.

You could be next. And when the mob mentality sets it, with Watson in charge, there might not be anything you can do about it. So remember how quickly you joined the mob.

In case you missed it, council unanimously rejected giving Chiarelli time off from council, though he had a doctor’s note saying he needed the time off.

This has never happened before. Ever.

Do I believe the dozen plus women who’ve come forward with allegations of inappropriateness of Chiarelli’s alleged actions, sexual or otherwise?

Absolutely. There is no doubt in mind. Like other journalists in the city, I’ve spoken with some of these women, I know them, I like  them – and I not just believe in them, but I never doubted them.

If you haven’t paid any attention, Chiarelli has been accused of making  inappropriate sexual references towards many of his young female employees, everything from suggesting what they should wear, to late night stops together in the city or outside of it.

It’s gross, not a terribly sophisticated word, but it’s appropriate. And it breaks my heart to think of these very young women feeling they had to deal with grossness because they needed a job. 

But if council can censor a colleague who hasn’t been found to be guilty of untying, what’s to stop Watson and his gang of targeting other councillors they don’t like?

So where does city council get off refusing a doctor’s note, which should have excused Chiarelli from attending council for at least three months.
This has never happened before. Never. Ever.

And frankly, I don’t believe for a minute that if Chiarelli was in Watson’s inner circle before this news came out, this just wouldn’t be happening now.

No way, no how. Watson protects his friends. What can you remember about Watson criticizing his buddy Tim Tierney, after Tierney alluded to a food bank donation as an apparent hope his opponent might reconsider running? Doesn’t take too long thinking about that, does it? Osgoode Coun. George Darouze was found guilty of breaching council’s code of conduct. Not only didn’t Watson utter a word, but Darouze is still one of Watson’s deputy mayors.

What does that mean to Chiarelli? Well, before he’s been off for three months in a row, if he wants to keep his job, he’ll have to show up at some point, make an appearance during roll call. Watson knows this experience will be humiliating, and the media will be chasing him for a comment. It doesn’t bother me that Chiarelli might be embarrassed. But it won’t take away Chiarelli’s pay cheque and it won’t change a thing – accept humiliate the College councillor. Is that Watson doing a happy dance?

Former Bay councillor Alex Cullen is the only politician that I know of to call council out.And if your municipal memory isn’t as long as mine, Cullen and Chiarelli are not friends. And they don’t like each other. In fact, Cullen believes that years ago, Chiarelli stabbed him in his political back. So don’t think for a moment that Cullen is just backing up a friend. In fact, Cullen is too principled to back up anyone he didn’t agree with.

“It’s politics pilling over good judgment. In any other employment situation, a doctor’s note would be sufficient to get you any leave doctor recommends. This is a health professional saying someone can’t do their job. That should have been valid enough. Unfortunately, there are politics at play here. And that’s spoiled over to making a judgment on this very valid request. There was no debate and that really bugs me.There was no discussion on why this should be, (council’s) decision over that of a health professional. I suspect what happened is that there was a herd mentality,” Cullen said to On the City, From the Burbs.”This has been very badly handled, ” Cullen added. “And someone has to call out council. If it could happen to one person, it could happen to anyone.”
Exactly.

“It’s the political piling on, Jim has continued to twist the knife. He’s entitled to his opinion, but we know his motives. There’s been no debate, no justification, yet we do have due process.You can’t skip steps. No law has been broke,” Cullen rightly pointed out.”Politics is a blood sort and the herd will turn on someone who’s weak.”

Yes, politics at Ottawa City Hall, it’s ugly

Egli Threatens Legal Action For Doing My Job

As a journalist, albeit one that doesn’t get paid, I chase down stories simply because I love doing it. I love local politics and I love getting scoops and I love getting the truth away from the spin.

Earlier today, I got a tip about Knoxdale-Merivale Coun. Keith Egli. Now I’ve been in this business a long time and tips aren’t always truth. I know that. And so, as any good journalist would, I got in touch with some of the people that I thought might be able to help me confirm or deny the story. That’s just how the game works. No one I contacted was aware of the story, so I went to Egli himself.

He absolutely denied it. I then refined the question. He promised to get back to me right away. It took more than two hours for him to get back to me.
But when he did, it packed a wallop! Here’s what he wrote to me and, interesting to note, it wasn’t sent from his City of Ottawa email.

Sue


I was utterly shocked to hear of the defamatory allegation of criminal activity that you have repeated with respect to me.

There is absolutely no truth to this allegation.

I am asking you to confirm to me forthwith that you have either not repeated these defamatory comments to anyone or, if you have repeated it to anyone, I want you to advise me of the name and contact information of each person (including co-workers, friends and family members- as each of them could have repeated or might repeat) the defamatory statement , as well as provide me with proof that you have contacted each person to let them know that the defamatory allegation that you shared with him or her was totally unfounded and that it was wrong of you to do what you did  and to advise them that if they have shared that defamatory comment with anyone, they should be contacting that person to advise that the defamatory comment is unfounded.

I will stop at nothing to take any and all measures to either repair what would likely be considerable damage to my reputation, and/or to obtain damages, to the full extent that any damages can be awarded in law.

I am asking you to provide me with the information I have requested before 8 PM today.

Egli of course used to be practice law, hence the word forthwith! 

Really not sure why Egli thinks chasing a story is wrong. And absolutely dumbfounded why he thinks I can be sued for damages by asking questions. That being said, sort of wish I’d completed my Journalism and the Law course!

Again, for the record, I found no truth to the tip I’d been given, though it won’t stop me from pursuing it further. And again, for the record, I advised the councillor to go for it. I will not be offering up any information to him about who I talked to. Nor will I be bullied by fear of legal action. Sort of shocked Egli would try to threaten a journalist. But there you have it.

Deans Diagnosed With Ovarian Cancer

Gloucester-Southgate Coun. Diane Deans, a long-serving city councillor and leader on council, is suffering from ovarian cancer.

Deans will be taking a leave of absence from city council as she begins treatment for the cancer on Tuesday. The councillor made the sudden announcement in an email to her colleagues and the media Monday afternoon. “After a summer of not feeling well and a myriad of medical tests, I received the devastating diagnosis of ovarian cancer,” Deans wrote.

As she wrote, she will be away from council for an undetermined length of time as she battles with all of her energy on this “insidious disease.” While her time away isn’t determined, she does refer to returning to council next year. Deans, a left-leaning Liberal, has been as a strong opponent to Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson on council. And while he appointed her to serve as the chair of the Ottawa Police Services Board, she doesn’t sit on the key and powerful finance and economic development committee, essentially the cabinet of council.

Her absence from council will be missed. One of a few city councillors who isn’t afraid of taking on Watson, the long-serving council provides a strong voice for women, minorities and the disadvantaged around the council table.

Somerset Coun. Catherine McKenney spoke to Deans just before the news release went out.”It was absolutely unexpected. Knowing Diane for a long time, I consider her a friend and colleague. This is devastating news. You never expect to hear that someone has serious health issues. But she’s got a lot of friends and lot of support and we’ll do whatever we can,” McKenney said.

First elected to council in 1994, Deans has also ventured into party politics. She sought the Liberal nomination in the riding of Ottawa South, but lost to David McGuinty, and she’s also mused several times about running for mayor.She also attempted to secure the provincial nomination in Ottawa Centre back in 2007, she lost to Yasir Naqvi.

Councillor Darouze Bullied Osgoode Resident

Osgoode Coun. George Darouze broke the city’s Code of Conduct using bullying and intimidation in an attempt to silence one of his constituents, according to a recently released report by the city’s integrity commissioner.

The punishment for having broken the city’s Code of Conduct includes everything from being reprimanded, losing your salary for up to 90 days or giving a written or verbal apology.

The story centres around the use of social media, and several postings made on Facebook by a female Osgoode resident, who is also the wife of an Ottawa Police officer. The woman raised a number of concerns, everything from traffic, speeding and the lack of policing in the ward.

Darouze responded to the woman, and brought in the fact her husband worked for the police. As the exchange between Darouze and the female continued, the Osgoode councillor went so far as to bring the matter to the attention of then Ottawa Police Chief Chuck Bordeleau. A letter was placed in the police officer’s file, though he himself never engaged in the Facebook debate and hadn’t even read them.

Unhappy with the treatment by Darouze, the female resident and her police officer husband asked for an official investigation.

The report by city Integrity Commissioner Robert Marleau doesn’t pull any punches with his findings.

An investigator hired by Marleau had this to say about the dispute:

I find that (Darouze’s) reaction to the Facebook posts of the female Complainant was unjustified and excessive. I find that in sending his September 21, 2018 email to the Chief of Police and identifying both Complainants and revealing that the male Complainant was an OPS officer he did so for the primary reason of silencing the female Complainant and causing the male Complainant grief in his workplace. 
The Councillor’s exaggerated claims of fear and harm, his contradictory explanations, and his aggressive response to legitimate public debate on the question of police deployment in rural Ottawa weakens his credibility in this case. Considering all of the circumstances and the Councillor’s own evidence, this office finds that his explanation is not credible
On a balance of probabilities, I find that the major motivation of the Councillor was to bully and intimidate the Complainants and each of them in the hope that female Complainant might cease her critical Facebook commentary of him.

The report is expected to be dealt with at Wednesday’s city council meeting. Marleau is recommending Darouze issue a “sincere written apology” to both of the complainants; to write to the the Interim Chief of Police to make him aware of the report and request that his letter to the Chief of Police last year be removed from the personnel file of the complainant; and to reprimand Darouze in accordance with the Code of Conduct.

Light Rail Off and Running

And it’s a go.

Yes that’s right, Ottawans finally got to ride the much, much, much anticipated and much delayed light rail system.

Hallelujah.

Have to admit, I was a little taken aback at the party-like atmosphere the city put on to celebrate the opening, including some members of the media who seemed more like cheerleaders than outside observers.

And I may never get over  the image of the giddy-with-delight Kanata Coun. Allan Hubley at the prospect of the opening – or Mayor Jim Watson comparing his excitement to that of Christmas Day. (And I thought I didn’t have much going on in my life!)

Not to mention, the light rail system is absolutely unlikely to help Hubley’s constituents or do anything for the incredible gridlock in much of the city – not just during rush hour, but through much of the work week depending on where you’re travelling.

And am I wrong to think the non-working escalators in the system might have gotten a little more attention, save for the cheerleaders?
Former Mayor Bob Chiarelli, the brains behind bringing light rail to the nation’s capital, understands the system’s limitations as it now exists. He also understands the public’s frustration with the ever-growing traffic issues in the system, especially in Kanata and Barrhaven.

However, as the man who first brought light rail to Ottawa, Saturday was a good and rewarding day. 

“Of course, there’s satisfaction that we have a good modern system up and running,” Chiarelli told On the the City, From the Burbs.

“I thought it was a good launch and the people thought it was a good launch. Yes, it’s been a long and winding road. There’s been a lot of water under the bridge,” he said.

Chiarelli had proposed a north-south line that would have cost substantially less and brought suburban traffic into the mix. But when Larry O’Brien won the election and defeated Chiarelli, O’Brien cancelled that plan and instead decided the first link in Ottawa’s light rail plan would go east-west and include an underground tunnel.

“I think the fact that we’ve taken an extra 10 years has created some challenges for the future. We may have missed a round of funding (from the upper levels of government).” I’ve heard and seen some issues that have been raised, the fact that at this stage and time, we don’t have Kanata and Barrhaven connected, to the system, and so there are some unanswered questions. Will people get out of their cars to take a bus to the train and have to transfer and maybe transfer twice? And all of this is compounded by the unbelievable growth in the city, there’s a tremendous amount of congestion,” Chiarelli said. 

“I’m struck by the bumper to bumper traffic on Stranderd (in Barrhaven), congestion in Kanata,” he continued.”There are still challenges ahead of us. But for (Saturday) it was all well done, and you could tell people were excited about it.”

A Tale of Two City Councillors

Two Ottawa city councillors had life-changing events occur in their lives this week.

One will be celebrating, the other will be forced to re-exam his future.

For Beacon Hill-Cyrville Coun. Tim Tierney, who saw charges of corruption against him withdrawn, it’s a week worth celebrating.

Seems little doubt Tierney got off easy. He will have to give up two months salary. Small price to pay. And he can now stop plotting for ways to get his wife Jenny Tierney into his municipal seat under a scenario where he feared he would lose his job.

A quick recap: On the last day of registration for the 2018 election, Michael Schurter, a real estate agent who had nothing but good things to say about Tierney, registered to run against Tierney with just minutes to spare before the deadline.

I phoned Tierney to get his reaction. He was freaking out, apparently with his extended family on hand – getting ready to pop the champagne to celebrate what he had hoped was going to be an acclamation.

Then, according to OPP documents, Tierney called Schurter on his cell phone. Schurter put the call on speaker phone and three people in the Elections Ottawa office alleged they heard the councillor offer to make a donation to a local food bank if Schurter withdrew his candidacy. 
(Remember what happened to former mayor Larry O’Brien when he was accused of offering mayoral hopeful Terry Kilrea an incentive to drop out of the race?)

Schurter contacted the police, and the OPP anti-rackets division charged Tierney with “corrupt practices,” or bribery. I should mention I had a visit from the OPP myself, who wanted to discuss in further detail my phone conversation with Tierney. 

It was an ugly time, with the super-paranoid Tierney flipping out over what his huge mistake in phoning Schurter could cost him.

But now that’s all over for Tierney and his family. Perhaps that bottle of champagne was actually popped!

What is still so puzzling is why Tierney was so desperate to be acclaimed. It would have been an easy romp to a re-election victory – and while he gets to keep his job – clearly his reputation has been tarnished!

The week hasn’t been as kind to College Coun. Rick Chiarelli.

Chiarelli is a longtime city councillor with a wicked sense of humour he often uses against Mayor Jim Watson. The media loves a good quote, and Chiarelli delivers. When Watson unveiled a budget with questionable numbers, Chiarelli called it a Christmas Miracle. The media ate it up, Watson fumed. Chiarelli also had the audacity (and yes, that’s sarcasm) to beat Watson’s former employee Ryan Kennery in the last election.

According to a story by the CBC, Chiarelli has been accused of asking inappropriate questions during a job interview to a woman seeking employment at city hall. The woman has since filed a complaint with Ottawa’s integrity commissioner, suggesting she was asked inappropriate questions of a sexual nature during a job interview.

The same CBC story also said the corporation had spoken with several others  who’ve worked in Chiarelli’s office, and a number of those said they’d heard the councillor make inappropriate comments in the workplace. 

It’s a sad, ugly story wherever the truth lies.

Not surprisingly, Chiarelli isn’t talking to the media and is now apparently on sick leave.

The Week That Was (Sept. 1-7)

SORRY, NOT SORRY: Okay, so the phenomenal win on Saturday evening by Canada’s own Bianca Andreescu in the U.S. Open championship may not exactly be municipal news, but impossible not to mention.

The Mississauga champion beat tennis great Serena Williams to become the first Canadian to ever win a Grand Slam singles title. And of course, being a Canadian, she apologized to the public on hand, saying she was sorry for beating their favourite! Nice touch. As someone who recently visited Greece, our reputation for apologizing is well-deserved. I would find people pushing and shoving me in the throng of crowds and found myself apologizing.

All of Canada is so proud.

TRAIN TROUBLE: In less than a week, the city’s light rail system will go live. And is there anyone out there that doesn’t fear trouble on the tracks? 
The past week makes everyone’s concerns more valid. Just a few short days after the city took over the $2.1-billion LRT system and with the official opening slated for Sept. 14, more than half of the Confederation Line was shut down for hours this past week.

On Wednesday, the light rail system wasn’t running between Tunney’s Pasture and Hurdman stations for several hours.
Three trains were stopped in the downtown tunnel. Two of the trains finally went to Tunney’s Pasture, and the third was taken to the east end. As a result, several radio units needed to be reset.

Is any of this comforting to potential LRT users?

Will transit head John Manconi eventually be physically pushing the trains with a bunch of the city’s bureaucracy behind him? Can you imagine? Maybe you can.

TRASH TALK: So the city of Ottawa has decided it won’t extend the collection contract of a major garbage company that has failed to consistently abide by pickup schedules for communities in the west suburbs.

Waste Management has been receiving heat because it hasn’t always collected residential garbage in a timely fashion. The company has the city collection contract in Kanata, Stittsville and the surrounding communities in west Ottawa.

City council was told Waste Management would no longer be collecting residential trash in the west zone starting next June.
A memo from solid waste services director Marilyn Journeaux, a fellow/former hockey mom, says council will be asked to approve a contract with Miller Waste Systems for the west zone garbage collection.

HOW HIGH CAN YOU GO?: A larger transit tax increase could be the new norm for municipal budgets this council term, unless the upper governments pump more money into city hall’s public transit program. This according to a news story by the Sun’s Jon Willing.

A proposed 6.4% increase to the transit levy in 2020 wasn’t being considered as the long-range financial plan for transit called for the specific tax to rise by the same rate as transit fares.

The Ontario PCs  shut down a plan by the former provincial Liberals to double gas-tax transfers to municipalities. 
Can’t blame Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson for this – no way he would have known.
“The federal and provincial governments have the most ability to generate revenue through taxation and fees that we don’t have,” Watson said this week, according to Willing.

IDEALIST CLIVE DOUCET RUNNING AGAIN: According to a story in the Ottawa Citizen, former city councillor and mayoral candidate Clive Doucet is set to announce he’s running for MP for the Green Party in Cape Breton, where he has a home and where his heart is. Doucet said he’s always seen himself as a municipal politician. But honestly, I’m excited at the prospect of him being part of a group of like-minded individuals. And seriously, if he were running for the Green Party in my riding, he’d have my vote. Few politicians are as sincere as he is. Just recently chatted with him on CFRA on the Rob Snow show, and it made me realize that while I seldom agreed with him, I do miss his idealism. It’s perfect for the country and the Green Party.

Heading Back to School, Waiting for my CPP!

There’s a bit huge pit in the bottom of my stomach.

On Tuesday morning, after a 37-year hiatus, I’m headed back to Carleton University to embark on my Masters of Journalism. Yes, that’s 37 years, no typo there.

What the heck was I thinking? I have loved being a journalist. There’s really no job like it. Over the years, I’ve been able to meet some amazing people that I otherwise wouldn’t have had the opportunity to either meet or get to know. And while I always wanted to be a journalist, I sort of fell into my career.

When the Ottawa Sunday Herald started up, with former CFRA broadcaster Lowell Green behind the ambitious endeavour, I sent in my resume – and one weekend evening – got a call from Green. I didn’t get the job, but honestly, just hearing him telling me I was in the running – and that he thought I had a sense of humour, that was everything.

I did eventually start freelancing there. I caught the Herald’s interest when they gave me a freelance assignment to get people’s reactions to an Ann Lander’s column that suggested women preferred cuddling over sex – and I had to talk to people about her column. 

When the Ottawa Sun bought the Herald, I was given a chance at a real career in journalism. It wasn’t easy. In the early days, when I got the spelling of one of my subjects wrong in a story, my boss made it clear my job was on the line. “This isn’t the Herald,” said editor John Paton. (I’m now double checking the spelling of his name!)

All to say, I’ve had some lucky breaks when it comes to being a life-long journalist. And I’ve loved every minute of it. Well, not every minute, but many of them.

But on Tuesday, I’m waking up to attend my first day as a graduate student at the age of 60. Don’t ask why. In truth, I’m barely sure! The first day is a full day of orientation, and even the term full-day strikes fear in may heart. I’ve become so used to doing nothing, I just can’t imagine concentrating for that long.

I know that since taking the voluntary retirement from Postmedia, I’ve spent far too much time sitting in my basement playing Candy Crush and watching some incredibly bad television. (Yes, I’ve seen Dr. Pimple Popper. Don’t ask.)

But I still have a desire to learn. I know how to get to the bottom of a story, but am anxious to learn more about the theoretical side of the business – where it’s headed, where it’s been, a discussion of ethics,

And as I tweeted recently, in one week, I was accepted into the masters program and was approved for my Canadian Pension Plan (CPP).
I need them both!
In truth, I”m terrified. I know I can get to the bottom of a story, but just not at all convinced I’m up to the challenge of completing my Masters of Journalism.

Hope my CPP comes in soon!