A Conservative Minority?

The recently called Federal Election will be decided on September 20, 2021 (or shortly thereafter ─ if mail-in ballots delay the final counting). According to 338Canada.com, the popular vote for the various parties is set out below (as at September 20, 2021). The Conservatives and the Liberals are running neck in neck, though the polling momentum has bounced back and forth between these parties in recent days.

Read  A Conservative Minority?

Small Town Renewal – A Solution?

Small Town Ontario – An Example

During our weekly get togethers for wood carving, my two friends ─ Bob and Don ─ often object to my views on the state of the world. Over the past few weeks, they have taken me to task on a number of occasions on a topic that is close to my heart ─ small towns in Ontario: What has happened to them in the past and how they might be revived in the future?

Read — Small Town Renewal … A Solution?

Janet Carnochan (1839 – 1926)

In 2007, while researching the family history, I met a distant cousin (‘Mary Pat Finn’) for a chat about her branch of the Fraser family. In addition to telling me some lovely stories about her parents, she asked me to be sure to include the story of Janet Carnochan in my upcoming book, The Pickerel Lake Road.

I had never heard of Janet Carnochan ─ but always on the lookout for an interesting story, I arranged to spend a few days in Niagara-on-the-Lake to find out what I could. It turns out Janet was an important person in the cultural life of that little town (called ‘Niagara’ for a time in the nineteenth century and ‘Newark’ before that).

Read — Janet Carnachan (1839 – 1926) 

Is Big Tech Bad?

It seems clear, over recent years, that ‘Big Tech’ has become a colossus with the ability to strip individual citizens of their right to express their views online. If it can deplatform a sitting U.S. President as it did with Donald Trump on January 8, 2021, it can do the same to you.

It is true that Trump was a President on his way out: his term was to expire in 12 days. Nevertheless, he was still a sitting President, when ‘Twitter’ felt bold enough and powerful enough to strip him of a platform he had used so successfully to win the election in 2016, and to broadcast his views to the world during his four years in power, 

Read — Is Big Tech Bad?

Surveying Lots, Concessions and Townships in Upper Canada

Upper Canada – Treaties with the Indigenous Peoples

In 1781, after the British surrendered at the Battle of Yorktown, it was clear a great number of Americans who fought for the British Army, or who were otherwise loyal to the British cause, had no wish to remain in the Thirteen Colonies (later to become the United States of America). The host population was hostile to their presence, so most were desirous of moving to Upper Canada, a colony being established for their benefit in British North America. Over time, they became known as ‘Loyalists’.

Read – Surveying Lots, Concessions and Townships in Upper Canada 

The Third Man

This short novel of 157 pages was originally written as a storyline and list of characters for a film about postwar Vienna. No thought was given to publishing it as a novel at the time. Released in 1949, The Third Man was a box-office success in the years that followed. Some claim it was among the best films ever made. I tend to agree.

 It starred Joseph Cotton, Orson Welles, Alida Valli and Trevor Howard, all important actors in the postwar era. The book was published under the same name the following year.

Read – The Third Man

The Peterborough Rally

Randy Hillier and Maxime Bernier at the Peterborough Rally.

Early Friday morning on April 23, 2021, we checked the weather to find Peterborough would be 16 Degrees Celsius (and sunny) on Saturday ─ with little or no chance of rain. That settled it. We would drive to Peterborough to hear Randy Hillier and Maxime Bernier speak against the lockdowns that have been imposed across Canada for over a year.

Read — The Peterborough Rally

A Town Called Solace

All of Mary Lawson’s books are charmers and this one is no exception. So far, she has written three novels. These are largely stories of those who come from Northern Ontario.

Since I was brought up near the area she writes about, I am kindly disposed to her books. The fact they are lovely stories only adds to their appeal.

Read — A Town Called Solace

The Grade 9 Entrance Exam

From 1874 to 1949, the Ontario government required all students, who hoped to go to high school, write and pass a province-wide entrance exam. Students had to have a passing grade of 50% or better to enter Grade 9. This was not only true for Ontario; many states in the United States also required qualifying examinations to enter secondary school.

The Ontario exams tested arithmetic, grammar, spelling, geography, dictation and composition. They were a two-day affair, with the exam papers marked by individuals independent of the local school boards.

Read — The Grade 9 Entrance Exam

The German Heiress

This book was recommended by a friend, who thought it one of the better books about the Second World War ─ although to be more precise, it is really a story of the early post-war period. It focusses on the lives of a few individuals — people who were brought low from the collapse of the economy after Germany’s surrender.

The main character is a woman by the name of Clara Falkenberg, part of a wealthy family who owned a successful manufacturing company in Germany. During the war, it provided war materials for the German war effort and had close ties to the Third Reich. A year or two prior to the end of the war, her father began to do political work for the government. He appointed Clara to run the company in his absence, which she did ─ quite successfully ─ until the war ended.

Read – The German Heiress

Sisters in the Wilderness

In keeping with my early Canadian history theme of late, I am writing a review of a wonderful book, called, ‘Sisters in the Wilderness’, written by Charlotte Gray in 1999.

It tells the story of two sisters, Catharine and Susanna Strickland, who immigrated to Upper Canada in 1832, along with their husbands. The latter were military men, still young, but pensioned off at half-pay after the Napoleonic Wars. The sisters were born in 1802 and 1803 respectfully. Their husbands, a few years older than the sisters, were Thomas Traill and John Dunbar.

Read – Sisters in the Wilderness

The Case for Parliamentary Democracy

Ontario legislature

In conversations over this past year, and particularly after Julie Payette resigned her office, many friends have argued we have no need of a Governor-General in this country.

 Some say the office should be replaced with an elected President, and others argue there is no need for anyone other than the Prime Minister to head the government. If someone is required to attend to the niceties of constitutional order — by signing the odd piece of legislation — surely it could be done by a Supreme Court justice. As for the ceremonial aspects of the job, they wonder if such things need doing.

Read – The Case For Parliamentary Democracy 

Some Comments on Upper Canada

First Parliament of Upper Canada in 1792-1796


In the course of a recent discussion on the early history of Upper Canada, Don asked me what lessons we might learn from our early colonial government. I thought this topic might interest readers, so I intend to summarize the main points of our conversation in the course of this article.

Most of the early settlers to Upper Canada were ‘United Empire Loyalists’ who left the United States after the ‘Revolutionary War’. Many were Americans who fought with the British Army, then slowly made their way to this new land of promise on the northern shores of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River.

Read – Some Comments on Upper Canada

Redhead by the Side of the Road

I ordered ‘Redhead by the Side of the Road’ from the library a few months ago and received the book last week. It was well worth the wait. It is a great story, and a thin book — clocking in at 178 pages.

Normally I like books that have fewer pages. But in this instance, I didn’t want the story to end. I liked the main character, Micah Mortimer — inadequate though he was — and enjoyed learning about his life, at a time when he was at little over forty.

Read – Redhead by the Side of the Road

Turning Eighteen …

Stratford Central Secondary School

A little over a year ago, my grandfather asked if I’d consider writing an article about my last year of high school. Thinking it would be fun to look back on 2020 — the year I turned eighteen — I readily agreed, not knowing what the future would bring.

I can safely say this past year has been a frustrating one. I’m not complaining — we’ve all had enough of that. But I will share one or two anecdotes that stand out in my mind.

Read – Turning Eighteen …

Lorne Willson’s Early Years

Lorne Willson (second from left) with his crew during 1944-45

I had hoped to write a book about my life up to the end of the Second World War — at a time when I was 33 years of age, a RCAF veteran, employed in Northern British Columbia and married with two children. I have given up the idea.

My family (with one exception) didn’t show much interest, so it just seemed silly to expend the effort. Still my story is a good one — an interesting tale of a man with an unusual childhood, an early life filled with adventure, and war service in the RCAF — the last year as part of a Lancaster bomber crew in the air war over Germany.

Rather than give up the idea, I am writing it as two magazine–sized articles — the first telling the story of my early years, and the second, the tale of my last year of the war. I hope you enjoy them.

Read – Lorne Willson’s Early Years

Lorne Willson’s War in Bomber Command

Lorne Willson (second from left) with his crew during 1944-45.

This story is indirectly about my last year of the air war over Germany, when I served as a ‘Bomb Aimer’ in RCAF Bomber Command. My name is Lorne Willson and I volunteered for aircrew in 1943, while stationed in Canada. After my training, I was sent to England to be part of ‘419 Moose Squadron’, a Lancaster bomber squadron with the RCAF.

Read – Lorne Willson’s War in Bomber Command  


The Bedford Incident

The above photo shows a promotional picture for the 1965 film, The Bedford Incident. Richard Widmark and Sidney Poitier were the two lead actors in this film, which tells the story of the U.S.S. Bedford, a destroyer assigned to shadow a ‘stealthy’ Soviet submarine during the Cold War. It is a very good film.

The book is even better. It provides more drama, greater detail, interesting explanations, and a different plot and ending from the film. If I had to choose, I’d pick the book without a second thought.

Read – The Bedford Incident