Eight short stories, early summer 2021 — from socialism in Buffalo and Kiran Ahuja to Pat Riccio, Mike Digout, Larry Olsen, and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra

Jun 24th, 2021 | By | Category: In Brief
India Walton.

COUNTERWEIGHTS EDITORS, FROM THE EAST TORONTO OFFICE (NORTH OF THE LAKES AS THE OLD AGRARIAN DEMOCRACY USED TO SAY). JUNE 24, 2021. The weather is more than just agreeable here today. The sun is shining. Early summer is in full bloom. And we are cheered, dismayed, and/or puzzled by eight different stories in the recent daily press (or its 2020s technological equivalent) :

First Socialist Mayor in Buffalo? Unexpectedly it seems, India Walton has pulled an AOC act next door to us, in Buffalo (well … across the lake and up the canal to the next lake etc). See “India Walton Poised To Become Buffalo’s First Socialist Mayor … Walton, who would also be the city’s first female mayor, ran on police accountability and addressing poverty in one of the country’s poorest cities.”

Why the close vote on Kiran Ahuja? Beyond the voting rights struggle in DC, we wondered why there was such a strict party split on “51-50: VP Harris casts her fifth tie-breaking vote since being sworn into office in January to advance the nomination of Kiran Ahuja to be director of the Office of Personnel Management.” We found the answer in an article by Tyler Olson at Fox News : All Republican senators (including Mitt Romney and Rob Portman etc) apparently believe Ms Ahuja is guilty of “promoting critical race theory.” (Whatever that may be.)

Kiran Ahuja.

Populist constitutional reform in UK. The Constitution Act, 1867 declares that Canada is to have “a Constitution similar in Principle to that of the United Kingdom.” In the 2020s the Constitution of the United Kingdom itself is under attack on its home turf. And the latest word is “Petition: Constitutional reform must be led by people, not politicians … Target: Keir Starmer and Boris Johnson.” We should remembers this in Canada too.

Opinion writer in USA does not reflect mood of Canada. Many who remember J.J. McCullough’s earlier Vancouver career and his current incarnation in the USA will welcome Andrew Cohen’s report on “The Washington Post’s troubled — and troubling — Canadian columnist.” As Mr. Cohen explains : “The mystery is why the Post runs McCullough, as if he reflects the mood of Canada …McCullough’s letter from Canada need not be a valentine. But his angry Canadian has worn thin, and it’s embarrassing the Post.”

Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada Richard Wagner.

Chief Justice can’t do GG job in Canada forever. A while back Governor General Julie Payette’s resignation triggered her temporary replacement by Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Richard Wagner — while waiting for PM Trudeau to appoint a new Governor General. Some urged that the office of GG be abolished, and its allegedly limited work passed on to the Chief Justice permanently. John Paul Tasker at CBC News illustrates just how foolish this would be in : “Six months after former GG Payette’s resignation, chief justice still juggling two jobs … ‘I am proud to fulfil this constitutional duty but yes, yes, it’s been a lot of work,’ Justice Wagner says.”

More residential school graves in Canada (and Indian boarding schools in USA). The newly vigorous Indigenous rights issue in Canada triggered by the radar detection of as many as 215 residential school graves in Kamloops, BC carries on with “Sask. First Nation announces hundreds of unmarked graves found at former residential school site … Marieval Indian Residential School operated from 1899 to 1997.” Meanwhile, south of the border Lakota Man reports : “Our beloved Madame Interior Secretary is opening an investigation into Indian boarding schools. It will be an arduous trail of sorrow. A task of incredible urgency — in hopes that the Native community can finally begin the healing process.”

The Pat Riccio Quartet with Pat on alto sax, 1959.

Remembering Pat Riccio’s saxophones. Anyone who frequented summer jazz concerts at Eglinton Park in Toronto in the 1960s will remember Pat Riccio. A useful short biography has now appeared on Facebook, in both the “Toronto Jazz in the 50s and 60s” and “Yorkville Music Scene 1955-1968” public groups, compliments of Aaron Lusch.

Mike Digout and Larry Olsen from Saskatoon (and Jules Massenet’s “Méditation” in Toronto). Earlier this week the lovely Anita Sharma on CTV News had an interesting conversation with photographer Mike Digout from Saskatoon, who has put together some intriguing video footage of a young beaver paying inadvertent homage to a Canadian flag. This also reminded us of our friend and colleague Larry “The Lawyer” Olsen, who grew up in Saskatoon but has spent most of his adult life in or near downtown Toronto. In tribute to Mr. Olsen (now in his late 80s) we conclude here by noting the Toronto Symphony Orchestra performance of Jules Massenet’s “Méditation” — a “symphonic intermezzo from the opera Thaïs,” placed on You Tube a year or so ago to help all who might be interested make it through the COVID-19 pandemic with at least their love of Western classical music still intact!

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