To Serve And Protect What Exactly?

July 19, 2015

garyowens

5 years after the G20 fiasco in Toronto, we sit down and talk with reluctant police activist Sherry B. Good.

audibly submitted by Cityslikr


The Other Woman

October 16, 2012

I’ve been sitting here for most of the day, trying to write something, anything about the departure of Premier Dalton McGuinty. The writer’s block on the subject is telling. Formed from a mixture of rage and indifference, coherence is difficult.

Mostly, Dalton McGuinty is the reason I never voted Liberal provincially during his tenure. (Yes, I have been known to cast a ballot that way now and again.) To me he represented everything that was wrong with Liberals these days. As it was put in the Twittershpere, his “greatest achievement was finally putting a kind face to neoliberalism”.

From the outset, his whole approach seems to have been to operate slightly less right than the Progressive Conservatives. After 9 years in office, maybe it wasn’t merely playing politics. It’s possible to look back over his record and conclude that maybe Dalton McGuinty ruled only slightly less right than the Progressive Conservatives because he himself was only slightly less right than the Progressive Conservatives.

But “Well, at least he wasn’t as bad as…” isn’t much of a legacy to leave behind.

It certainly didn’t help Toronto much.

Despite his continued promise to undo the damage inflicted on this city by the Harris government, Premier McGuinty approached it without much sense of urgency. He re-uploaded services on his own timetable, according to his own state of finances. Rather than see the process as righting a previous government’s wrongs, it came across as doing the city a favour, tossing a few coins our way when we went to him, cap in hand.

The same could be said about his handling of transit.

He promised in 2003, and continued to promise throughout his time in office to resume paying the province’s 50-50 share of the TTC’s annual operating budget as well as the 75% for state of good repair capital expenses. He never did. He even stopped handing over the occasional chunk of money that made his government look magnanimous when it needed to. So the TTC languished during his reign as ridership increased, leaving the city property taxpayers having to foot more and more of the bill.

The McGuinty government played an even bigger game of politics with Transit City. Announced to great fanfare in 2007 as part of the province’s Big Move, $12 billion+ for 7 new LRT lines would be the biggest investment in transit the city had seen in decades. But then came the economic crisis and the province cut back to $8.4 billion and 4 lines thereby establishing that transit planning in Toronto remained politically negotiable and susceptible to whatever whim blew through.

We all know the recent history.

Now McGuinty exits, the future of Metrolinx’s Big Move unfunded and up in the air. He leaves the door open for the Opposition Leader Tim Hudak to openly muse about future reversals of plans. Nearly a decade of ambivalence gives way to another period of uncertainty.

And then there was this Liberal government’s role in the G20 debacle in June 2011. No one should be surprised at the Premier’s thumbing his nose at democracy with the craven prorogation of parliament on his way out the door, putting party before province. The Public Works Protection Act was a prorogation of our civil rights. Dalton McGuinty seemed comfortable in autocratic mode. Premier Dad, indeed.

Frankly, I’m not sure which is worse. The open contempt shown Toronto by the Harris government (and one sure to be emulated by Tim Hudak if he’s ever elected premier, based on his transit views and the behaviour of his municipal brethren, the Ford brothers) or the very, very conditional love shown by the McGuinty Liberals. We at least know where we stand when we’re hated. But with McGuinty? It was like being the mistress to a guy who’s never going to leave his wife, no matter what he says. We never knew when he was going to show up, and the roses and sparkling wine were just his way of currying favours.

The Tories abuse us. The Liberals use us. I guess this is what happens when you’re considered nothing more than a creature of the province.

cuckoldly submitted by Cityslikr


The Day Democracy Died Just A Little

July 8, 2010

Maybe it’s the heat that’s making me so ornery. Or maybe I’m no more ornery than usual but with all the sweaty and stickiness, I just feel ornerier. Or maybe, just maybe, quite possibly, it’s the ease with which all levels of politicians have been sniffing at and dismissing the basic tenets of a democratic society that has me so hot under the collar. No amount of A/C or electric fanning is bringing me relief.

Watching the debate at City Hall yesterday was disconcerting enough. Councillor Mark Grimes put forth a motion that would see council issue a big ol’ thank you to all the city workers, police and police chief who worked so diligently before, during and after the G20 summit. What it really amounted to, however, was nothing more than a purely partisan maneuver, designed to flush out all those police-hating, anarchist-loving lefties who, according to conventional wisdom, occupy a majority of the seats on council.

That a right wing politician would politicize this issue is entirely unsurprising. When you’re riding a wave of a bankrupt and discredited ideology, what else have you got outside of simply trying to make your opponents look as unprincipled as you are? Perhaps it should be equally predictable that if there were progressives and left wingers present in council chambers yesterday, none stood up to defend themselves or their beliefs. Because, let’s face it, true dyed-in-the-wool, small ‘l’ liberals have been ducking for cover for 30 years now, trying to put their best pro-free market, pro-authority faces on lest their patriotism or sanity be questioned. You’re either with us or you’re against us, remember?

So it was left to two retiring councillors, Michael Walker and Brian Ashton, neither of whom one would call progressive lions, to stand up and make very qualified peeps in defense of civil liberties, freedom of speech and due process. Both, of course, ended up voting in favour of the motion to thank everyone for a job well done. As did the mayor but not until after he take another opportunity to reveal his inner reactionary. Telling of how for the first time in his political career he needed a police escort to leave City Hall on Black (Bloc) Saturday, he essentially condoned the sentiment that if a politician is scared, civil rights are easily jettisoned. With that stated, the motion was passed unanimously. No dissent. Zero.

That, my friends, was simply a precursor to the real show of authoritarianism and autocratic thinking. According to the Toronto Star, Premier Dalton McGuinty actually said this in the face of some of his caucus concerned about their government’s involvement in the whole G20 mess: “Just remember, the same guy who gave us the Charter also gave us the War Measures Act.” I’m sorry. What did you just say? Are you equating the June 25-27 G20 protests in the streets of Toronto to the FLQ crisis? Really?!

Nevermind the mind-boggling lack of proportionality in that statement – the only kidnapping and murder committed at the G20 was of that very same Charter McGuinty mentioned and at the hands of politicians of every stripe – his comprehension of history goes beyond staggering. The War Measures Act was controversial and it cleaved a major rift in progressive circles which Trudeau never fully healed even after shepherding in the Charter some 12 years later. So raising its specter doesn’t really alleviate concerns about the role in revoking the rule of law the Premier played. Moreover, you’ve delivered us your War Measures Act, Dalton, show us your Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

More sinister still, however, during the same closed door session the Premier apparently uttered out loud this beauty: “Don’t forget about the silent majority.”

Huh.

In all likelihood, McGuinty was merely alluding to polls that show a majority of people asked had no problem with how the police dealt with the situation at the G20 but was he oblivious to where that term originated or did he actually intend to align himself with the doings of former U.S. president Richard Nixon? This was a politician who used his perceived support among a majority of upright Americans (as opposed to the dirty hippies) to justify a secretive bombing campaign of a non-combatant country, the mowing down of 4 unarmed war protestors at Kent State and an increasingly elaborate and paranoid, not to mention entirely illegal, wiretapping operation to ferret out his enemies. This is how our premier wants to rationalize his actions?

It should be painfully obvious at this point that those who believe in the fundamentals of our Constitution and Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and all that underlying crap of living in a true democracy, have been abandoned en masse by their politicians. The choice between liberty and security has been made for us whether we like it or not. We no longer have elected representatives. They have become caretakers at best, overseers in times of distress and dissent.

It would be heart-stoppingly chilling if it wasn’t so fucking hot outside.

hot and botheredly submitted by Cityslikr


A Summer Lake View

July 1, 2010

Far be it from me to opine on matters urban while rusticating up here in a wee small cabin in the woods on the shore of a lake deep in the heart of cottage country, equipped with not a whole lot more than simple high-speed internet access and satellite television but events have transpired to a degree where I can no longer remain silent. Right after I freshen up my Caesar…

There. Nice. Now where were we?

As one of the many truants to which my colleague derisively ridiculed earlier this week, I hardly feel qualified to offer any views on a situation that I was not part of. So this is from more of an outsider’s stance, an objective take by a non-participant. A Big Picture observation of the political dynamic at work.

Disregarding advice from those on the ground in Toronto, the federal Conservative government arbitrarily decided to hold the G20 gathering smackdab downtown, invading the area Independence Day style. What did they care? They possessed zero political representation anywhere in the vicinity of the proceedings, so any fallout from things going badly could hardly hurt their fortunes here since they had none to begin with. In fact, spun right they could gain some mileage in the rest of Canada by exploiting the latent anti-Toronto that runs deep, pointing out that they poured over a billion dollars into the city and the leftie, hippie, pot-smoking, climate change believing vegans who live there still weren’t happy. Can you believe those people?!

Their obliviousness and/or maliciousness is best encapsulated by a post-summit Tweet from the Minster of Industry, Tony Clement, M.P. for Fucking Miles Away From Toronto (quite possibly where I’m writing from now). After the outbreak of violence, after the suspension of civil liberties, after the world press basically acknowledged that nothing much of substance came from either the G8/G20 meetings, the Honourable Minister thumbed: Wow, what a successful #G8 + #G20! Lots of substance on economic, security & devt issues. I’m proud of Muskoka, Toronto & Canada.

Here, allow me to say the same thing but with many fewer characters, Mr. Minister. (Tweeting in the voice of Tony Clement): Wow, I’m such a douchebag.

The provincial Liberal government, with only slightly more presence in downtown Toronto than the federal Conservatives, quietly dusted off and updated a decades’ old law that at least gave the impression that the police were being granted  extraordinary powers of search and detention. Although after the event, they fervently denied doing any such thing, saying that all they did was allow police more latitude dealing with anyone who got within range of targets inside the fence which, categorically, makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. We’re to believe that the police needed more legal heft to deal with people who managed to scale the fence and get inside the security zone?!

But like the feds, the McGuinty Liberals don’t really have much to lose politically by ignoring the concerns of Toronto voters. Their one M.P.P. closest to the action, former urban demigod now lowly party apparatchik, Glen Murray, is scrambling after the fact to seem concerned, imploring those with negative experiences at the hands of the police to come forward and tell their stories. He’ll look into it.

Aside from that, what have the Liberals to fear? Certainly not the law and order loving, Tim Hudak-led Official Opposition. What kind of hay are they going to make of this, what with the stench of the Ipperwash debacle still on their clothes. The NDP? Dalton’s got two words for you: Bob Rae. No, these guys must feel untouchable on this.  Just duck and cover and let the summer breezes blow it all over.

Leaving our increasingly hapless, lame duck mayor – a politician that the citizens of Toronto actually had an opportunity to vote for as opposed to all the other carpetbaggers mentioned above – stridently defending the police force and its chief who went over the mayor’s head to seek additional powers from the province, tarnishing whatever remains of his once lustrous reputation in the process. The man who once wielded a broom as a symbol of sweeping corruption and cronyism from City Hall has de-mothballed it so as to sweep this whole sad affair under the carpet, to be sifted through once he’s long gone from office. It’s a sad spectacle made that much sadder by the fact that his rigid stance on this has actually enabled two candidates vying for his position, Rocco Rossi and George Smitherman, to seem almost thoughtful and proactive in their calls for an inquiry. Something they had not yet managed to do during the campaign.

With all this, is it at all surprising we have a growing indifference and disdain towards our politicians and the political system itself? No one steps forward to take responsibility or to truthfully address citizens’ concerns. It is all about damage control and maintaining the status quo no matter how bankrupt or devoid of fairness and justice it may be. It’s almost as if they want us to stop caring. To turn our backs on them and let them get on with the business of governing us as they see fit. To simply walk away and spend our time up at the cottage, sitting lakeside, sipping cocktails.

Another one? Well, I really shouldn’t but… don’t mind if I do.

Oh yeah. And Happy Canada Day everyone!

patriotically submitted by Urban Sophisticat


Who’s In Charge Here? Ain’t You?

June 30, 2010

I don’t even know how to begin this post.

The degree of disregard for the truth and our Constitution, the full on dissemination of disinformation and outright lies, the abject contempt in which all levels of the public service involved in the operations of the G20 have held the citizens of this city goes beyond unbelievable or mind-boggling. There’s not a word at my disposal that I can summon to adequately describe the degree of shock, dismay and increasing outrage welling up inside of me.

But, allow me to try.

Unmistainappallindignoustionflimflamfuckery!

There. I feel a little better. A little.

On Friday, we learn of a secret provincial cabinet shuffle of a 71 year-old wartime law that would allow security personnel at the G20 meeting to detain and lockup anyone who got within 5 metres of the perimeter “fence” and did not properly identify themselves. Done and done. Police willingly oblige, nabbing the unsuspecting here and there, sometimes far and away from the 5 metre line of demarcation. Upon learning about this, a sizeable chunk of the population reacts with the appropriate degree of Unmistainappallindignoustionflimflamfuckery.

Then yesterday reports emerge that, in fact, there was no such 5 metre outside the fence rule as part of the Liberal government’s tinkering with the Public Works Protection Act. According to the Canadian Press, when asked if there was an actual 5 metre zone as part of the Act, “…Chief Bill Blair smiled and said, “No, but I was trying to keep the criminals out.” This came in response to an aide for Community Safety Minister, Rick Bartolucci, insistence that “There were no extra powers granted to police for G20. As we stated repeatedly the regulation was about defining property, not police power.” Of course, when copies of the Act started making the rounds on the interwebs it was there, apparently, in black and white for all to see that, in fact, there was a 5 metre zone outside the fence.

DESIGNATED PLACES REFERRED TO IN PARAGRAPH 2 OF SECTION 1

1. The area, within the area described in Schedule 1, that is within five metres of a line drawn as follows: … blah, blah, blah, layers upon layers of lies and bullshit.

But news reports this morning inform us that, no, there never was such a law in place. The police made it up and arrested people on a whim, in a classic example of the ends justifying the means. Now most certainly, the already insanely large bill for hosting the G20 will be added to, as we’ll be paying out compensation for all sorts of illegalities carried out by security forces in order to, as the law-interpreting police chief says, “keep criminals out.”

What gives?

It would be bad enough if we could just chalk all this up to gross incompetence and massive hazy acquaintance with the facts on the part of our fearless leaders. But nobody can be that stupid or gormless in the face of such intensive public scrutiny not even a representative of the cabinet of Premier Dalton McGuinty. There is something much more sinister and responsibility defying at work here.

This is intentional muddying of the waters, a multi-leveled hot potato buck passing conducted for the sole purpose of avoiding accountability by everyone involved. A deliberate creation of a big ol’ wall of confusion so opaque in its Byzantinism that it will be near impossible to uncover even the most basic facts of who knew/did what, when. All in the hopes of people just getting fed up and walking away in disgust, demanding nothing more than to be left alone so they can enjoy their upcoming summer vacation.

And civic political engagement dies just a little more, replaced by a crippling cynicism that only helps perpetuate a lawlessness and indifference to democratic principles by those we elect and appoint to uphold those very things. How dare we try to suggest that the only criminals in this whole sad, sordid affair were those who threw rocks and set police cars on fire. They are property vandals. What we’re talking about here is nothing short of the theft and undermining of our fundamental rights and freedoms that are part of living in an open society. That, I think, is the much bigger, more disturbing crime.

It’s enough to make you want to yell unmistainappallindignoustionflimflamfuckery!!! over and over again until the neighbours start banging on the ceiling, telling you to shut up.

nails spittingly submitted by Cityslikr