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Some Final Holiday Season Thoughts for All the Wonderful Animals in Our World

“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” – the late French poet, journalist and novelist Anatole France

A Brief One for the Animals by Doug Draper

Posted January 3rd, 2020 on Niagara At Large

One of the first road signs that greets you wen you cross the border from upstate New York State to Massachusetts

If you drive due east from Niagara, Ontario and Buffalo, across the whole 300-some-odd- mile distance of the New York State Thruway, the first town you enter when you cross the border from New York to Massachusetts is West Stockbridge.

Nestled in the picture-perfect Berkshire Hills, this quaint little New England town hosts a population of about 1,600 people and up to March of 2017, one remarkable feline named Felix, known affectionately by town folk as “everyone’s pet cat.”

My wife Mary and I met Felix, or rather he met us, one sunny afternoon in June of 2016 after we stopped to take a short walk through the town before continuing our drive back  home to Niagara after visiting friends on Cape Cod.

Felix, walking the sidewalks of his home town of West Stockbridge, Massachusetts in 2016, file photo, Doug Draper

We had just left a nice old bookstore and were about to cross a bridge spanning a river flowing through the town when we looked down and there, walking just a few feet in front of us and looking back from time to time, as if to see if we were still coming, was this yellow-haired cat with long, lanky legs and not much more than a stub for a tail

This photo of Felix, looking down the main street of his town of West Stockbridge was posted on social media. He was one remarkable cat.

He kept walking a few paces in front of us as if he was the town’s ambassador, proudly taking us on a tour, and if we stopped for a moment to look in a shop window, he would wait patiently until the three of us would walk on together again. That was the way it was until we arrived at a store on the main street to get some of those great sandwiches we heard they make there for our trip home.

Inside the store, I asked about the cat, and someone said with a big smile; “Oh, you just met our town cat Felix. He loves to show people around.” Continue reading

High CEO Pay in Canada Shatters Previous Records, Now 227 Times More Than Average Worker Pay

Payrolls for chief corporate officers are so massive they account for at least 40% of some companies’ losses

A Special Report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

Posted January 2nd, 2020 on Niagara At Large

Ottawa, Ontario — Canada’s 100 highest paid CEOs made 227 times more than the average worker made in 2018, surpassing all previous records, according to a new report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA). That’s up from 197 times average worker pay in 2017.

“Put another way, by 10:09 a.m. on January 2, the average top CEOs will have made as much money as the average Canadian worker will make all year. That’s the earliest time on record in the 13 years we’ve been tracking these numbers,” said report author and CCPA Senior Economist David Macdonald.  Continue reading

Here’s  Wishing for a New Year and a New Decade Where Caring for Each Other and this Planet We Share with All Creatures Great and Small Prevails

In this New Year 0f 2020 and this New Decade, Let’s All Resolve to be ‘Doves with Claws’

A New Year Message from Doug Draper

Posted January 1st, 2020 on Niagara At Large

Looking back at the decade that has just past, I think it is fair to say that it was a mixed bag of good people doing, or at least trying to do good things, and of bullies and creeps working around the clock to force feed the rest of us on whatever they had stewing in their cauldrons of poison.

There have been all too many bullies and creeps – what I have sometimes likened to the flying monkeys in the haunted forests of Oz Land – working their black magic on the international and national stage, and yes, even right here in our Niagara region.

There is one of those flying monkeys now, taking away poor Toto

Thanks to just enough Niagara residents going to the polls in the October 2018 municipal elections, and thanks to the emergency of a new region-wide citizens watchdog group called A Better Niagara that helped galvanize fellow citizens to vote), a critical mass of bullies and creeps were swept from elected office at the local and regional levels of municipal government.

Yet not all of the bullies and creeps are gone, and courtesy of a system of crass partisan appointments that is begging for reform, some of these bullies and creeps have already popped up in other positions, on boards and commissions and so on, so we have to remain vigilant. Continue reading

On the First Day of a New Year and a New Decade, Doug Ford Vows to “Continue to Work for the People”

(Here’s a Plan. When You’ve Sunk to Subterranean Depths in Public Approval, Just Continue Doing More of the Same.)

A New Year’s Day Message from Ontario’s Premier, Doug Ford

Posted January 1s, 2020 on Niagara At Large

Ontario’s “For the People” Premier Doug Ford promises to continue building on what he has been doing for us (or to us) already.

Today (this January 1st, 2020), Ontario Premier Doug Ford issued the following statement marking New Year’s Day:

“A new year offers us a fresh opportunity to build on our previous successes, set new goals, and embrace a bright and hopeful future for ourselves and our loved ones. We look ahead with hope to the months and days ahead where we can make new memories and focus on the things that matter.

As we head into 2020, our government will continue to work for the people of Ontario by delivering on our Plan to Build Ontario Together. We are committed to  making life more affordable, preparing people for jobs, creating a more competitive business environment, connecting people to places, building healthier and safer communities, and making government smarter.

 From my family to yours, I want to wish everyone a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!”

The Ford government’s cratering public approval ratings across Ontario, as depicted this past year (201) by non-other than the politically conservative Toronto Sun

NIAGARA AT LARGE encourages you to join the conversation by sharing your views on this post in the space following the Bernie Sanders quote below.

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“A Politician Thinks Of The Next Election. A Leader Thinks Of The Next Generation.” – Bernie Sanders


When It Came to Facing Down Caslin’s Cabal, a Retired MPP for Niagara Centre Deserves Our Thumbs Up Too

 Cindy Forster Was A Leader in Fighting to Get to the Bottom of What Cabal Members were up to at the old NPCA

Now retired Niagara Centre MPP Cindy Forster

It’s unfortunate that you overlook my responsibility as an elected Member of Provincial Parliament to ensure the voices in my community are heard.”            – from a January 2017 open letter from then Niagara Centre MPP Cindy Forster to then-Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority board of directors chair Sandy Annunziata, responding to a statement he issued that, in part, criticized Forster  for raising the concerns of her constituents about  the NPCA board of the day  going soft on conservation and environmental protection

A Commentary by Niagara At Large reporter and publisher           Doug Draper

Posted December 31st, 2019 on Niagara At Large

Earlier this passing December, following the release of the explosive report by Ontario’s Ombudsman Paul Dube, detailing all of the nefarious conduct around what Dube called the “inside job” that won Carmen D’Angelo Niagara Region’s chief administrative job in October, 2016, I wrote and posted a commentary of thanks to the only eight regional councillors who demonstrated the care and courage to vote against D’Angelo’s hiring.

The screen in Niagara Region’s council chambers, showing the only eight councillors who voted “No” to hiring Carmen D’Angelo to the Region’s CAO post in October 2016

That commentary received thousands of hits (more than I will ever know because it was cast out over other peoples’ Facebook pages) and that was heartening to me given that tracking records on the dashboard of this NAL site confirm what I have often heard from fellow journalists – that negative news and commentary about politicians usually gets more traffic than news and commentary of a more positive nature.

My December 14th commentary about the eight regional councillors who cast that brave vote against hiring D’Angelo (and just four the record, those councillors were Pelham’s Dave Augustyn, Thorold’s Henry D’Angela and Ted Luciani, St. Catharines Kelly Edgar,  Brian Heit and Debbie MacGregor, Welland’s George Marshall and Lincoln’s Bill Hodgson) also received quite a bit of positive feedback from readers, including one I wish to give a little special attention to here.

Cindy Forster with Jeff Burch who she supported to fill her seat for the Ontario NDP, as he has, in the Niagara Centre riding

That reader was Cindy Forster who wrote of the December 14th commentary – “Thanks Doug. Always good to refresh the memories of the voting public. Unfortunately we lost a few good regional councillors who voted no (but were later) caught up in the election sweep (in the fall of 2018) to clean house!”

After Cindy Forster posted her comment on NAL’s Facebook page (which, by the way, I don’t go to that often because, truth be known, I have a lot of problems with culture of Facebook), it occurred to me that it would be a good idea to refresh peoples’ memories about the principled leadership and courage she demonstrated in all of this too, before she retired as Niagara Centre’s NDP MPP in the spring of 2018. Continue reading

Linda Ronstadt’s Iconic Singing Career is Immortalized in a Moving Film Documentary

Watch ‘Linda Ronstadt – The Sound of My Voice’ on Cable TV, this Saturday, January 4th at 9 p.m. (updated)

“Linda was like the queen. She was like what Beyoncé is now.”~ Bonnie Raitt, another legendary singer and musician, and a good friend of Linda Ronstadt

By Doug Draper, an incurable Linda Ronstadt fan

Posted December 31st, 2019 on Niagara At Large

If you are as much of a fan of legendary pop singer Linda Ronstadt as I am, and you have access to cable television on New Year’s Day, here is something I am sure you would enjoy.

This Saturday January 4st, at 9 p.m. on CNN, the network will be broadcasting on TV screens for one of the first times (the first broadcast was this past January 1st) a full-length film documentary it produced this outgoing year called “Linda Ronstadt – The Sound of My Voice.”

I was fortunate enough to see this documentary on the big screen, at a repertory theatre on Cape Cod, Massachusetts last September, with a full house of film goers who broke out in spontaneous applause as the final credits began to roll. Continue reading

As a Global Climate Catastrophe Looms, We Have Just Logged In The Hottest Decade Yet in Recorded History

“The reality is a thermometer is not conservative or liberal and it’s certainly not NDP or Green either. It doesn’t give us a different answer depending on how we vote. The climate system is changing. Humans are responsible. The impacts are increasingly serious and even dangerous, no matter who we vote for or where we fall in the political spectrum.”                                  – Scientist Katherine Hayhoe, Director of the Climate Science Centre at Texas Tech University

A Brief Commentary by Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper followed by links to must-hear CBC Radio interview with climate scientist Katherine Hayhoe

Posted December 30th, 2019 on Niagara At Large

As we begin the third decade of the 21st Century, we are facing what thousands of scientists around the world are now calling a “climate emergency” that may determine whether, decades from now, there will even be people left to record who among us showed the wisdom and courage to address this existential threat to life on our planet, and who did not.

Now is the time for us to decide which side of history we want to be on and how future generations will remember us.

Will we want to be remembered as someone who cared enough to stand up for the future or as someone who chose to do  little or nothing?

Do we want to be remembered among those who continued to claim that climate change is a hoax or that it has little or nothing to do with anything we humans do – even when the weight of scientific evidence that the climate crisis we are already experiencing is largely human induced, and when we are already experiencing a higher frequency of damage and destruction related to violent swings in weather.

Severe climate-related disasters, like the one shown happening to Lake Erie shoreline residents in the CBC report (broadcast this past November 2019) below, are becoming ever more frequent, whether we are talking about destructive floods, winds, fires, droughts and food crop failures, crashes in plant, animal and fish populations, and on and on. To watch the CBC report, click on the arrow in the middle of the screen –

When we look at the costly damage climate change is already doing, and at the very real possibility of the larger-scale destruction that lies ahead, we can no longer afford the lack of serious leadership we are seeing in politicians and consider the lack of serious leadership like Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ontario Premier Doug Ford, and in too many others now serving at the federal, provincial and municipal level in Canada, and in other countries around the world. Continue reading