Article: Portrait of a Tooker Gomberg Disciple

Toronto Observer, Nov. 10, 2000, Dave Carpenter.

Musician, poet, courier, activist, granddad. Titles one might not think apply to just one person, unless that person is Wayne Scott, devoted member of the burgeoning Tooker Gomberg movement.

“There are thousands of us,” Scott says. “The Web site gets thousands of hits a day. The mainstream folks just don’t know what’s going on.”

Scott, like the others who gathered at the Now Lounge on Church Street on Tuesday to raise money for the Gomberg campaign, seems to stand in stark contrast to the almost clownish portrayal of Gomberg and his advocates in the local media.

At age 50, Scott has spent the better part of the last three decades as a bike courier and activist on the couriers’ behalf. He says his political affiliation with Gomberg was almost inevitable. Scott does not drive, nor has he ever even owned a driver’s licence. And perhaps all that pedalling has paid off, for Scott has to rank as one of the most youthful middle-aged guys in anyone’s books, both in appearance and spirit.

“I first heard his [Gomberg’s] name through Critical Mass,” Scott says, in reference to the Toronto chapter of the international bicycle advocacy group. “When I found out he was running for mayor this past June at Smogfest down at city hall, I knew he was the real deal. All these government officials . . . glad-handed each other and talked about how they were going to do so much to alleviate the problem so Tooker and I got to talking. I realized just how smart and in-tune this guy was with the activist movement in Toronto.”

Activism is something Scott is well-acquainted with. As a courier 18 years ago, he got fed up with having to pay for all his food, which he saw as fuel necessary to do his job. Finally, in 1998, he got what he wanted after taking his cause all the way to the Federal Court of Appeal.

“I’ve easily talked with 100 people at Revenue Canada over the years and it took them 18 years to acknowledge the fact that this was fuel for couriers. Now they [bike couriers] can write off up to $11 [per day] as food expenses on their taxes without receipts.”

Scott says that, as a result of his lobbying success on behalf of couriers, he definitely got his full 15 minutes of fame.

“All the Toronto media ran with it. The New York Times even did a brief story on it. To top it all, Peter Jennings and ABC News came up and did a profile. They filmed us [couriers] on Queen Street drinking beer, burping and yelling,” Scott recounts with a laugh.

His natural tendency towards activism goes hand in hand with the other main facets of his life, which include a 35-year love affair with music and poetry. As a courier, and one of the “hardworking poor,” Scott became so inspired by the existence that he eventually began documenting his experiences through poetry. Recently, he gathered them all in a collection entitled Out Here On The Street.

Earlier this year he also corralled a group of old friends he used to sing and write lyrics with in Toronto in the early 1970s to produce an album from his poetry. Scott says the musicians include Richard Well, a saxophonist who played in Janis Joplin’s Full Tilt Boogie Band, and Michael Pickett, a Juno award-winning harp player whose blues stylings have been featured on several Budweiser TV ads.

“I’ve been able to pull in all these really excellent players, legends on the Toronto scene that nobody knows about,” says Scott. “We call ourselves The Difficult Musicians, which was inspired by a woman at Mel’s [Lastman] office who once told me over the phone, ‘Mr. Scott, sometimes I think you just call this office to be difficult!’ ”

Scott says the album will probably morph once again into a soundtrack called Scurrier: Out Here On The Street, where Scott’s melding of activism comes full circle in a film in which he hopes to profile disenfranchised, hard-working couriers.

For as long as Scott has devoted himself to the arts and activism over the last 35 years, he says he’s spent as much time waiting for a leader like Gomberg to come along who truly represents what he’s about.

“Tooker represents the type of leader a lot of people have been [seeking] for years. He’s just this lightning rod that has actually invested the energy and time and research and is willing to put himself on the line. Look at him. He’s out there getting beaten up and sent to jail.”

At 50, Scott not only has a wife and child of his own, but two grandchildren as well. They have added a broader perspective to his political beliefs.

“I don’t know how anyone who has grandkids and who has any interest in coming up with a half-decent place for these people to live can be colluding with Mel and the the gang,” says Scott. “They can say they have the common good at heart, but I don’t see it. I went down to that garbage debate and that’s exactly what it was. It was a joke. They were all playing to the audience, both sides. It was a fiasco, and this is what we’re paying these people for?”

However, Scott doesn’t feel particularly comfortable pointing fingers at anyone.

“We’re all to blame for the way things are environmentally,” Scott says, “but the other great thing is, there’s no alternative, we need to change the way we live and Tooker knows this.”

And as for predictions come Nov. 13, Scott thinks voter apathy will benefit the man he feels he can finally place his political faith in.

“While we’re out rallying all these people behind Tooker, everybody seems content to hand the vote over to Mel. Well, if that’s the case and people have resigned themselves to Lastman already, then [their attitude may be] why bother going out and voting for him, eh?”