Did Ford Nation Cause Another Upset?

Looks as though the tide has turned in Toronto. Rob Ford was late to endorse the Conservatives but stepped up this past weekend. The votes are still trickling in and it seems that the Conservatives have taken quite a few GTA seats. To be fair Toronto and the GTA wasn’t all blue and white. Jack Layton and the NDP easily held some key seats in Toronto. Bob Rae hung on to his seat but there are doubts for Ignatieff as he lost his.

The next four years… Are we in for more of the same? Pension reform and security? Will this translate into more funding for the TTC? Public Healthcare? The loss of the TSX and Bay Street jobs to London UK or a stronger economy for all? Will the Conservatives hold a heavy hand or will they entertain some suggestions from the opposition?


Out With The Old, In With The New

CBC’s Matt Galloway had an interesting exit interview with outgoing David Miller. How will Rob Ford define his leadership and his Transit strategy? Ford has made his appointments. We shall soon see. The new Mayor of Toronto his sworn in tomorrow and the new council’s first meeting kicks off next week.

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Polls Are Not Prophecy…Or Are They?

Yes, this just in. Another poll has been taken by 400+ people. Undecided has been polling in the 20 to 25% range and I think they will be the key to this election. After all a lead in a poll is just that.

If polls are so statistically telling why is it that less than 40% actually vote? Am I supposed to judge whom I vote for based on the opinion of 40% of 400 people when 40% of them will likely go to the ballot box. Hmmm, 64 people out of 600,000+ that typically vote. The most important poll is when the other 99.99% get off their butts and go to the polls. This long running election campaign is proof that ranked ballots or other type of election reform is long overdue. In my opinion ranked ballots (1st choice, 2nd choice, 3rd choice) are the way to go. There is a clearer mandate for the winner. There is no run off election required and the tally would immediately show who the majority doesn’t want to win. I can only dream at this moment, we are stuck with the status quo for now.

As much as the front runners bawk and jockey for position the large number of undecided voters is telling. In my opinion it tells of a public nervous and uneasy with the list of “front runners” shoved in front of them. Is it the quality of their platforms, the substance of their character, the apathy that was broken by a 40 day garbage strike coupled with fear? It may be any number of those or a combination.

It is interesting that all “front runners” platforms present tax increases. Yes, I know that sounds crazy when many are talking about cutting spending but paying essentially the same amount of taxes and receiving less services is also a tax increase. It’s like paying for a large coffee and getting a medium or small one instead. One of the majors is actually saying they will increase taxes at with some exemptions for low income individuals and seniors. As much as people seem to hate it, Torontoians will get only the services they pay for, contract or otherwise.

Frankly I’m distressed that when two of five the “front runners” dropped out of the Mayors race that two or more others were not bumped up from “fringe” status by the major media. After all Rocco Rossi and Sarah Thomson were not the only ones to put up their $200 fee and vying for the job of Mayor of Toronto. Actually there are 38 candidates to choose from (after Rossi and Thomson dropped out). I would have loved to see coverage of other “fringe” candidates like Himy Syed, Tibor Steinberger , or any of the other 36 people brave enough to put their names on the ballot. Ah, but how many people will just skip over the list of candidates like the Classified Ads.

The reality is that the Mayor of Toronto is but one voice out of 45 (well or only 22 under one candidate’s platform). At the end of the day consensus not conflict will get the city’s work done. That is why if you are truly at a loss as to who should be Mayor you should at least vote for council. We need as many competent people at the table voicing the needs of Toronto’s citizens as possible. To achieve that tall task, we may need more than 4 or every 10 eligible voters going out and voting on October 25th, 2010. Dave Meslin said it well, vote with your heart!

City of Toronto Elections

Just glimpse of the some of 100 debates over this year…
CBC Debates
CP24 Debate
BOMA (Building Owners and Managers Association) Debate

Closing Comments of Habitat for Humanity Debate


Force of Nature

I had the pleasure of seeing one of the opening screenings of Force of Nature: The David Suzuki Movie at the Cumberland 4. A true bonus, director Sturla Gunnarsson and David Suzuki were on hand for a question and answer after the screening. This a must see film and it earned a well deserved People’s Choice Documentary Award this year at TIFF.

David Suzuki’s contribution to science, the environment and Canada are well documented and respected. His legacy continues. The question of what additional things he hopes to do for the planet before he dies is not important. We should be asking ourselves what legacy we wish to leave future generations.

Force of Nature: The David Suzuki Movie
Opened this weekend in Toronto
at Cumberland Four
159 Cumberland Ave.
Toronto, ON,
M5R 1A2

Rated PG

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Red Bull Traffic Jam?

Yonge and Dundas is a nightmare as it is. A pro skateboarder took advantage of the scene this week, with the help of Red Bull. A new meaning of playing in traffic.

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Sk8 and Relate – Loose Canon Gallery (a bit of Toronto in Hamilton this month)

On Friday the 13th Hamilton’s Loose Canon Gallery will host The Skateboard Art Show. A group show exhibiting the talents of over 20 artists using a skateboard deck as a canvas. A few notable Toronto artists will be featured including Tjie Tsang, Mark Byk and Contra photographer Luis Mora.

The Skateboard Art Show
at Loose Canon Gallery (as part of the Hamilton Art Crawl)
Opening Friday August 13th (Running until September 4th)
150 James St North, Hamilton ON
Featuring Tjie Tsang, Mark Byk, Luis Mora and many more…

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Sorry People, John Tory Won’t Save You

The major media have been touting the “top 5″ candidates for months (the cast in alphabetical order: Rob Ford, Joe Pantalone, Rocco Rossi, George Smitherman, and Sarah Thomson). Giorgio Mammoliti dropped out of the race weeks ago, not a huge loss, though his though his proposals regarding affordable housing are worth adopting by whomever eventually wins the election.

Some have called for partisan politics and party affiliations to help voters along. Sorry, I tend to feel that partisan “branding” is the last thing we need at this level of government. Voters are, or should be sophisticated enough, to evaluate the people, policies and platforms presented.

Toronto voters will have to do some heavy lifting in before Monday October 25th. Last I checked there were far more than 5 candidates vying for the job of mayor. Oh yeah, John Tory made it painfully clear that he is not running for mayor this year. So who will win?

I know who should win. The candidate that can articulate a clear vision for Toronto. Someone who’s policies are not based liquidating assets but building on what we have or investing in the future. So far we have seen a lot of petty bickering and little leadership or vision. John Tory is not on the shortlist and the “top 5″ financially backed candidates may or may not have what it takes. It will be up to the citizens of Toronto to choose the right candidate for mayor and hold them accountable beyond October 25, 2010. One thing for sure, apathy will get you nothing but grief.


The Bad Taste Of The G20 Still Lingers

I don’t think that many people enjoyed the carnage and damage a few vandals had during the G20. This heavy handed senseless action was followed up with heavy handed policing. Sure some perpetrators were rounded up among the approximately 1,000 mass arrests. The problem was that many innocent people, journalists and bystanders were beaten and arrested. All told, close to 800+ were released with no charges laid.

Yes, it is amazing that there were no life threatening injuries to the security forces or protesters (or vandals) but that hardly warrants blanket praise from council. There was good reason for yesterday’s 1,200 person march at Queen’s Park. There are masses of people calling for a public inquiry. Many feel each of the Toronto Police, Toronto Police Services Board or the Ombudsman reviews will leave too many questions unanswered. Questions over civilian oversight and use of force are valid considering what transpired.

The bad taste of the G20 will linger for sometime. Hardly the good PR campaign sold to Toronto by the Feds. The strategic bungling of a dual G8/G20 in cottage country, the failure to hold the “back up” Toronto G20 outside the downtown core, not to mention the Fed’s blank check given to security forces should have been foreshadowing enough. Glad the madness is over but a serious, although belated, review of the failings should take place.


Haunted Hillbilly Hootenany – Dakota Tavern – TONIGHT

Country music, funny people and prizes?! Tonight, Monday June 28th, you can shake off the G20 blues at the Dakota Tavern. The Dakota Tavern is hosting a fundraiser for the production of “Haunted Hillbilly”. Haunted Hillbilly is a show that will be staged as part of the Summerworks Theatre Festival.

Haunted Hillbilly Hootenany
Dakota Tavern
249 Ossington Ave.
Monday June 28th, 2010
$15
Music and more…
Featuring: Justin Rutledge, Afie Jurvanen, Doug Paisley, Derek McCormack, Chelsea P. Manders, Matt Barber and others.

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A New Day Of Talks, A New Day Of Mayhem?

The evening hours saw another 480+ arrests of some of the key “troublemakers”. No doubt the saboteurs had played one too many games of Grand Theft Auto. I apologize, Black Bloc is the tactic used by the so called anarchists, not a particular group. No idea if their midnight Saturday Night Fever Dance party/ BYOBB (bring your own boom box) near the detention centre had any takers.

Looking forward for this mess ending. TTC service was to resume at 9am, GO Transit is still up in the air. Sad that the Jazz Fest, Pride Week and any number of other events had to endure this. This of course is one of the city’s biggest tourist weekends.

The G20 meetings should begin around 9:30am. The countdown to normalcy begins…

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Big Divide In A Big City

Thankfully I was well clear of the hijacking of the peaceful march. Peaceful protestors have stayed clear of the vandals and their cyclone of disruption. There are varying accounts of the numbers of saboteurs (up 100 or 200???). Sad that 200 or so have blighted a massive 10,000+ peaceful march through the city.

Mayor Miller rightly branded these saboteurs as “criminals”. The news crews have all the catchy images of conflict they could have hoped for. A great negative feedback loop. We are up to about 6 Police cars torched by now. The security forces have managed to keep at least a one block perimeter safe and locked down. GO Train service is now non-existent and there are still small pockets of vandals between two different sets of solid Police lines. The ironic thing is that this small group of yahoos are relatively isolated.

Safe in the cage Mr. Harper is all smiles and entertaining his dinner guests. Such a contrast. Word is that the TFC game is still on.

Yonge and Dundas Square was another Black Bloc hotspot and Police are encouraging any stragglers to disperse from Queen’s Park (it’s unconfirmed whether they are now using force). I’m a block or so away from the Square and Queen’s Park and it’s business as usual. Many shops and grocery stores are still open. There are fewer cars and no streetcars but life goes on in the neighbourhood.

Public apathy? Perhaps. It’s more likely the fact that it a few bad apples are getting all the attention while most of us get on with life. Hoping that dialogue and issues take the spotlight tomorrow.

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And Then It Gets Crazy…

All quiet along Yonge so far but Queen Street West is heating up. The troublemakers have started to mobilize and the Police have put on their masks. It appears that the Black Bloc and perhaps other militant groups like Southern Ontario Anarchists have started toying with flares, sticks and stones from gardens. Mailboxes have been dragged onto the TTC tracks and the Scotiabank near Much Music has had many windows smashed with hammers. Starbucks… Yep their garbage bins have been scattered.

Fearing the worst but not sticking around for the gas. Media vehicles, police cars have been trashed. Hard to say if the majority of these “crazy protestors” are going to tempt fate and march to the “cage”. Word is that they have made it to Wellington and Bay!

10,000+ marched today. Looks like a few hundred are looking for a fight. 100 plus police are marching in getting ready to bring it to them now that a police cruiser is on fire. Great!

Well the delegates are arriving at Royal York. Welcome to Toronto!

Don’t know why the Police have not defused this. This group sounds like they are way too close, a block away from the “cage” now. I can only guess that they are trying to get some damning evidence, clear the bystanders, and then mobilize the Police counter-attack. I’m not about to get anywhere near Union Station or the Royal York.

Note:

GO Transit have essentially shut down Union Station. Westbound passengers need to travel to Mimico, Eastbound trips now start/terminate at Danforth. Check GO Transit for more updates…

TTC have halted all streetcars in the core. Subways on the Yonge-University line are closed from Bloor to St. George Station.


A Showdown In A Ghost Town…

Thankfully I did not work in the core today. My uneasiness was reserved for my trip into the city from the 905. Arriving by GO Train to Union Station into what could have been the centre of madness, I was expecting the worst. Union Station and Front Street are bad enough on any Friday let alone the start of a weekend featuring a G20.

The suburban parking lot of the GO station was eerie and sparse. I had some snacks, my phone and a couple drinks. I hoped that I could endure at least a mild inconvenience. Got news that a scuffle between protesters and Police at Yonge and College as I reached the GO platform. Oh well, no turning back BUT that was to be one of my destinations tonight. I missed an earlier express train but crossed my fingers and took the milk run into “G20 land”.

In the end the GO train was exactly on schedule. It was somewhat inconvenient taking the western of the GO Station at Bay but I hardly wanted to venture anywhere near the “cage”. Seeing it from the double doors under the tracks was close enough. Testing my luck, I headed to the TTC toward College Station. By now the word was the police had brought in reinforcements and diverted the streetcars. Expecting the worst I headed up the Yonge TTC line and hoped for the best.

College subway did have a few police near the fare booth. No real issues from protesters, at least I arrived. I probably missed the worst the conflict on the street an hour before. I surfaced near the Winner’s store, not far where a man was arrested. A massive police presence but pedestrians could cross all crossings and vehicles were still being diverted West of Yonge.

My mostly uneventful trip made for the tastiest BBQ style burger ever. Guilty domestic bliss. Sad but true but just part of the kind of decompression most Torontonians must be experiencing after a high security, $50 Million an hour, international board meeting gets booked in your backyard.

So what happened. Everyone stayed home if they could. A few yahoos “tested the bounds” of authority. (Duh, what do you think happens if you breach a perimeter, push a cop or act like an idiot.) The majority of the protesters near the “problem area” and the city were peaceful. There may have been a few aggressive individuals at Yonge and College. Sad that the man that was arrested there was a deaf man (who probably didn’t hear the instructions from a scared and agitated security force). Worse still is that this man is being held in a detention centre without being provided an interpreter!

Despite the hype, I doubt the 2000+ protesters that congregated at Yonge and College were even headed toward fence forming the “cage”. The majority of groups involved in the “infamous scuffle” were from local activist housing and anti-poverty groups like Jane and Finch Action Against Poverty, OCAP and No One Is Illegal. Their installation of a Tent City at one of Canada’s highest concentrations of homelessness is meant to harken back to harsher times. Toronto’s erection and eventual evictions at a Tent City years ago.

In the end the city was a ghost town. Posturing and hype aside it could have been worse. Hoping for the best when festivities really kick in tomorrow.


Will Disaster Be Averted?

A minor earthquake and tornado didn’t destroy Toronto yesterday. Will the G20 summit mean a disaster for the city? Lake Mistake and an over armed security force may be more than just a little overkill. I doubt the numbers of people in the city disgusted by this circus (protesters, pedestrians, and everyday people) warrant such a heavy handed approach. One thing is for sure, we are going to be in for an interesting ride.

The major media have hyped this thing to the heavens. I pray there are no incidents (whether they are due to yahoo “protesters” or overzealous “security”.) This scandalous billion dollar love-in will really be a failure for the Harper government if there is no concrete progress on the “real” issues. Fiscal responsibility, the economy, and the environment should be front and centre. Instead the lead up and staging of this G20 has only highlighted what is wrong with richest nations; their lack of leadership and prudent use of human & fiscal capital.


Darcy Sheppard… The Wrong Kind of Hero???

It has been hard to digest the ruling that saw charges against Michael Bryant dropped after an incident that left Darcy Sheppard dead. I do give credit to the Ontario government for seeking an outside prosecutor for the case (even though the final outcome is disappointing).

I’m not exactly looking for vengence, political and public character assassination or revenge. In my opinion the tragic incident that left a cyclist dead was the result of two individuals. A cyclist over-reacting and a driver over-reacting.

Today’s Globe and Mail article misses the point. Yes, Darcy Sheppard repeatedly responded to drivers when he felt they threatened his safety on the road. He did so in some colourful and not so flowery ways (spitting or yelling back). Such a response could be understandable given that number of life threatening incidents that occur, not to just bike couriers, but everyday citizens. The pedestrian death toll this Spring was a testament not only to oblivious people crossing the road, but to dangerous drivers. It is far too easy to glaze over the indifference of drivers who would rather run others off the road than to delay their journey. I can say I’ve witnessed both sides of close calls but in the end road users make it bad for everyone.

From the surface, Darcy seemed to engage those who “crossed” his path. In my opinion that is not always wrong, criminal or unjustified. He chose to stand up for his personal safety in an often aggressive way but there are many non-violent ways to report or police a situation without taking it on one on one.

Darcy may have faced issues with addiction or mental health but the behaviour of at least two individuals led to this tragic end. The same ill advised escalation can often be witnessed at a bar fight. Two men enter, one leaves but often both are equally to blame. The saddest thing is that the major media and the court failed to recognize that. It seems that the prosecution feared the demonization of Darcy. Perhaps after much time and consultation they moved away from any conviction or charges against Bryant that would be hard fought to apply.

One can only hope that improvements to our streets, TTC and bike lanes come soon and that people travel with more respect for each other. Yet another dark chapter closes, hopefully some lessons were learned. Can’t we all just get to our destination?

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