Ontario, Canada – December 1999
Best and Worst of Ontario’s Millennium
It’s hard to ignore all this millennial hoopla, so I decided to give into it. I’ve compiled a list of the best and worst of the past 1000 years in Ontario. Well, mostly just the last 200 years, since not much of what happened here was recorded until the 1700’s.
Note: Every fact I include can be substantiated. All locations are in Ontario unless otherwise noted. What follows is purely my opinionated opinion.
Best wartime victory:
The War of 1812 – the one where Canada and England beat the American invaders and we torched the White House.
The Upper Canada Rebellion of 1837 – rebels had justifiable grievances against the ruling class. They assembled at a Toronto tavern to peacefully protest, albeit armed, but the militia opened fire on them and quashed the rebellion before it began.
Best contribution to human rights:
The Underground Railroad channelled escaped slaves from the US to freedom in Canada. Uncle Tom’s Cabin is based on Josiah Henson, a Maryland slave who escaped to Ontario in 1830. He settled in Dresden where his house is as an historic site.
Worst violation of human rights:
The treatment of the First Nations people. Ontario has a history of appropriation of land, reneging on promises, and discrimination. Despite some attempts at reparation, Ontario still has a long way to go.
Best political scandal:
Maggie Trudeau – former wife of prime minister Pierre Trudeau, smoked pot (it was the 60’s) and was "indiscreet" with the Rolling Stones, Jack Nicholson, Ryan O’Neil and possibly Fidel Castro.
Worst political scandal:
The scrapping of the Avro Arrow. In 1959, Avro Aircraft of Malton was building a combat plane which the US Defense Department called "the most advanced aircraft of its time". However, Prime Minister John Diefenbaker stopped it and ordered everything destroyed. Most Canadians believe that he gave into US pressure, as they had invested in a compatible, though inferior, project. This made Canadians once again question our sovereignty!
On February 4, 1880 five members of the infamous Donnelly family were murdered by their neighbours. Granted the men in the family were ruffians, but they were undeserving of such brutal murders (clubbed to death). It’s estimated 20-30 people were involved, though no one was ever convicted. The Donnelly house in Biddulph Township, near London, is open for tours.
Bootlegging during the US prohibition. Many Ontarians got very rich providing the American speakeasies with a steady supply of Ontario liquor. Empires including Seagrams in Waterloo were built on this money.
Insulin and pablum both saved millions of lives, but since Canadians talk on the telephone more than anyone else, it gets this honour. Alexander Graham Bell came up with the idea for the telephone in Brantford and made the first calls from there. (BTW, the actual device was built in Boston).
The Health Hustle. Every morning all Ontario schoolchildren were forced to do an exercise routine to the tunes of Love will Keep us Together and Bad, Bad Leroy Brown.
Best culinary contribution:
Beaver Tails – not the real thing (thank God), but rather fried dough (Yum) covered with maple syrup or other toppings.
Worst culinary contribution:
Kraft Dinner with chopped tuna. Why mess with the perfection that is KD? Acceptable variation: wieners and KD.
Corel – makers of WordPeferct, Corel Draw, etc. (based in Ottawa) earns praise if only for giving Microsoft some competition.
Four Seasons – the world’s largest luxury hotel/resort chain is based in Toronto. Presumably, their hotels are good, but they represent the elitist snootiness of the wealthy that I despise (and envy).
Tecumseh was a great Chief of the Shawnee Tribe. He is legendary for his leadership in holding off the would-be American invaders in the War of 1812, and was killed during the battle. Unfortunately, he is now more well known as the wooden Indian on the TV show Cheers.
Laura Secord. When American invaders in the War of 1812 were camped out at her Queenston house (now a historic site), she ran 32km through the forest to warn the British garrison. Her ranking on this list is in no small part attributable to the truffles and candies that the company named after her now makes.
ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Best gift to the fashion industry:
Elizabeth Arden (born in Woodbridge). Starting her company in 1915, she pioneered the use of scientific experimentation to invent safer and more hygienic cosmetics (before her, women probably used ash and pig’s fat).
Worst gift to the fashion industry:
The Hudson Bay Company’s ubiquitous rainbow coloured coats that were first sold in the late 1700’s. Especially popular back in the 1970’s, some people are still crazy enough to wear them today.
There are so many to choose from, such as Alanis Morissette, Gordon Lightfoot and Neil Young, but the winner has to be Shania Twain of Timmons, if only for that outfit she wore to the Grammy’s a couple years ago.
Also so hard to choose: that group Len (You Steal My Sunshine) are truly horrible, but the worst is Snow (who "sang" that gansta rap song Informer). Middle-class white boys from the ‘burbs of Ontario are definitely not gangstas.
Mary Pickford – America’s Sweetheart was from Toronto. She was the first movie star ever was a cofounder of United Artists studios.
Keanu Reeves – This site makes a good case that Keanu is, in fact, the Anti-Christ.
The Kids in the Hall – runner up the SCTV
Jim Carrey (born in Newmarket)
Margaret Atwood (born in Ottawa) author of Handmaid’s Tale and Alias Grace and essayist on Canadian culture.
Any one of the Harlequin Romance authors. Coincidentally, the publisher of cheesy Harlequins is the same as Toronto’s respected newspaper "The Star".
Most dubious superhero:
Dishman, created by Guelphite John Macleod. His superpower is cleaning dishes telepathically, which doesn’t help his crime-fighting, but he’s lovable in his ineptness.
Best local TV show:
Traders (Soap opera about financial wheeler-dealers)
The Red Green Show (bumbling redneck "humour")
Forever Knight (police officer/vampire fights crime in Toronto)
Most a part of Ontario’s identity:
King of Kensington (Toronto’s equivalent of Roseanne)
Best contribution to movies:
Imax (invented in Galt) pioneered huge film size and unique theatres which make movie-going a sensory treat.
Runners up: the Warner Brothers were born in London, Ont.
Worst Contribution to movies:
James Cameron (from Kapuskasing) because Titanic was such a bad film and it was so popular it’ll undoubtedly influence filmmakers for years to come.
Also a tie: Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto. The heiress of the world’s largest shoe empire donated her shoe collection to found this museum. Also the Contraceptive Museum in Don Mills has an arousing collection.
Best large roadside attraction:
Big Nickel, Sudbury – a monolithic site, (see past article)
Big Apple, Colborne. The Big Apple is New York’s thing. We must forge our own cultural icons like the big goose of Wawa, the giant tomato of Leamington and the huge flying saucer of Moonbeam.
Most multicultural city on Earth:
Tallest building in the World:
World’s longest road:
Yonge Street, Toronto, 1,900.5 kms.
People who most brag about such things next to Texans:
Best Shopping Mall:
Toronto’s Eaton Centre – Huge, conveniently located, reasonable prices and not all women’s clothing stores (like some malls I could mention)
Guelph’s Willow West Mall is so small (no more than 8 stores), dingy and pathetic, that even mallrats in withdrawal wouldn’t come near it
Worst smelling city:
Hamilton – all that steel production.
Best smelling city:
Pembroke – the match factory chops up so much wood that there’s a wonderful woodsy smell that permeates the city.
Best contribution to New Year’s Eve celebrations:
Runner up: Standard Time was invented by Sir Sanford Fleming, an Ontarian. Thanks to him we can all agree on exactly what time we are celebrating the new Millennium. But I’m going to go with the sentimental favourite – Londoner Guy Lombardo and band, broadcasted live from New York’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel on New Year’s Eve for 49 years. His rendition of Auld Lang Syne is still the mostly commonly heard version.
Best country to live in (as voted by the United Nations):
Canada for the last seven years in a row!
If you want more information about this area you can email the author or check out our North America Insiders page.
Do you know what you’re doing for New Year’s Eve?
I don’t. But if you’re like me, don’t worry. A recent poll discovered that most people still haven’t decided what they are doing yet either.
There is certainly no lack of options here. Every place in Ontario is celebrating the new Millennium in some way (a fair bet would be that it includes fireworks).
Here are a few of the many different ways Ontarians are marking this historic occasion:
Parliament Hill will come to life with giant puppets, six stages of live performances, huge visuals projected on the Peace Tower, and climaxing with a dazzling display of fireworks. The show, called In Motion: A Story of Time, promises to be one of the biggest events ever to hit Ottawa.
Our Lady Peace, Moist and other alternative bands are jamming at the Corel Centre in Ottawa.
(actually in Quebec, but really part of Ottawa) They welcome the new Millennium and the bicentenary of the city with Casino de Hull’s multimedia extravaganza called Harmony 2000. This has been preselected by the American Bus Association as one of their Top 100 Events in North America.
With over 100 performers, two mobile stages on rails, 80,000 watts of sound, and pyrotechnical and lighting effects that have “never been seen before”. A great way to dazzle guests so they forget how much they lost at the slots.
Harbourfront is hosting the world’s tallest fireworks and laser lighting show, called Millennium Lights. The CN Tower and ships will be used to launch “28 tonnes of pyro”. The pyrotechnics are choreographed to music representing the last 1,000 years, from Gregorian Chants to Canadian Pop.
For those who don’t like such large public get-togethers and seek something more exclusive, Toronto’s King Edward Hotel is hosting a millennial weekend package for only $15,000 per couple!
Toronto also has the biggest names in opera staging a larger-than-life show with stars such as Ben Hepner accompanied by the Mendelsohn choir and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, if their 3 month strike ends that is. At Massey Hall, one night only!
This is Ontario’s party capital with its annual New Year’s Eve bash and Festival of Lights. Starting the evening with children’s performers they later switch to more rocking adult music with the Jeff Healey Band and Leahy. The fireworks over the Falls this year are promised to be unprecedented.
Guelph’s downtown area has lots of events planned at various locales. There is a multicultural/arts fest at the former Eaton Centre, skating, live music, and a video party. All end at 10:30 where revelers converge at St. George’s Square to party in the new Millennium.
Even the wilds of Algonquin Provincial Park will be alive with celebrations. Those wanting to return to nature and test their metal are engaging in a special millennial dog-sledding expedition through the Park.
On a more spiritual note, Austin and Marilyn Redpath are organizing an international Millennium Eve Vigil. Guests are welcome to their vigil in Toronto, which will reflect on the need for peace and greater awareness. Various churches will also participate in this vigil and a midnight bell ringing. See their website for more details on where to attend or how to plan you own vigil.
Ontarians obsess over the weather. Come share our obsession and find out the climate of places like Wawa and Moosonee.
I suffer from a fatal case of wanderlust. After trying the real world for a few years, I decided to return to school to study the Internet. I currently live in Toronto, but I am from Guelph, ON. I have also lived in Ottawa, Key West, Florida, and Stuttgart, Germany.
I will soon be finishing my Internet program and will have to face the real world.
I just got married last month, and I’m still in shock. Find out all the details at my wedsite.
Special thanks to my wife, Jenn, for helping me out with this article in specific and life in general.
Check out my past articles for some further tips, such as dining, attractions, and continuing festivals.