Who’s Your Daddy?

August 31, 2011

A friend sent me this link the other day, Man who claims he’s Diefenbaker’s son closer to discovering true paternity. We laughed. For those of us who remember the former Prime Minister, even vaguely, the idea that he might’ve sired a child out of wedlock at the ripe old age of 70 with a woman in her 30s, Trudeau style, seems (yes, I’m going to say it) inconceivable. I mean, really. Look…

It also struck me as funny that someone would be so ardently pursuing his birthright to be known as a Diefenbaker. Perhaps it has more of a monetary significance, wrapped up as part of a battle over some uncle’s will. I didn’t read the article that closely. But here is a guy wanting to start living his life as “… as John Diefenbaker II.” A sentiment I never expected to see during my lifetime.

Again, for those of us old enough to remember Dief the Chief, he was the grouchy old man of Canadian politics. A 19th-century lion, hopelessly out of date in the swinging 1960s. It wouldn’t be a line of paternity I’d personally pursue. Lester Pearson, maybe. Not John Diefenbaker.

Which might have more to do with my political leanings than anything and maybe this has nothing to do with politics. Perhaps John George Dryden is simply reacting to the family squabble and a sense of betrayal at being raised by someone who wasn’t his biological father, a one-time prominent Liberal. Screw you, pretend dad. My real father was a Conservative! And not only a Conservative. One of the big daddies of Canadian conservatism.

Of course, it could much more gruesome. Flash forward some 40 years and put yourself in Mr. Dryden’s position. Searching for a father amongst today’s conservative contingent. Who’d you be looking at? Our prime minister? Mike Harris? Ralph Klein? George W. Bush? Dick Cheney? Any of the current crop of GOP presidential hopefuls?

Yikes!

Viewed through that lens, I realize a major source of my disenchantment with this new model of the conservative brand comes in comparison to the one I grew up surrounded by. Robert Stanfield. Joe Clarke. Bill Davis. John Robarts. Decent men, driven not by hyper-partisan brinksmanship and a dedication to obliterate any and all opposition but by a commitment to the office they were elected to uphold. Possessing no belief that they had the only answers to the problems of the day, they were consensus seekers that sought the best solutions. It made them kind of bland compared to those that followed them down the right of centre path. A path leading deep into the radical fringes that were once treated as such, not embraced as the values Canadians believed in.

The new conservatism has morphed so drastically and so quickly that even 1990s conservatives, themselves very likely unrecognizable to conservatives 20 years earlier, are now sniping at them. Witness Ernie Eves’ harsh words about their treatment of Norm Sterling. “… those few individuals who decided that the Tea Party version of Ontario politics would be good in that particular riding.” He was being generous about it being just a ‘few individuals’. This is a fundamentally different conservative party than the one Ernie Eves was part of.

I did not cut my ties with conservatism. Conservatism left me behind, still hugging an imaginary middle that’s now considered pinko, socialist, communist and, most of all, hopelessly out of touch.

These are not our father’s conservatives. They are all the bastard children of a once honourable tradition and a wild beast unhinged of reason, compassion and the belief in a just society. It`s tough to imagine anyone in the mid-21st century looking back to embrace them as their own.


On The Waterfront

August 30, 2011

So it seems the quiet whispers of hope that the federal finance minister and Ford family friend, Jim Flaherty, would exert a (ahem, ahem) moderating influence on the brothers’ irrational hatred of all things Waterfront Toronto were nothing more than wishful thinking. According to the Globe and Mail, “The administration of Mayor Rob Ford is moving to seize control of development on the east side of Toronto Harbour, paving the way for ambitious building plans in the Port Lands at the mouth of the Don River and private-sector investment.” Flaherty appears ready to play ball. Rather, he seems prepared to punt it, along with common sense and years of careful consideration. “With almost $492-million of the $500-million federal investment spent, federal participation is winding down,” the minister’s press secretary told the National Post, “Waterfront Toronto will now work more closely with our provincial and municipal counterparts on the next phases of development.”

Boondoggle, you say? You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

If we’ve learned nothing else from Team Ford’s previous seizing of a tripartite government agreement and making it its own, we should know this. Do not let them do it until they have a fully realized replacement plan down on paper, costed out to the last dime. Remember Transit City. Declared dead and replaced by Transportation City. All money to be used to bury the Eglinton Avenue LRT. A Sheppard subway line will be built with entirely private sector money. Except maybe not. Hey Queen’s Park. Can you front us a little dough, say, $650 mil to get things up and running?

This is the exact same nonsense. Take a project out of the public sphere – a project, by the way, with very few critics except for the mayor, his brother and those mindlessly parroting their views – with the promise of a miracle from private investment. “We’ve got to get this city booming and tell the rest of the world about it,” [Councillor Ford] said. “This will be the most spectacular development in all of Canada. Your jaw will drop when you see this.” Sounding just like the carnival barker/snake oil salesman he has turned out to be, the councillor seems shockingly oblivious to the fact the waterfront, along with other areas of the city, is already undergoing a healthy redevelopment.

Too slow for the Fords’ liking, apparently.

“[Councillor Ford] expects that with the proposed new arrangement, the revitalization can be completed in five or six years, compared to the 25-year horizon in the current plans.” Holy cow. That is indeed a jaw dropping claim. Surely the councillor has the paper work to back it up, right? He wouldn’t just be pulling numbers out of his ass again, would he? Again?

To show he’s dead serious this time, ixnay alktay about a new stadium to lure his beloved NFL north of the border. Similarly, nary a mention of a monorail. It’s all business now. “The multi-use development [Councillor Ford] envisions,” says the Globe, “would include impressive shopping malls, waterfront hotels, bike paths and possibly…” Wait for it. Wait for it. “…the world’s largest Ferris wheel.”

**sigh**

See, what all you artsy fartsy, fancy pants urban planners with your university edgamacations don’t get, and the likes of Rob and Doug Ford just know instinctively, deep down in their guts, is that what makes cities like London great, what makes them highly desirable for people and investment boils down to one thing, and one thing only. Great big fucking ferris wheels. Bright shiny gadgets, trinkets and gew gaws. Cities as amusement parks, where the well-to-do come down to play and everyone else ekes out a living ensuring that their stay is an enjoyable one.

This is nothing more than a money grab, pure and simple. A bull-headed expropriation of a city asset for a quick sell off in order to plug budget holes created by this administration’s refusal to govern responsibly and realize taxation is a legitimate source of revenue. What’s even more galling is that they are once again trying to float the idea of the private sector sailing in to the rescue, picking up the pace, picking up the tab including hundreds of millions of dollars for flood protection. City Manager Joe Pennachetti is playing along with the mayor’s little charade, citing Waterfront Toronto’s inability to come up with the money for the project.  “Given that the existing governance structure has been in place for ten years and has not produced a viable funding plan for the Port Lands,” Pennachetti writes, “it is timely to explore a new delivery model for this area, including the opportunity for private investment to front-end the implementation of flood protection and other infrastructure requirements thereby reducing reliance on public funds.”

Yeah. We all know how the private sector just loves to hand over cash for infrastructure development. (See paragraph 3.)

While Mayor Ford ran roughshod over Transit City by claiming to have a mandate from the voters to rid the roads of streetcars and build subways, I never heard him promise that if elected he’ll stop all the boondoggling on the waterfront and conduct a fire sale of everything not nailed down there. “We have great expectations for the waterfront,” Councillor Paula Fletcher told the Globe. “It belongs to Toronto. It doesn’t belong to one councillor.”

Or one mayor.

If there was ever a time for council to draw a line in the sand, it would’ve been last December. But it’s never too late to grow some stones and start taking a stand. This one should be easy even for those councillors still frightened of the mayor’s shadow. His plan is half-baked — as usual — based on dubious claims that have already been proven ill-considered on one proposed mega-project. There is plenty of high profile resistance from the public toward any malignant mucking with what are, in fact, slowly coalescing development ideas. The mayor looks to take something and replace it with worse than nothing.

Which seems to be the dominant motif of his administration to date. The question is, how long are we going to let him go on razing things before we encourage the adults to step back in and assume control? The city’s future well-being depends on it happening sooner rather than later.

soggily submitted by Cityslikr


With Admirers Like These…

August 29, 2011

In the week between Jack Layton’s death and his funeral, I heard a lot of ‘While I disagreed with his politics, I admired the man’ sentiments. A nice — generous even – way of saying that you could like a person without ever agreeing with them politically. The much sought after bipartisanship in a time of official mourning.

Watching the proceedings on Saturday and digesting all that was said over the flag draped casket on stage at Roy Thompson Hall, I began to wonder about the above view. I admired the man but disagreed with his politics. What was there to disagree with?

Yes, yes. There’s always a reflexive dismissal of the concept of redistribution of wealth, fear of the cessation of mindless tax cuts, class warfare in a real pinch. All those left wing bogeymen that are dragged out from under the bed to scare us with. Slogans most but even those with a modicum of truth to them are simply means to an end, processes toward a goal. That goal sits at the heart of a person’s ‘politics’.

And Jack Layton’s politics?

Reading his letter to Canadians and listening to the words spoken in eulogy, his politics sought ‘a more inclusive and generous Canada’ with ‘greater equality, justice, opportunity.’ According to Stephen Lewis, Jack Layton wanted ‘an economy that would embrace equity, fairness, balance and creative generosity.’ Jack Layton represented the ‘politics of respect for all, respect for the earth, respect for principle and generosity.’

Again, what’s not to agree with?

I guess there are those out there who dismiss all that as pie-in-the-sky fantasy, naïve, granola crunchy utopianism. Pure sophistry in some cases. For them, inclusiveness, generosity, equality, justice, fairness and respect are all either not achievable or desirable. Thus, they disagreed with Jack Layton’s politics.

I could be wrong and simply give my fellow Canadians too much credit but I assume that those holding such beliefs are in the minority. That most of us, ultimately, see such things as respect, fairness, justice, equality as not only desirable in theory but absolute necessities for a society to function at its highest level. When we say that we disagreed with Jack Layton’s politics, what we mean is that we disagreed with the methods of achieving all those lofty goals.

Fair enough. But I think it’s well past high time that those disagreeing with the politics of Jack Layton start laying out their plans on how to create a more just, equal, fair and inclusive society because, after nearly 30 years of decidedly non-Jack Layton politics, we are further from those qualities than we have been in a generation. We’ve been told how tax cuts create jobs which, in turn, increases government revenue. We’ve been told how open and unfettered global markets create increased opportunities both at home and abroad. We’ve bashed unions as obsolete. We’ve been assured that a rising tide will raise all boats.

Looking around at the evidence, I’d suggest we’ve been sold a bill of goods. The global economy teeters on wobbly legs sinking into part two of what could be a double dip recession, brought on by unregulated financial behemoths run amok. Income concentration is at the highest it’s been in some 80 years. We’ve gutted our manufacturing sector and, not coincidentally, our middle-class, exchanging good paying jobs for cheap consumer goods. Yet, household debt is perilously elevated. University education – the cornerstone of our future well-being, living as we are in the information age – is becoming more and more of a luxury item. Even our public school system is creeping toward a have versus have-not status. Pensions, once a rock solid contract between employee and employer, are now viewed as relics of past prosperity, unaffordable in these days of austerity.

We live in society that has become less generous, less fair, less equal with fewer opportunities for fewer people. Pretty much the exact opposite of everything Jack Layton stood for. So it’s all well and good to wrap yourself in the admired the man, disagreed with his politics warm and fuzzy coat but it’s ultimately facile to the point of meaninglessness. By disagreeing with Jack Layton’s politics, you are, in fact, in agreement with systemic unfairness and inequality, injustice and a blatant disregard for the well-being of your fellow citizens.

So admire away. But it would be better for all of us if you put more thought into your politics.

submitted by Cityslikr


Strutting And Fretting

August 28, 2011

I was visiting a friend, Crazy Stanley, who was recuperating from a line drive to the back of the noggin a couple weeks ago. He handed me a rather official looking piece of paper and asked if he was crazy or still suffering some post-concussion ill-effects. “I mean, read it,” Stanley said as if I might not know what to do with a page full of printed words. “It kind of seems crazy to me.”

Yes, Crazy Stanley, it does seem a little crazy.

NOTICE OF VIOLATION

You are hereby required to correct the following violations(s):

 The item(s) listed herein are in violation of the Toronto Municipal Code Chaper 485 – Graffiti

 Item a. REAR LANE GARAGE – The property is not maintained free of graffiti.

Please be advised that, in order to bring this matter into compliance all graffiti is required to be eradicated

“I got it in the mail yesterday,” Stanley told me. “A registered letter I had to sign for. You know how much it cost the city to send it? $8.69. How many of those do you think they’re sending out? Talk about your gravy.”

I continued reading the notice.

Be advised that, in accordance with the Municipal Code Chapter 441 – Fees and Charges.  Appendix C – Schedule 12, if compliance to this Notice is not achieved a specified inspection fees will be charged for each inspection at a minimum rate of $94.00 for the first hour and 55.00 per hour (or part thereof) thereafter. Chargeable inspections will be involved every 30 days

“Crazy, eh?”

Now I know that the mayor has got this War on Graffiti thing going on. At least, in the abstract I do. Going after visible public spaces to take them back from the ‘gang art’ that has brought the city to its knees. Restore a sense of order and cleanliness that can only come from pristine brick and mortar and shiny aluminum.

But they’re really trolling our back alleys and driveways on the lookout for messy garage doors? Garage doors hardly anyone ever sees, tucked away as they are in back alleys and driveways? Is that really good value for the scarce resources Mayor Ford claims the city has?

I understand (but wholly disagree with) the simplistic notion held by some that a squeaky clean city scape gives the impression of a squeaky clean, well run city. Not so much, cleanliness being next to godliness but more of, in the movies and television ‘nice’ neighbourhoods are free of graffiti. Only gang ridden, hell holes put up the defacement of public spaces. Stop the small crimes and the big ones will surely follow.

The thing is, as has been pointed out regularly since Mayor Ford threw down the gauntlet on these spray paint vandals, crime isn’t really a problem these days in most parts of the city. I can ride down my alley, much of which has been tagged and spray painted, any time of the day or night, without any fear of being accosted. There seems to be no relationship between the amount or even quality of graffiti and crime rates.

I’ve kind of taken to whatever design it is that adorns my garage door. It doesn’t change very often and when it does it is so subtle I don’t tend to immediately notice. Besides, it’s not like I spend much time, hanging out in my back alley, and that has less to do with being put off by the graffiti and more to do with it being, well, a back alley.

So I wonder what would happen if I’m served a notice of graffiti violation and I appeal it on the grounds that I graffitied by own property? How is that any different than, say, adorning my front lawn with oppressive religious iconography? Or building a front yard edifice out of only wine corks and bottle caps? Putting a two storey high mural on my side wall of my all time favourite Maple Leaf, Darryl Sittler? Or just simply painting my brick a hideous colour like key lime green?

Aren’t we getting to awfully slippery slope territory once we start prowling neighbourhood alleys for graffiti? How does that square with the libertarian leanings of our mayor and his pledge to get government off our backs? Moreover, how can he claim to have Respect for the Taxpayers when he’s unleashing his bureaucracy on us, demanding that we pay for a crime we didn’t commit?

As we gear up for the fall’s budget battles, Mayor Ford’s whole War on Graffiti schtick smacks of mere theatre. Giving the appearance of doing something that, ultimately, has zero effect on the problems we’re facing, the fiscal tsunami that’s apparently nearly upon us. Nero fiddles while the city burns and all that. Political cowardice masking as toughness. Look at me, ma. I’m taking on the punk kids.

Sound and fury, signifying nothing.

The legacy, it seems, that Mayor Ford is aiming to leave behind.

scottishly submitted by Urban Sophisticat


Give It A Rest (In Peace)

August 25, 2011

You’re not going to see this happen in these pages very often, a positive shout out to our mayor. It’s no secret we oppose almost everything he stands for. In our post on Tuesday, a commentor wondered if we’d be blaming Jack Layton’s death on Rob Ford. Actually, the thought hadn’t crossed our mind but thanks for planting that seed.

In truth, we were quite touched by the mayor’s response to the sad news. He genuinely seemed moved and upset. I mean, he didn’t immediately send out the graffiti police to wipe clean the chalk tribute that sprang up in Nathan Phillips Square.

That’s a joke.

Our mayor is not the most eloquent of politicians. He does not think well on his feet. Despite making a name for himself as a councillor, grandstanding in the media spotlight whenever and wherever he could find it, he has proven quite ill at ease in front of the cameras as mayor. So uncomfortable, it’s not even fun to watch.

So it was in his scrum a couple days ago, talking about Jack Layton. But there seemed to be genuine emotion behind his usual discomposure. The mayor appeared touched by the time he spent at council with Layton, disagreements and all. His response to reporters’ questions was heartfelt. He tried to score no political points and there wasn’t so much as a trace of partisanship in the words he spoke.

The same cannot be said about certain right wing columnists and pundits who shall remain nameless. (Hint: one defaces the pages of the National Post while another stitches letters together for the Sun.) Indignant at the ‘spectacle’ made of Layton’s death and the political posturing they saw in the letter written from his deathbed, they weren’t so much dancing on his grave as attempting to diminish his legacy and life spent in public service.

Heaven forbid an olive branch should be extended to an opponent upon their mortal exit. That’s the degree of destructive partisanship our political discourse has descended into. Hell, we’ve even jettisoned Miss Manners rules of etiquette where we’re instructed to say nothing at all if we don’t have something good to say.

I can detest someone’s politics without wishing them dead or denigrating them in death. At least, for a couple days. But beyond as well. I mean, what’s the point?

Ignore the tyrants and maniacs who’ve met their just reward. Dragging Mussolini’s corpse through the public square. Have at it. There’s a certain catharsis to that. I’m talking just your regular political foes and bête noire types.

I was living in California in 1994 when Richard Nixon died. On the day of his funeral a guy I was having dinner with suggested that we head down to Yorba Linda and put a stake through Tricky Dick’s heart, just to make sure he was dead. We laughed. It was said in private not splashed in newspaper pages and was really a sly political joke since Nixon had been written off as ‘dead’ a few times before and had been resurrected, bigger and badder than before. That’s a whole lot different than the petulant, foot stamping of Christie Bl—

Oops. I almost uttered the name.

There are politicians still alive who I loathe on a political level. Our Prime Minister. Our mayor. Former premier, Mike Harris. George W. Bush. The entire field of Republican presidential candidates. I wish none of them dead, however, nor would I yowl bitterly at any public outpouring of grief when they do die. OK, wait. Dick Cheney. No, no. Not even Dick Cheney. Whatever I may think of the man, he has a family, friends, supporters who would mourn him although I do think that’s purely hypothetical as I’m sure he’s immortal, bringing us the Evil through the ages. But if I’m wrong and Dick Cheney were to eventually die, I might breath a quiet sigh of relief to myself and give the respect owed to those who would grieve his passing.

That I even have to write that in response to the callousness shown in some conservative circles is startling. Since when was basic human decency extended only to those you agreed with? Leave your political views outside the cemetery gates. Try taking a cue in classiness from Mayor Rob Ford.

Yeah, I just wrote that.

submitted by Cityslikr


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