When The Writ Comes Down

March 25, 2011

Dear Federal Politicians,

We here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke don’t tend to write about you too often. Partly it’s because you seem so far away and distant from us but mostly because your behaviour has been nothing short of reprehensible for the past five years or so. Like watching a version of Gossip Girl set in an exclusive boys school.

But it seems that unless we are prepared to leave the country for the next month and half (which, if this kind of spring weather keeps up, wouldn’t be a bad idea) there’s no ignoring you.  So think of this little missive as some friendly advice.  A How To manual offering tips and coaching on How To best woo us and secure our votes.

It’s relatively simple, really. How about running on a healthy, vibrant, strong city platform? As has been regularly pointed out, some 80% of Canadians live in urban centres. Now, to be fair, I think those numbers are a little misleading because if I understand correctly that’s based on the definition of ‘urban’ as non-agricultural centres. Any old shithole with more than 10, 000 people and, let’s face it, only hillbillies live in places with 10, 000 people.

So I’ve done some quick number crunching in order to provide you with a more realistic picture.

According to the 2006 census (of the long form type, I imagine), just over 16 million Canadians live in cities and city regions of more than half a million people. That’s roughly half of the country’s population. Throw in another 2.65 million who dwell in places with more than 250 thousand people, and another 2.84 million from cities of a 100k+, and that’s roughly 21.5 million Canadians living in cities with populations of more than 100, 000.

That’d be about 2/3s of us. A healthy majority to tap into if you’re looking at it from a strategic standpoint. It would also challenge the regional blocks that have taken hold of our system, pitting west against east, Quebec against the rest of us and maybe even the urban-suburban divide that is so ably exploited right now. No city can be strong if only a part of it is strong.

So Toronto might realize that it has much more in common with Calgary than it does with Backwarddumptown, Ontario. And Calgary would see that, language aside, Montrealers share a similar view of the world since they live, first, in a big city and only second in a different province. Vancouver, well, it doesn’t care right now because they are dreaming of a Stanley Cup but I don’t think they would take exception to my theory on this.

We’re a big hunk of voters, is what I’m saying, us city folk. Lining up a bunch of us under your banner would go a long way to helping form a government, you federal politicians. Maybe even a majority, you know what I’m saying? What percentage of the 66% of us would you need to secure that? I’m asking because I don’t know. You’re the experts. I shouldn’t have to do all the work for you.

Except, of course, it doesn’t work like that. Because we are still subject to an antiquated first-past-the-post, disproportionally representational electoral system that has not been significantly altered since Confederation, nearly 150 years ago when almost all of us were still fucking farmers! How is that possible? We bitch and moan about how turned off politics we are, how little our votes count, the degree of disregard our elected officials hold us in, the apathy, the cynicism and yet we continue to allow ourselves to be undemocratically represented. Of course we’re apathetic. For most of us, our votes don’t count and the act of voting is an empty exercise. Of course our politicians cynically disregard the majority of us. They don’t need a majority of us to be able to form a government even a so-called majority government.

This system of ours that we so proudly hail as a model of democracy the oppressed of the world should fight to emulate doesn’t really hold up in the modern light as something  truly democratic. It enables politicians to ignore sizeable portions of the population by simply pandering heavily to small regional hot spots.  For the past 5 years we’ve had a government in Ottawa that has maintained power without a single representative in the country’s 3 largest metropolitan centres. So is it at all surprising that we continue to languish without a national transit strategy or national housing strategy, where both these are needed most in the places with no voice in the government?

OK, so maybe what we should be looking for, those 60+% of us who never actually elected our governments in Ottawa, is a party dedicated to the cause of electoral reform.  Let’s all read up and get familiar with the work being done at Fair Vote Canada. Learn about true proportional representation, the benefits and the ways in which we can go about achieving it. Without it, nothing much is really going to change and we all just might end up agreeing with the Conservatives that this was an unnecessary process. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

It’s time we stopped that from happening.

urbanly submitted by Urban Sophisticat


Terror Babies, Council Corruption And The Long Form Census

August 16, 2010

The crazy train is showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon, is it.

For anyone who caught a glimpse of this last week, you know what I’m talking about. Pure, unhinged, paranoid in-fucking-sanity. Yes, that is a double dare to all those not yet in the loop. Check it out, starting at the 1’12” mark although the warm up act is worth sitting through too.

In the days before our all pervasive high-speed internet and proliferation of cable channels, the kind of crazy on display from Texas Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert was largely restricted to religious revival meetings, street corners and family BBQs where we all had some slightly touched Uncle Louie who, after a few rye and gingers and a pile of potato salad, started spewing forth about the coloureds, UFOs and braless women wearing short shorts. (Deny it as you might.) I remember back in the mid-80s when Morton Downey Jr.’s vitriolic rantings began wafting across Lake Ontario from some Buffalo affiliate station. It was nothing short of shocking and unsettling. We’re really giving airtime now to our crazy Uncle Louies?

Twenty-five years later, Morton Downy Jr. seems tame in comparison, what with the mainstreaming of TV personalities like Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly and the radio behemoth, Rush Limbaugh. And we’re not just making media superstars of this crowd, we’re electing them to public office. Cranks and kooks from forlorn backwaters, striding to within almost a heartbeat of the self-proclaimed most powerful position in the free world.

After watching Gohmert’s video performance last week, I smugly tweeted something to the effect of wanting to travel down to the Texas district he represents to meet those folks who saw fit to elect him. Almost immediately, I rethought my arrogance. Who am I to cast aspersions on other voters when I live in a city that elected Mel Lastman as its mayor twice? Now, just seven years after that unmitigated disaster, the (possible) front runner for the job is perhaps even more unfit for the office and prone to similarly wacky, outlandish outbursts and behaviour.

Take away Gohmert’s dullard suggesting Texas twang and it could be Rob Ford talking. His entirely unsubstantiated council corruption smears last week were no less devoid of rationality and truth than Gohmert’s screeches about terror babies. No iota of evidence was needed. In its place, pure gossipy innuendo.

While the biggest culprit so far in campaigning purely on style and forgoing even so much as a scintilla of substance in order to plug into the resentment vein of the electorate, Ford is hardly alone. Both George Smitherman and Rocco Rossi are running on platforms built on ideologically unstable ether. Cut taxes. Cut wages. Maintain services. Build subways with money from… well, we’ll get back to you on that. Somehow in a way that no one’s ever thought of before, the private sector will swoop in and sort it all out. Just remember, voters, you’re angry at the direction the city’s heading!

Such illogical, visceral appeals to our dark side are all neo-conservative/liberal proponents have anymore since their cause had its brains bashed out on the sidewalk of reality. Reasoned argument is no longer part of the equation because they’ve been pedaling pure bullshit for decades now. All that remains in their arsenal is divisiveness and emotional sorcery.

Which brings us to the federal government’s War on the Long Form Census. When fact and reliable data become your enemies, undercutting your assertions at every turn, there is only one course left to you. Stop trying to ascertain facts and disable the apparatus for collecting reliable data. If you can’t win an argument through reasoned thoughts and rational discourse, why allow anyone else to? Freeing all of us from having to test and prove our beliefs means we’re all on equal footing. All points of view are valid and it’s only a matter of making a smooth, easy-to-understand case.

So who are you, Anderson Cooper, to demand proof of Louie Gohmert about terror babies? And if Rob Ford says that the council he’s been part of for a decade is corrupt to the bone, then anyone arguing to the contrary is obviously a shady dealer. Don’t tell us that building billions of dollars of prisons in this country and doubling up prisoners in cells flies in the face of a declining crime rate. How can you be sure the data’s reliable?

It’s the age of Orwell’s 1984 with a sadly unfunny touch of Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass. We’re right if we say we’re right. You can’t prove otherwise even if, well, you can prove otherwise.

sure-footedly submitted by Cityslikr


The Defiant One

July 25, 2010

There’s going to be no logical, reasoned way of keeping Rob Ford from becoming mayor, is there. He’s hopped aboard the Resentment Rail, hoping to ride it right into office, cheered on by the Persecution Choir and its conductor, Sue-Ann Levy, chief Pamphleteer and Disseminating Dissembler of Disinformation.

“They’re just trying to muzzle me,” Ford said after receiving an official reprimand for campaigning outside City Hall. “If the other candidates can be on the Square, I can be on the Square … you can’t have two sets of rules.”

Uhhh, Mr. Ford? You may want to check that letter you got from the city’s Chief Corporate Officer, Bruce Bowes, advising you that you’d contravened both the councillor expense policy and Council’s Code of Conduct when you made your Taxpayer Protection Plan announcement in Nathan Phillips Square. Bowes cited “…the section of the councillor expense policy which prohibits corporate resources and funding from being used for election-related purposes and the Code of Conduct which states councillors aren’t permitted to undertake campaign-related activities on city property during regular working hours.” [underling and bolding all ours.]

So there aren’t two sets of rules at work here as Ford claims. Sitting councillors can’t campaign on city property but private citizens can, it seems. Thus, George Smitherman and Rocco Rossi show up at City Hall, unmolested by the socialist apparatchiks getting their “marching orders from on high” while Ford is technically prohibited because – and this may be news to Mr. Ford, rushing in and out as he does council meetings to maintain his 98% voting rate without always spending much time there to figure out who’s who and what’s what before actually casting a vote [most likely] against whatever it is everyone’s voting on – neither Smitherman nor Rossi sits on council. (Although at the last debate, Ford did continually point out that neither man understood City Hall as well as he did. So he must have some inkling that they’re not councillors.)

Now, if Councillor Joe Pantalone decided to deliver a campaign announcement on city property and didn’t receive a similar reprimand then Rob Ford could—

Oh, fuck it. What’s it matter? It’s not like explaining it fully is going to change any Rob Ford supporter’s opinion. That is simply the nature of conservative thought these days. Right is right and the rest is wrong, and very likely plotting to overthrow everything that is good and wholesome. Facts have no bearing on the issues. You’re either with us or agin us; a paranoid pumping, divisive style of politicking that goes back to… well, let’s avoid any Hitler or Nazi references although they were masters of this particular tact… how be we just start at Nixon and move forward from there?

Margaret Thatcher. Ronald Reagan. The Bushes. Mike Harris and his Common Sense Revolution. You can draw a direct line between our current Prime Minister and his ongoing war with the long-form census and the statistical conclusions he doesn’t want to hear and this mindset. Their thinking was best encapsulated by Stephen Colbert when he said that “reality has a liberal bias”. If that’s the case, then they have to create and live within a separate reality, trying to draw in as many people as they can just long enough to claim positions of power in order to try and tilt real reality ever so slightly their way.

Thus, Rob Ford and his inherited wealth is just ‘looking out for the little guy’. How exactly does he do that? By cutting their taxes and out of control spending at City Hall. Just generally getting government off their backs. It couldn’t be simpler. So simple in fact that there must be plenty of examples of it working like charm out there in the bigger, wider world. You know, lower taxes = higher government revenue, deregulation = equitable running of the free market, higher tides raising all boats.

Well no, not exactly. After about 30 years of neo-liberal economics, we can look around and conclude that wealth never trickles downhill. It simply gushes upward like a busted deep sea oil rig, polluting everything around it. Deregulation (or getting the government off peoples’ backs) leads to near economic collapse and the socialization of private risk and debt. And higher tides float only those who’ve stashed enough money away to buy themselves a fancy yacht and drowns everything else that hasn’t learned how to swim.

That is what experience tells us. That is, if you subscribe to an evidence-based reality, of course. Those who aren’t so particular can go on believing that their cars aren’t contributing to climate change, greed is good and that Rob Ford is a viable mayoral candidate who has as much right as the next (non-councillor) guy to conduct campaign events outside City Hall in Nathan Phillips Square.

According to his choirmaster, Sue-Ann Levy in the Toronto Sun, Ford has “…every intention of continuing to use the Square for campaign announcements.”

No doubt. How better to hype his martyr status among all those who truly believe there are two sets of rules? One for them and one for all the privileged, egghead, sushi-eating, transit taking, downtowners who think that Rob Ford is a lying, manipulative, ignorant, backwards buffoon who makes Mel Lastman seem reasonable and who will set this city back a decade or two if he’s allowed to exert any power or influence.Don’t believe me or just outright disagree? OK then. Let’s sit down and examine the evidence, shall we? Oh right. We’ve already tried that. I guess that’s why we call it ‘wilful ignorance’. It is both wilful and ignorant.

fed-uppedly submitted by Cityslikr