Category Archives: Political

Don’t private the Eglinton crosstown

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Politics, transit, and graphs. I love everything about this ad. And it’s right, too. These public private partnerships have been terrible for Ontario.
Tomorrow is election day, so get out and vote!

A warning to college profs from a high school teacher (not me)

A retired teacher from Maryland blogs an open letter to university professors about the effects of No Child Left Behind.

If Ontario ever heads this direction, I’ll be racing to elevate my position to convince the powers that be otherwise.

Canada must learn to protest

Dear Canada, I challenge you.

The Conservative election fraud scandal is the topic du jour, and people are starting to make themselves heard.  31,000 complaints to Elections Canada.  Oh, and in Vancouver, literally hundreds of people took to the streets last weekend.

Ho hum.

This pales in comparison to the numbers of people who protested, say, the G20Occupy Toronto was a piddling two or three thousand.

So by Canadian standards, this election fraud protest isn’t a big one.

But Canadian standards, honestly, are pathetic.  I don’t know if we’re lazy, uninformed, uneducated, apathetic, unsympathetic, or what, but if you want to make the government listen, you’re going to need more than a few hundred people.

Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions had protests of hundreds of thousands of people demanding new governments.  Rome’s Iraq war protest drew 3 million people.  Canada, to its credit, actually had people show up for some of its own, but in comparison, Chile had protests just as large just to reform their education system.  Not for people being killed, or fear for safety, or unjust government (though that is not unrelated), but just so middle- and lower-class people get fair access to education.

So rise up, Canada, show that election integrity needs to be protected, and that we won’t settle for anything less than the democratic best.  The Conservative government has done a few protest-worthy acts since it was granted a majority; we have to actually let them know that we won’t stand for it.

This goes for other issues as well.  Canadians need to show they care*, and in large enough numbers to make a difference. 300 is nothing.  Thirty thousand is something.

*Care was the first word that came to mind, and shows me that either my English is poor, or that it was the Canadian in me using a friendly- and nurturing-sounding word.  “Care about it” should be replaced with “Bloody well fucking demand it, because we wouldn’t want to live in a Canada without it”

That’s more like it.

Aesthetic Law

This post inspired by me travelling, and trying to take photographs without radio towers or utility wires ruining the shot.

In Toronto, the view of the provincial parliament building, Queen’s Park, from the south on University Avenue, is meant to be protected.   Sadly, a proposal to build condominiums to the north was approved.

Toronto already suffers from a lack of great buildings, and subpar aesthetic appeal.  We’ve been tearing down historic buildings, rather than preserve them, to make room for condos and office buildings, which could be integrated into those older buildings.  This was like the nail in the coffin.  We really do not care enough about the little history we have.

The best example of preservation I know of is in Paris, where the need for office development wasn’t ignored, but placed outside the historic city centre.  Wikipedia tells me that the same is true for Canary Wharf in London.   I also like the name, which sounds like they’ve defended their culture and history without sacrificing commercial growth.

Ugh, it was even worse to read that part of the reason the Ontario Liberals did nothing was because of Rob Ford’s then popularity and their own upcoming election.  Can’t people take the politics out of government now and then?

Ride for Jarvis

I attended the Ride for Jarvis this week, organized by the Toronto Bike Union.  I enjoyed taking part, and I believe the cause is worthy.  We cyclists are not even asking for more, we’re just asking not to lose what we have.  We don’t want Toronto to be taking steps backwards.

We should be getting more, but that isn’t even the point right now.  Claiming we need more space for cars, the bike lanes are being removed in favour of returning the reversible lane.  However, studies have shown that adding more roads or more lanes just means more cars fill that space (npr.org article which references a UToronto study).  Bike lanes might affect traffic, but you know what contributes even more to gridlock?  More cars.

The counterargument is that when the two cars at an intersection want to turn left and right, nobody can get through.  The fifth lane helped the busier direction by ensuring always at least one lane would flow.  Possible remedies: restrict left turns, or even right turns.  It would be nice if Toronto had more one-way streets, because then that happens automatically.  Anyway, the only reason this is even an issue is because Jarvis used to have that feature.  Driving on Yonge, or Queen, or College, you can often find the same problem.  Yes, it’s a nuisance, but that’s what driving downtown is like.

And for those who say Jarvis is “intended to” be a quick route downtown for those midtowners, via Mt. Pleasant, I say that the bigger traffic problems are on Mt. Pleasant itself.  The northbound afternoon rush is backed up from St. Clair all the way down to Roxborough (approx 1.7 km, with only one traffic light in that span).

I say “intended to” with quotation marks, because not only is that a debatable issue, but it seems ridiculous that roads are created for one specific purpose.  Shouldn’t they be multipurpose?  Connecting people and places, being an avenue for cars, streetcars, bikes and buses, being part of a neighbourhood or community or facilitating commerce, or just plain being beautiful (rather than barren).

This is an issue of fairness (we just want to share the road), and safety (bike lanes make streets safer for cyclists).  It just seems ridiculous to rescind what’s already been provided, at large cost in a year when the mayor is projecting a large shortfall (which is being used as a political tactic to push through right-wind ideology)

I wonder if it would be effective to organize similar events for lanes on Birchmount and Pharmacy.

More links:

Cycling as a women’s issue – Torontoist article

Toronto Bike Union – they organized the event

When will Canada grow up?

I’m curious about when Canada will cease to be a constitutional monarchy and become (I think) a republic?  It’s definitely some degree of ignorance on my part, but I don’t know what benefit we have from having the Queen as the head of state.  I’m guessing it’s just tradition.  But we’ve branched away from the UK, and it’s probably time to be fully independent.

I look forward to when we get to decide who will take the Queen’s place on all the coins, and the $20 bill.  The $20 would probably be another prime minister, but so many of the recent ones have been divisive (primarily east vs. west) so it might be hard to choose one.  Maybe Pearson for the peacekeeping, new flag, etc.?

For non-PMs, there are probably a lot of good choices for many different reasons:  de Champlain, Banting, Secord, Fox, Thomson, Gretzky, Bondar, Bell, and Tecumseh are a few that come to mind.  I would love for some famous Canadians to take the Queen’s place on our currency.

When might this happen?  I don’t think we’ll have our act together for when QE2 passes on.  If it happens by the bicentennial, well, better late than never.

CRTC follow-up

The CBC reported that the CRTC bill that would have allowed false and misleading news has been quashed.  Thankfully, news agencies are held to a higher standard than individuals, at the expense of free speech.
Programs that present sensationalized versions of events shouldn’t be called news.  The Daily Show and The Colbert Report are such examples.  They don’t claim to be news, which distinguishes them from Fox News and similar programming.

The difference can be illustrated with an old quotation (as I remember it).  Jon Stewart was talking with a couple of CNN newscasters, whom he criticized.  They fired back about some of the material he presents.  His retort: “You guys are on CNN.  I’m on Comedy Central.  The show that leads into mine is puppets making crank phone calls [Crank Yankers].”

Link: CBC

Suspect Timing: A CRTC Post

I have a suspicion that the CRTC’s timing on certain issues is following at least one political agenda…

One issue, the one that has received significant media attention, is about usage-based billing*.  Bell essentially wanted to take cell phone pricing and penalties and apply it to their DSL services.  What a nasty, underhanded way of treating your customers.  A new company comes along and offers a good deal that threatens your customer base, and rather than offering competitive prices or services, Bell decides that it’ll make up for lost revenue by increasing their prices.  Oh, and they want to penalize the start-up company.
The CRTC’s role in this was to propose to allow this new pricing scheme in law.

Thankfully, our docile little nation voiced enough outrage over this issue to get the government to notice us.  They told the CRTC, in no uncertain terms, to go to hell**.

Great, and the day is saved!  Oh, but there was another CRTC issue…
Yeah, the one about legalizing deliberately misleading news.
The law currently states that it’s illegal to broadcast/publish “any false or misleading news.”
The proposed change (slated to take effect September 2011) is that it would be illegal to broadcast/publish “any news that the licensee knows is false or misleading and that endangers or is likely to endanger the lives, health or safety of the public.”

So if someone wanted to contest a certain news piece in court, the onus would be on the prosecution to prove that the “news” endangers or is likely to endanger lives, health, or safety.  If that was not proven, there would be no case.  This would make it excruciatingly difficult to contest any news article, even if it was obviously false or misleading.
Such is the hope of Sun TV, which is launching its news network, nicknamed “Fox News North”, after the demonstratedly biased and misleading news network.

Unfortunately, the uproar over usage-based billing was so great, that everyone forgot about the “fair and balanced” news law.  From what I can tell, the UBB announcement came in October 2010, and the news law in January 2011, when most of the objection to UBB flared up.

Who wins here?  The right-wing media, when they take advantage of the ruling that seems tailored to their purposes.  Consequently, the political conservatives, whose ideologies would be promoted in the media.  Also note that the government tried a little to look like the “heroes” for saving the public from UBB, so that’s another reason to suspect the timing – there will likely be an election within a year, and possibly soon.

I’m scared for this country.

* Two parts: a) if an Internet user exceeds their ‘cap’ – say, 25GB/month – they pay huge penalties;  b) Internet companies that use Bell’s DSL lines (such as those which offer unlimited service) must also pay for extra usage
** Tony Clement said, “Reverse this decision or we’ll flex government muscle to do it anyway”

Link: petition to reverse the Misleading News ruling

Link: wikipedia article detailing the controversies surrounding Sun TV news

For fun:
Bizarro cartoon

Economic Opportunities for Youth

I made the following 3 suggestions to the Ontario Trillium Foundation in response to their question, “What would it take to transform economic opportunities for Ontario youth?”

1. Youth employment should match employment demand
Youth employment should provide experience in fields where demand for employees actually exists – so it is more likely to lead to job opportunities in the future.

2. Educate students and *parents* about the economy
Many parents believe that the only way for their child to succeed in life is to attend university, when in reality, unspecialized university degrees do little other than to provide entry-level employment. More promotion of college/apprenticeship programs would be useful. This should be done by grade 10 so students can plan ahead.

3. Universities should become more exclusive
Ontario has flooded the job market with too many young people with generic arts and science degrees. The employment demand for these people is very low and outlook is poor. Universities need to act less like for-profit corporations and more like facilities of education. Reduce the number of undergraduate spaces in generic programs, and kick out students who don’t take their education seriously. Maybe then a university degree could mean something again.

Link: Ontario Trillium Foundation – Future Fund

G8/G20 Summits

Other than the people renting their downtown condos at lucrative prices (that work out to $50/HOUR and up), I don’t know of anyone who’s happy about the G20 being hosted in Toronto. The inconvenience of the security, plus the social outrage at the nearly $1B cost of it all (the media have reminded us that the economy is still struggling its way up) – it’s just fuel to the fire of protest.

But I think given the circumstances, spending truckloads of money on security is money well spent. As bad as it is, I’m sure everyone would agree that the absolute worst thing that could happen would be a serious security breach.  And even one problem would be embarrassing for Canada. (side note: I’m very curious as to what that would mean for our various levels of government, and even how the public would react, etc)
No, spending $1 billion is fine, given the circumstances.

But the circumstances should be different. For one, it’s all nice and well that they chose Toronto to host the G20, but they could have been a lot smarter than choosing the downtown core. I won’t be the first to suggest here that Exhibition Place would have been a lot easier to fence off, not to mention at significantly less disruption (fewer major streets closed) and less cost (fewer checkpoints).
And weren’t they just going to host both summits in Huntsville anyway?
And are the world leaders really going to go out and enjoy the city?  No, they’ll be shepherded from hotels to meetings and barely see the light of day.
So because of the government’s tremendous lack of foresight that led them to choose the convention centre, spending $1 billion on security is (sadly) a good move. Now if only two wrongs made a right…