Friday, November 16, 2018

Don't Give Up, Especially On Old Friends

My good friend Dave Savage and I first met almost 15 years ago when I was busy with my efforts to save the York Street Station with Steve Boyko and the Fredericton Friends of the Railway. Dave called me from Ontario one day to talk about the station but we talked about everything from rails to politics to family.
We quickly became good friends.
I always loved it when we spoke and would always be at least an hour chatting.

I remember on one of my solo trips to Ontario I stopped in to see him and we drove all over the map to see Dave’s Grand Railway History tour.
My god, the knowledge he had. If you ask him anything about any area he had the history in his head. It was marvellous to behold.

You see, Dave used to look after a little publication called the Canadian Railway Station News. That’s why he initially called me in the first place. Railway stations had always been his passion. He had actually published a couple of books and picked my brain for details of New Brunswick stations. Of course I was only happy to help my friend in any way that I could.

Several years ago the York Street Station was saved and became an NB Liquor store. It was restored and looks beautiful today. I am proud to say that the efforts of the Fredericton Friends of the Railway and our friends and members were successful.

Over the years I switched careers and moved homes but that should not have affected Dave and I.

Yet we lost contact.

The phone number and information I had for him didn’t work any more. I tried sending a letter but never received a reply.
I was a member of numerous Railway Yahoo groups and tried reaching out to the other members if anyone had any information about him. Someone must know something. I had no luck at all. I feared for the worst.
Once in a while I would think of my friend and try another Google search for anything about him. To no avail.

Until about 6 months ago.

A Google search came up with a little paragraph in a little newsletter with his name. He had spoken to some people at a gathering about some local railway history in Cobourg, Ontario.
I sent an email to a contact in the newsletter.
She replied to me and copied another gentleman who knows Dave. He took my information and told me he would tell Dave that I had been in touch.

This gentleman gave me a brief update and I’m afraid that the story of Dave since we had last spoken was not a happy one.

Several years ago he suffered a stroke which confined him to a wheelchair. He had been living with his girlfriend in a house but she had decided that caring for Dave was not something she was up to doing. So she left.

As a result of his stroke his kidneys failed and he requires dialysis three times a week.
Dave entered a nursing home. All of his possessions from his house were placed into a storage locker where they remain to this day.
He lost my contact information among many other things. That explained why I had not heard from him.

A short while later I received a call from him. He had received my message.
It was just like old times. It was so nice to talk to my old friend again.
He sounded pretty good. Considering all that he has been through.

Our family decided to visit Ontario last week to visit family and some friends.
I was determined that I was going to visit Dave and see him for the first time in more than 10 years.
I dropped Cheryl and the boys off at her mother’s place and headed out to Cobourg.

When I arrived at the nursing home the residents were having lunch. I asked one of the nurses where Dave was and she pointed him out. His back was to me.

When he saw me his face lit up. We were so happy to see each other and we gave each other a big hug.
Dave didn’t look quite how he did 10 years ago but he was a sight for sore eyes.
Recently, Dave has developed a hearing problem and requires a device to help him. Between that and my deafness our conversation was not the easiest but we didn’t mind.

After lunch I took him in his wheelchair and we went for a pretty long walk.
Dave knew absolutely everyone we came across and said hello to all.
We went into his credit union so that he could do some banking. Every lady in the place knew him. I took him to the counter.
He didn’t need a bank card or bank book or anything. They know who he is and exactly what he needed. It was amazing.
The photo above was taken by one of the ladies at his credit union.

When we got back to the nursing home he asked me to do a favour and go to the storage unit office where his possessions are and pay his monthly charge.
I told the young lady that it was for Dave and she was disappointed that he had not come with me.
She told me how much she enjoys when he drops in.

She said that in the summer Dave will get dropped off and she wheels him back to his storage space where she will take out the same 2 boxes every time.
She takes him over to the rear of the property beside the train tracks where he watches the trains go by for a couple of hours while he goes through his boxes of memories.

When she told me this I visibly teared up and still do as I write this.

I wish that I lived closer to him so that I could sit with him and watch those trains.

When I returned to the home to give him his receipt I could see that he was looking tired.
It was time for me to get back to Cheryl and the boys.

I gave Dave a big hug and could see that he was sad that the visit was ending.
I promised him that every time I visit Ontario I will visit him.

Without fail.

I’m looking forward to the next time I will see my friend.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Vapor Trails

Those who know me (and some who do not) are aware of my family’s passion of Rush. This illustrates it well.

On August 10, 1997, soon after the conclusion of Rush's Test for Echo Tour, drummer Neil Peart's first daughter and then-only child, 19-year-old Selena Taylor, was tragically killed in a single-car accident on Highway 401 near the town of Brighton, Ontario.

Only 10 months later, on June 20, 1998, his common-law wife of 22 years, Jacqueline Taylor, succumbed to cancer. Peart attributes her death to the result of a "broken heart" and called it "a slow suicide by apathy. She just didn't care."

In his book Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road, Peart writes that he told his bandmates at Selena's funeral, "consider me retired." Peart took a long sabbatical to mourn and reflect and travelled extensively throughout North and Central America on his motorcycle, covering 88,000 km (55,000 mi).

After several years it looked that RUSH was done as a band.

However, after his journey, Peart decided to return to the band. Peart wrote the book as a chronicle of his geographical and emotional journey.

Peart was introduced to photographer Carrie Nuttall in Los Angeles by long-time Rush photographer Andrew MacNaughtan. They married on September 9, 2000.

In early 2001, Peart announced to his bandmates that he was ready to return to recording and performing.

The product of the band's return was the 2002 album Vapor Trails, RUSH’s 17th studio album. Its release marked the first studio album for the band since Test for Echo in 1996 (the longest gap between Rush albums until their retirement).

The band felt that the entire developmental process for Vapor Trails was extremely taxing and took about 14 months to finish, the longest the band had ever spent writing and recording a studio album.

Despite controversy concerning its production and sound quality, the album debuted to moderate praise and was supported by the band's first tour in six years, including first-ever concerts in Mexico City and Brazil, where they played to some of the largest crowds of their career. Personally, I attended the Toronto show. There's no way I was going to miss the return. It was quite emotional for myself and likely everyone in attendance to have our favourite sons back again.

The album was certified gold in Canada in August 2002. The song "Ghost Rider" appeared on the album and was written by Peart as a tribute to his travels around the US and Canada after his personal tragedies, while "One Little Victory" served as the first single to announce the band's return from hiatus.

The original audio mix of the album received criticism for its heavy use of dynamic range compression. Not pleased with the results, Rush had two of the album's tracks mixed again and re-released in Retrospective III: 1989–2008.

The positive response to that led to a completely revamped version of the album, titled Vapor Trails Remixed, released in 2013. It was released both individually and as a part of the box set The Studio Albums 1989–2007.

After the release of Vapor Trails and his reunion with bandmates, Peart returned to work as a full-time musician.

It is for this reason that many people, including my family, feel that Vapor Trails is the most important and meaningful album in RUSH’s discography.

And this is why both Braydon and I have the album cover as tattoos. Braydon has had his for a few years and I have finally had mine done. Both were done by the incredibly talented Joey Saindon at Sacred Owl Tattoo who has done all of my tattoos for almost 10 years now.

Purists will note that the original Vapor Trails album cover was orange, red, black and yellow and the image used for our tattoos was from the remixed album cover. It is a much nicer image with many other colours added.

I point out however that the remixed version of the album was the one that Geddy, Neil and Alex preferred, as they had not been happy with the original.

Stay well,

Sunday, July 29, 2018

It Will Be Okay

Quite often I’m amazed when I look around and see how amazing most of us have done in raising incredible kids that are going to win this world.
When I think about some of the stupid stuff we got into in the day I have a very hard time getting upset when something goes amiss with my guys.
I’m not only proud of my kids and Cheryl and I, but I’m proud of all of you.
Sure there are the occasion setbacks here and there but overall, we’ve done pretty well.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

My Dad

It's not easy being as awesome and groovy as I am. It takes years of special training and guidance with a highly skilled trainer who has had a lifetime of being awesome himself.

That would be my dad.

I don't often mention special occasions and holidays here but felt that a huge Happy Father's Day to my dad was in order.

Thanks for everything Dad. Thanks for all of the amazing times and wonderful memories that I have locked in my mind for the rest of my days. Thanks for always being there when I needed something. Thanks for being the best sports coach anyone could ever have. Thanks for having the tolerance to go with my friends and I for a week every summer into the wilds of northern Ontario for a scout camp/week long party. Thanks for the coolest family road trips of places that most of the details are now lost, but the awesomeness of the moments are still fresh. Thanks for putting up with me when I wasn't making the best educational or career choices for myself that I should have, but had faith that I would bounce back and land on the right path. Eventually. Thanks for being so great that my sons recognize it in you too.
Most of all. Thanks for teaching me that being a good father isn't easy, but it's necessary. It doesn't pay well at the time, but the payoff in the end is priceless.

You've taught me that in order to build a massive clear bright future for our entire species, we have to take these little blocks that are right in front of us, plant them in the right place and hope that they take root as long as we nourish them properly.

I'm confident that most of what Hayley and I became in our adult lives is a credit to the way you raised us.
I say this with confidence because of what I see in my own sons. Cheryl and I have happily worked hard and continue to do so. We are very proud of the results.
Without the guidance of our parents we likely would not have been as prepared as we were.
Happy Father's Day dad. I love you. Thanks for everything. xo

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Village of New Maryland Budget 2017

Hello there. Tonight the Village of New Maryland Council presented our first budget. It was read by Deputy-Mayor Alex Scholten and accepted unanimously by all members of Council.


Your Worship, fellow Councillors and residents it is my privilege to present to you the 2017 General Operating, Utility and Capital Budgets for the Village of New Maryland.

In the 2017 General Operating Fund Non-Tax Revenue Budget we were able to generate a total Non-Tax Revenue of $317,083. Our tax base only increased at a rate of 0.0027%, resulting in a new tax base of $341,991,050. This represents an increase in revenue of only $113 from the base.

The 2017 General Operating and Capital Fund Expenditure Budget will be $4,536,859 which is an increase of $114,259 over the 2016 amount.

General Government Services will only increase by $967 to $889,094.

Protective Services expenditures will be $1,027,220, an increase of $15,695 over 2016, which includes the R.C.M.P. increase of $13,982, Emergency Measure, Building Inspection and Fire Department costs.

Transportation Services expenditures will be $594,941, an increase of $4,566, of which the snow removal contract was the main driver.

Environmental Health Services expenditures will be $256,500, a reduction of $1,900 for garbage collection tonnage.

Environmental Development Services expenditures will be $157,332, a reduction of $346.

Recreation and Cultural Services expenditures will be $619,949, a reduction of $15,592. The main drivers were personnel cost reductions and a reduction in grounds maintenance costs at the New Maryland Centre.

Fiscal Services expenditures for debts will be $396,910 a reduction of $1,904. This section includes Interest on Long Term Debt and Principal Instalments. This expenditure includes the capital costs for the Gravenstein culvert and the paving project in Castle Acres debentures being issued.

For 2017 the General Capital Fund will be $594,913, an increase of $112,773. Of the total Capital $198,580 has been allocated to Transportation projects, $76,000 has been allocated to Recreation projects, $130,000 has been allocated to the Fire Department and EMO, $7,500 has been allocated to General Government, $142,833 has been allocated for Infrastructure Replacement Reserve, $21,000 has been allocated to a Municipal Plan Review Reserve and Solar Panel project, and $19,000 has been allocated to a site restoration and Specification for Developers review.

In response to the infrastructure deficit, as made apparent through PSAB (Public Sector Accounting Board), Council has again stepped up to the plate in terms of continuing to address this deficit in order to protect the longevity and sustainability of the municipality by setting aside additional funding of $142,833 which equates to just over 4¢ on the rate. This funding will be placed into a reserve for future infrastructure replacement.

This being said, the overall General Operating Budget increased by a total of $1,486 or 0.04% while the General Capital Budget increased by $112,773 or 23.39%, which is reflective of the ever-increasing capital demands on the municipality.

At this juncture I would like to point out that since 2011 the Village has lost $194,966 in revenues through reductions in Unconditional Grant funding from the Province of New Brunswick. In fact, since 2011 the Village has lost $219,966 through reductions in the Unconditional Grant, Provincial and Federal Student funding, as well as Fine Sharing Revenue. This represents a significant reduction in the Village’s revenue, one that neither staff nor Council have any control over. Each cent of the rate represents $34,199 of revenue for the Village. Therefore, the combined reductions since 2011 equates to 6.43¢ on the rate, and if you add in the negative impact of the base reduction for 2016 of $20,457 this equates to 7.03¢ on the rate that has been lost, a loss the Village has to contend with. Faced with this challenge, Council and staff have worked diligently to control costs and reduce where they could without impacting services. We will continue to vigorously review program costs and services throughout 2017 to identify various options available for consideration. In 2017, as a result of the comprehensive study on the Village’s storm water system, we identified potential flood areas that could pose risks to people, property and public health and safety. As a result, residents will see increased capital spending earmarked for new or upgraded storm water infrastructure. With increased demands on the Village to deal with these deficiencies, we want to be transparent about the associated costs and where those funds will come from. Because of the nature and scope of such projects, each will involve substantial borrowing and the additional costs from this borrowing will need to be reflected in future tax rates as we cannot afford to expand or upgrade this infrastructure without doing so.

Over the past several months, staff and Council have worked diligently together in order to bring forward a budget that not only addresses the sustainability of the Village but also affordability for our residents and I believe that this budget has managed to do both.

Therefore, with a total expenditure of $4,536,859 less the Non-Tax Revenue of $317,083 and less the Unconditional Transfer of $6,163 and a Municipal Tax Base of $341,991,050 we are left with a Tax Rate for 2017 of $1.2321 per $100 of assessment. This represents an increase of 2.49¢ on the rate or a 2% increase. To put that into perspective, for every $100,000 of assessed value this increase would represent $24.90 for the year compared to 2016 assessments. On an average home value of $250,000, residents would see an annual increase of $62.25 in their property tax bill or an increase of $5.19 per month.

The Village of New Maryland’s 2017 Utility Operating and Capital Expenditure Budget will be $1,191,585 which represents an increase of $35,302.

Water supply and Treatment costs will be $250,822 which represents an increase of $531 over the 2016 amount. This increase is due mainly to increases in power and pumping costs.

Sewage Collection and Treatment costs will be $319,527, which represents a reduction of $22,376 over the 2016 amount. This reduction is primarily due to decreases experienced in sewage treatment and disposal costs.

Fiscal Services costs equal $347,742, which is a reduction of $2,586 over the 2016 amount.

The following reserves will be made: $50,000 for future maintenance of the Waste Water Treatment Plant; $13,420 for replacement of water meters; and $20,000 for future maintenance of the Water Tower.

The Utility Capital requirements for 2017 are $189,474, representing an increase of $59,593 over the 2016 amount.

On the utility revenue side, under the heading Other Revenues from Own Sources results in a total of $126,771. This leaves a balance of $1,064,814 to generate from user fees. Water service will be charged at $1.38 per cubic meter (an increase of 4¢ per cubic meter), plus a flat fee of $37 (an increase of $1 per quarter) and a meter fee of $5 per quarter (no change). Sewerage service will increase to $512 per year which represents an increase of $16. This is the second increase to the user fees which were identified previously as part of the Village of New Maryland’s 5 Year sustainability program. For the average household with both water and sewer services this will amount to an annual increase of $28.00 or $2.33 per month.

In conclusion I would like to acknowledge the hard work of our Treasurer (Scott Sparks) for being patient in helping to finalize the numbers on Council’s behalf. I would also like to thank our Chief Administrative Officer (Cynthia Geldart), Department Heads, and my fellow Councillors and Mayor for their dedication in helping to prepare this budget.

Staff and Council have worked diligently for several months on this budget and it comes as a result of numerous meetings, debates and studies being completed. I believe this budget reflects recognition of the burden taxes and fees have on residents but at the same time, seeks to balance the need to ensure the long-term viability of the Village, the value of resident’s property and the public health, safety and enjoyment of residents who live and work here.

It is an honour to submit the Village of New Maryland’s 2017 Operating and Utility Budgets for your consideration and approval.

At this point I would like to introduce the motions to adopt the 2017 Budgets.

During the discussion prior to voting on the Budget motion, I provided the following comments:

Budget 2016

During the election campaign I told residents that I would work to keep our taxes as low as possible. To promise that we would not raise taxes would have been irresponsible in my opinion. I am satisfied that Council and Staff have worked very hard on this budget to ensure that we use Village tax dollars in a responsible manner and have sorted projects and expenses in a proper prioritized manner.

I acknowledge that the Village and its infrastructure are approaching a period that replacement and repairs are going to be necessary more frequently due to the rising age of Village assets. This is just a fact of life.

This certainly does not imply that poor workmanship or materials were originally involved by any means. On the contrary. I would say that we have been doing quite well to date and that the staff and Village engineers have done a great job of staying on top of monitoring Village assets. For this I congratulate them on a job well done.

One factor that cannot be ignored regarding our infrastructure is the change in weather events. The increase in severe weather events around the world and at home has resulted in our implementation of the Storm Water Management Plan – a document which details both the need to increase the capacity of our infrastructure as well as the significant costs involved. To ignore the need for financing of these costs would be detrimental to our community.

Costs and expenses for the operation of our services will also continue to rise. Accordingly, the sources of the needed income will need to keep up. This year’s budget increases the tax rate of the Village for the first time in 4 years. All members of Council would prefer that the increase was not necessary. We are after all, Village residents as well. But we agreed that this increase is fiscally responsible and manageable.

I believe that the Councils of the past have worked very hard and diligently and this Council is continuing this tradition.

I would like to thank the staff and my fellow members of Council for the spirit of cooperation and making this process go smoothly.

Take care,

Saturday, November 12, 2016

It is what it is

I hate to be the one to say this but even though many are not happy with the US election results, this is the democratic process in action. The voters have spoken and like it or not it is what it is. 

Protests and flag burning may make some people feel better for a short time but they won't change the results. 

I may not agree with how some people cast their votes but many years ago an awful lot of people who we will never get to personally thank fought for our rights to vote as we please and I would challenge anyone who wants to take that right away. 

The US Electoral College and election system is one of the wildest systems I have ever seen but it was created by a group of people much smarter than I am and has been in place for over 200 years. 

What everyone CAN do is to become involved. Hold the elected representatives accountable and show them that you are watching and paying attention and  they should stay on the proper course of decency and good.


Even better, do as I have done. Run for office and keep an eye on things from the inside. 

Stay well,


Sunday, October 9, 2016


So now the old Howard Stern interviews with Donald Trump are surfacing as shocking new revelations. 
Really folks, I heard many of those interviews years ago and knew all about them. 
At that time I'm sure Donald had no inkling of an interest or thought he would one day have a shot at the most powerful office in the world. 
He wouldn't have any hesitation talking like that. That's the way Howard works. He gets people to let their guards down and remove filters (if they have filters to start with). 
I have always said and told my kids, if you're going to throw something out there that's inappropriate, the chances are very good that it will boomerang back and hit you in the head. 
You can throw a boomerang as far as you want. It may take a long time or a short time but if it's a sweet throw it will come back.