Crazy, Crazy, Crazy

May 31, 2010

Crazy Hazel McCallion, McHellion I’ll call her, as I’m sure no one ever has before, she’s at it again, spouting off nonsensical blatherings. Won’t this woman ever retire? Talk about your career politicians.

At a pre-meeting of big city mayors before this weekend’s gathering at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, Mississauga mayor McCallion pooh-poohed a call for a new, more equal partnership between all three levels of governments. According to last Thursday’s Toronto Sun, “…McCallion said a new partnership is not enough — it’s time to open the “can of worms” that is the constitution to give recognition to the important role of cities, enshrining powers and revenue sources needed to keep municipalities viable.” Has grandma finally lost her marbles? Surely she can’t mean opening up the always divisive constitutional process just for the sake of such a trifling matter like municipal powers?

“It really means a look at the constitution, there’s no question about it,” McCallion said.

Now I know there are some who would say that perhaps we should cede a little ground on this issue to someone of McCallion’s… errr… experience. I mean, the woman just might be old enough to actually know the intention of the makers’ of our constitution, going all the way back to the original British North American Act of 1867? Maybe old Hazel has some insider information.

But if there really is “no question” about looking at the constitution why hasn’t anyone else suggested it?

Where's Hazel?

In order to give cities the powers they need to sustain and upgrade infrastructure and build stronger communities, wouldn’t our elected officials in Ottawa and Queen’s Park utilize every means at their disposal to make sure that happens, including looking at the constitution? Surely to god our Prime Minister and Premier, M.P.s and M.P.P.s aren’t so petty and rigid that they would blindly adhere to some document written back during the middle years of Queen Victoria’s reign simply in order to keep power (and revenue) in their grubby little hands while municipalities heave and convulse under the weight of increasing fiscal and human responsibility. That can’t be what McCallion’s suggesting.

And if there really was “no question” about looking at the constitution wouldn’t this be a major topic of debate during our current municipal election campaign? With all the tough talking hombres we’ve got running for mayor in 2010, you’d think at least one of them would be pushing the idea of increasing Toronto’s share of power and revenue through constitutional reform instead of nattering ineffectually at each other and casting highly dubious aspersions upon the present council and the mayor. If Hazel McCallion — who has been mayor of the 6th largest city in Canada for longer than most of Toronto’s mayoral candidates have been old enough to vote — has decided that the only way for cities in this country to continue to grow sustainably and prosper is for a constitutional rejigging, and none of our candidates seem to agree on that or even deign to bring the subject up on the campaign trail, well obviously, Hazel McCallion is talking through her hat on the issue.

Perhaps McCallion needs to take a little time out (nap maybe? Don’t old people need naps in order to keep themselves functioning properly?) and then read Carol Goar’s take on the matter in the Toronto Star. “…local taxpayers have lost their appetite for mayors and councillors who see Canada as a dynamic urban nation,” Goar informs us. “… the debate about building strong, sustainable city-regions has almost petered out,” she continues. You see, Hazel? If the Toronto Star has decided that we should just shut up, sit back and let senior levels of government ignore the needs of the some 80% of Canadians who live in cities, that’s the end of the discussion. We don’t want to hear talk of provincial status for Toronto or the GTA. Or pie-in-the-sky, pipedream calls for constitutional reform in order to put power and actual decision making in the hands of, you know, citizens.

It’s off the table, old lady. Municipalities are the playthings and pawns of our higher ups, regardless of how negligent and detrimental the policies of senior levels of government may be to our lives. You’d think after more than 30 years of being mayor, you’dve cottoned on to that fact.

insanely submitted by Cityslikr


No Post Today. In Mourning.

May 30, 2010

We will not posting anything today as, after a mercifully short illness, there has been a death in the family.

We’ll be back at it tomorrow.


A P.R. Blitz

May 29, 2010

Much has already been written about the Michael Bryant-Darcy Allan Sheppard affair including right here at this site and elsewhere. Adding my obviously biased voice won’t offer any new insights or revelations. Still, there is one point I cannot remain silent on and that’s the increasing role that public relations plays in our society.

When someone, especially a someone with a higher profile than most, falls afoul of the law and hires a p.r. firm immediately after securing a lawyer, you know that their intent is not to seek truth or justice. Neither of those quaint notions are in the purview of public relations. It could be easily argued that the exact opposite is the case. So it seems to be the situation with Michael Bryant and Navigator Ltd. There was no sitting back, waiting for the judicial wheels to turn. Instead, go on the offensive, muddy the waters, demonize the opponent, all in the name of avoiding responsibility for your actions. It’s a great lesson for the kids.

Nothing I have heard from those in the p.r. industry since all charges were set aside against Michael Bryant in the death of Darcy Allan Sheppard has done anything to convince me otherwise. Former journalist and now p.r. person Susan Reisler’s interview on CBC’s Metro Morning Wednesday was quintessential double speak and plausibly deniable insinuation. She mocked social media and “citizen” journalists for rushing to judgment against Michael Bryant before all the facts could emerge but then claimed ignorance about the talk of Navigator Ltd.’s role in massaging the facts. Those who wanted Bryant to at least face his day in court were simply screeching for a “show” trial according to Reisler. You know, like they have in China, Iran and all those other undemocratic banana republics.

Later on during the local news broadcast on CBC, another p.r. person (whose name I did not catch and I’m too lazy to try and track it down now) was quoted as saying that with this whole imbroglio now behind him, Michael Bryant’s future public career could in fact be “enhanced” by it.

Imagine the cold, cold, shriveled heart of the person able to utter such sentiments out loud with the wound of a man’s death still that fresh. These are the dark arts, my friends, and those who practice them possess a dearth of compassion toward their fellow man that is nothing short of sociopathic. There’s a job to do, a mess to clean up and they will do so regardless of consequences.

I could go on with my indignation and outrage but, instead, I’ll step aside and give you someone much better and more entertaining at it than I. The late American comedian, Bill Hicks, who at moments like this I miss most for his ability to skewer the fatuous and fearlessly attack the powerful. Yes, he’s talking about marketers but they are of the same breed as consultants and p.r. people. Soulless obfuscators and murderers of truth.

Enjoy. And parents, cover the childrens’ ears.

submitted by Urban Sophisticat


Meet A Mayoral Candidate XV

May 28, 2010

It’s Friday again and—wait, wait. Friday? Really? Didn’t the work week start, like, just 3 days ago? Oh well. If you say so. Friday it is then, bringing another installment of Meet A Mayoral Candidate!

Up this week: Rocco Achampong!

Voted by those in this office as the Candidate Most Likely To Break Out From The Back Of The Pack And Start Running With The Big Bulls (you mean your office didn’t have a similar pool?), Rocco Achampong appears ready to fulfill that destiny. He’ll be appearing along with Keith Cole at the Better Ballots Mayoral Debate on June 1st at the University of Toronto’s Hart House with the 6 top dogs, acronymously known as TRFMPS. His time in the shadows is about to be a thing of the past as steps out into the glaring limelight.

Mr. Achampong should have somewhat of a home field advantage at next Tuesday’s debate as he is a graduate of U. of T. where he co-founded the Black Students Association and served as the president before being elected president of the university’s Students’ Administrative Council (now known as the Students’ Union). In fact, so at home with the place is he that Achampong even announced his candidacy for mayor earlier this year in the very room where the debate will be taking place. He’ll be well versed with where the puck bounces unexpectedly off the boards into the slot in front of the net.

There is little question that as a candidate for mayor Mr. Achampong has all the goods. He is young, driven and possesses a compelling and uplifting biography. Born in Ghana, his family immigrated to Canada when he was nine years old. Some of his youth was spent in Toronto’s rough-and-tumble Jane-Finch area, where Achampong was well aware of the violence that sometimes flared up in the community.  But with a strong family bond steeped in love and faith, he overcame these struggles to make his way through school, eventually graduating from Osgoode Hall with a law degree in 2008.

It is perfect political pedigree, bestowing a can-do under dog, over-achieving mantle on him that Achampong clearly relishes. “I think of myself as Rocky,” Achampong has said. “As long as I’m still on my feet after 12 rounds, I’ve won.” Strike up the Bill Conti theme music, we say, because up that flight of stairs we go!

Yet for all the fresh-faced, new blood, rising star qualities enveloping Achampong, there’s a whiff of familiarity upon closer examination. Imagine my surprise when glancing through his biographical material that Mr. Achampong campaigned for John Tory back in 2003 in that mayoral election. I say, what? Tory may be a nice guy and genuinely decent human being but what’s a bright-eyed, impressionable young thing doing going to work for the consummate insider, an official member of the unofficial kitchen cabinet for the execrable Mel Lastman regime? What does that say about Achampong’s politics?

It speaks volumes.

From Mr. Achampong’s speech announcing his intention to run for mayor: I have no experience when it comes to raising your taxes – time after time after time. No experience when it comes to looking for ever more innovative ways to separate our hard-working citizens from their hard-earned money. I have no experience when it comes to wasting these same hard-earned tax dollars through reckless and irresponsible spending. I have no experience when it comes to selling our city out to special interests, no experience in caving in to demands, to sitting idly by and complacently while union bosses hold our citizens hostage with outrageous demands.

Unlike my professional politician opponents, I have no experience when it comes to running government agencies rife with scandal and corruption. I have no experience when it comes to hiking transit costs for hard-working citizens to pay ever higher salaries to overfed employees who sleep on the job.

Words that could just as easily be emanating from the mouth of George Smitherman, Rob Ford or Rocco Achampong’s former boss on the John Tory 2003 campaign team, Rocco Rossi. For a new kid on the block, Mr. Achampong sounds awfully shopworn, clichéd and hackneyed. Where is the new vision to accompany the new face? Even his answer to the question we’ve been asking all our candidates, If the present mayor would like his legacy to be that of the Transit Mayor, how would a Mayor Achampong like to see his legacy written? strikes us as somewhat generic. “A Mayor Achampong would like his legacy to be that of economic growth, prosperity for the many, and hope for all…when they look back, I  would like them to not forget that times were great under my administration”.

Yes, there is much to admire in the compassionate and progressive elements of Achampong’s platform. A national housing initiative. TTC fare freeze. Doubling of the city’s arts funding. Dedicated bike lanes.

We just do not see how all this gibes with the anti-tax, anti-union stance Mr. Achampong’s touting right now. The hope is with a new voice comes a new vision. Rather than trotting our all the old sawhorses about this city’s out-of-control spending and being held hostage by union layabouts, we’re looking for someone, anyone, to point out how the fiscal straits Toronto is facing presently are largely beyond its control. We’re looking for a candidate to stand up for our interests in the face of recalcitrant and negligent senior levels of government and state categorically that we refuse to play delivery boy to the heartless and harmful effects of the neoliberal policies that they’ve been pursuing for decades now.

And somewhere in our peabrains we lodged the idea that a candidate such as Rocco Achampong might be that one. Now, we’re not so sure. It saddens us. Maybe over the course of the election campaign we will be proven wrong.

dutifully submitted by Cityslikr


Course of Justice Denied

May 27, 2010

It has been determined by B.C. special prosecutor Richard Peck that Michael Bryant is innocent in the death of Darcy Allan Sheppard. Peck’s decision to have all charges withdrawn against Bryant means no preliminary trial will take place. This has caused, as it should, heated discussions amongst Torontonians and others beyond this city’s borders.

There is no need to review the details of the tragic incident of last August 31st. They have been noted repeatedly in news accounts and on the internet since that fateful night. And they are being rehashed constantly since the news of the charges against Bryant being dropped was revealed.

The disturbing outcome of that evening is that Darcy Allan Sheppard died during his altercation with Michael Bryant. Disturbing not only because of the senseless nature of his death but because, had he lived, chances are he would have had his day in court in one way or another. By being dead, this has been denied him.

It turns out, in the mind of prosecutor Peck, that it was not actually Michael Bryant facing any charges but rather Darcy Allan Sheppard that was on trial. This is the gist of Peck’s executive summary revealed to the court on Tuesday. Sheppard’s troubled history and past incendiary actions made him responsible for all actions that both he and Bryant undertook that night, relieving Bryant of any potential accountability in the resulting death (my underscores).

And there is the major rub in this very sad affair. A case tried in the courts of public opinion and in the mind of one person but one that never made its way to an Ontario court of law. A judgement or verdict reached but only in the mind of Mr. Peck, not by a judge or jury which is usually the process followed especially in a serious incident resulting in death.

I do not know what, if anything, Bryant is guilty of. Or what Sheppard may have been guilty of before he died that evening. But I am truly enraged that information that may have shed light on this most deadly scenario is now unavailable to me and the rest of the Toronto public. Peck refers in his summary to confusing eye witness accounts and forensics reports, the latter indicating Bryant was not accountable for Sheppard’s fatal injuries. Due to a lack of a preliminary trial, no one, especially a judge or jury, will be able to hear or judge for themselves how confusing those eyewitness accounts truly are or decide for themselves how informative and definitive those forensics reports are. What should have been a perfunctory legal process has been denied by the opinion of one person. And that is just not right.

If bringing in a special prosecutor from B.C. to oversee former Ontario Attorney General Bryant’s case was to create transparency and avoid optics of any ‘special treatment’ by Ontario police or judicial officials, not allowing a preliminary trial in this matter has negated those intentions. The undesirable language of ‘the educated rich versus the poor’ and a ‘law for the rich and a law for the poor’ is now swirling about like a typhoon within the city. Cyclists, justified or not, now feel that their safety while navigating city streets is even more imperilled than before the incident. None of these statements are representative of what is actually at stake here (the guilt or innocence of actions that lead to a death) but the lack of a judicial process, not surprisingly, has sadly fed the flames of mistrust and discontent amongst cyclists, motorists and the rest of the city’s inhabitants.

These rumblings and grumblings could have been avoided if the course of justice had been allowed to proceed within an Ontario court room. A trial would have revealed that this case was about road rage, not about cyclists versus motorists nor about couriers versus lawyers. The court would have looked at both men’s actions equally to decide what, if any laws, were broken by either party. The judge or jury would have decided if either party’s actions during those adrenalin-filled 28 seconds imperilled the safety of the other. In other words, the court would have done its job with the public present. If Bryant had been found guilty or acquitted of any charges by means of a judicial decision, we Torontonians would have been privy to the information provided that resulted in that decision. Bryant would not have this spectre of preferred treatment and doubt now forever attached to him. Darcy Allan Sheppard, through testimony (favourable or not) of witnesses at the scene that summer night, would have had his day in court as well.

Because, you see Mr. Peck, I don’t know about B.C. but in the eyes of the Ontario judicial system, every accused, including Sheppard and Bryant, is considered ‘innocent until proven guilty’. In this case, thanks to you, we will never know.

– judicially submitted by Distant Cousin


Bald Man Out

May 26, 2010

According to the Toronto Star this past Saturday, the city’s mayoral race has become a 3-way, conveniently split along clear, easy-to-follow ideological lines. Rob Ford on the right, Joe Pantalone on the left and George Smitherman smack dab in the middle. So perfect is the alignment that one might think it was hand made to fit an orderly narrative. Unlike the real world, no nuances here, folks, at the Toronto Star.

How did such clean lines come about? Well, according to the Star, the wheels have come off the Rocco Rossi campaign bus. His whole schtick to date had been the crusading outsider riding into town to clean up the mess created by profligate taxing and spending. Rossi was the right of centre, anti-incumbent populist and he carried some momentum early on.

That is until councillor Rob Ford entered the fray. He wasn’t just simply right of centre. He was a true blue right wing conservative with no Liberal stain on his resumé. Ford was well-known for lavishing attention on his (and other councillors) constituents, promptly returning their phone calls. So, he had the populist angle covered. For disgruntled right wing voters, Rob Ford was the real deal.

This left Rossi with only the anti-incumbent banner to fly. While a potent element in a race where the electorate is restive and believe that things are going to hell in a hand basket, it may not be enough to sustain a nearly 10 month campaign especially if the frontrunner with more name recognition is attempting to sail an identical tack. See: George Smitherman as crusading outsider riding into town to clean up the mess created by profligate taxing and spending.

It hasn’t helped Rossi that his platform so far has been underwhelming. Selling off publicly owned assets isn’t an easy pitch to anyone who remembers or drives the 407 not to mention that it makes absolutely no economic sense to anyone other than ideologues and those on the investment side of the equation. His subway plan doesn’t add up even to those who would like more subways built. The latest 6 point economic initiative to create a quarter million jobs in Toronto that he floated last week seems, as the Star stated, vague.

If elected, Rossi vows to “Work at creating growth across the entire 416-905 region.” Then he’d “Tout Toronto-based bank performance during the recession, building on the city’s reputation as an emerging world financial centre.” Etc., etc., broad generalizations and the use of other very active verbs to give the impression of doing something.

All stance and very little substance. Once you cede the stance to a more qualified or well known poseur, there wasn’t much left for any voter to get behind. Even before the dog days of summer, or at least the official dog days of summer roll around, Rossi finds himself in irons, floundering with no direction and little wind behind him.

At least, that’s how the Toronto Star sees it at the moment. The Rossi campaign is dead in the water, torpedoing not only his own chances but apparently those of the other 22 candidates as well, winnowing it down to a 3 man race. That way, I guess, the Star won’t have to do too much multitasking when it comes to their election coverage. Now if only there was a way for them to figure out how to eliminate Joe Pantalone and get it down to just two contenders. It would make everything that much simpler.

not unhappily but warily submitted by Cityslikr


A Commute Slog To Hell

May 26, 2010

On an unexpected trip to the airport this a.m. to pick up a wayward Acaphlegmic who has returned from a furtive trip that he remains mum about, I take in my unusual surroundings. Sitting in the Autoshare car, stuck on Lakeshore Boulevard just past Ontario Place with the entrance to the Gardiner Expressway seemingly miles in the distance, I wonder how we’ve arrived at this place. Aren’t we smarter than this?

We’re supposed to be going in the opposite direction from the morning rush hour yet here we are, traffic stopped in all directions, wasting our lives away. To my right, the bike lanes and footpaths of the lakefront remain sadly deserted. We’re all here in our cars, idle, as a brownish-green hue settles in on the horizon over the lake and this is only our second heat alert day of the season and it is the 26th of May, still 3 weeks short of the official start of summer!

We’ve chosen ours cars over fully functioning public transit. We ship our cargo by truck instead of rail. We tune into the radio to hear the likes of the Dean Blundell Show, a fucking 4th-rate Howard Stern impersonator who talks about men’s balls, wiener supporters and armpit sniffing without even being funny about any of it!! I mean, how inept is that?

No wonder we are so full of rage and contempt and bile. This, apparently, is how many of us begin our days. Stuck in a metal, plastic and glass container, bumper to bumper, stopping and starting, our heads filled with amateurish frat boy puerility. How have we let this happen to ourselves? Shouldn’t we be demanding a little more from our lives? We should be surprised that our society isn’t subject to more random murderous rampages.

This is not how civilized people exist. Somehow sometime back, we settled for something desperately short of perfection. This sucks.

submitted dyingly slowly by Urban Sophisticat