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Goodbye Robin.

August 12, 2014

Robin Williams has always been a part of my life. One of the earliest proper TV shows I remember watching was Mork and Mindy, about a strange guy with a name like mine who happened to be an alien and was just trying to figure out how this crazy world and the people in it worked. He was sincere and silly and hopeful all at once, and that was ok. I haven’t seen nearly all his movies but he made an impact in me which so many roles over the years in Good Morning Vietnam, Dead Poets Society, Awakenings, Mrs. Doubtfire, Aladdin and even Peter Pan. The roles he chose and the performances he gave provided humanity and pointed us to what is truly important in life.

I actually saw him once. It was when I was in university, sitting on the steps inside the Eaton Centre for some reason, waiting for someone I suppose. It was during the Toronto Film Festival so it wasn’t strange to see actors but there he was, Robin Williams, in a full scruffy beard, walking across the second floor by the elevators with four bags of shopping. A young couple stopped in front of him and said hello, asking for an autograph. He smiled, put down his bags and shook their hands. He chatted for a minute, signed their paper and moved on. Part of me wanted to run up and tell him how awesome he was. But, he was just a normal person trying to get through his day. Just seeing him that way made me feel I knew just a little bit better.

He was weird and funny and torn and broken and totally brilliant, like all the good ones are. He could never be anything but himself, even when it made people uncomfortable. We can all learn from that. He was a light in the darkness even though the darkness overwhelmed him in the end. The world will be quieter and less weird without him, and that’s a bad thing.

Nanu nanu Robin.

Toronto Is More Than The Core

June 28, 2014

Marcus Gee makes a nice attempt at an ode to Toronto as opposed to the idea of Ford Nation: “Toronto isn’t Rob Ford. Toronto is more than that”. Unfortunately, I think he missed the point of why there is dissatisfaction in some parts of the city. All his anecdotes refer to The Core of the city. It’s mostly south of College and all south of Bloor. Toronto is more than Ford Nation, true, but it is also so much more than the Core. Let me tell you about my Toronto.

Toronto is getting pizza and Tim Hortons at St Claire and Dufferin. Toronto is getting a Jamaican beef patty on a fresh portuguese bun at Eglinton and Oakwood. Toronto is getting congee rice porridge in North Scarborough and then going to Walmart for some shopping. Toronto is getting fresh polish sausages and halal lamb skewers in Etobicoke to BBQ on the balcony of your high-rise apartment.

Toronto is massive shopping malls outside the Core: Yorkdale, Scarborough Town, Dufferin Mall, Centrepoint, Fairview. Places where families get their shopping done. Places where teens learn to build their own community as they go to movies and roam the stores. Places where so many people work day in day out, 364 days a year. Some malls, like Fairview, provide a transit hub and essential services needed to support huge clusters of apartment buildings nearby. Other malls, like Yorkdale, become places to push the limit of consumerism without worrying about affordability. Both have their place in this town.

Toronto is also a place of small malls and strip malls that bind communities. Jane Park, West Side Mall, North Park, Agincourt Mall and dozens of others I don’t know. Places you’ve probably never heard of or visited unless you live in that community. They are part of the identity of this city of neighbourhoods outside the Core. They are the places where people shop in No Frills and Walmart; where people meet and chat doing groceries; where seniors meet in a coffee shop where everyone knows their name.

Toronto is the quiet sea of bungalows throughout midtown, full of tiny parks and where a tiny corner store is hidden far from any major road. These neighbourhoods are where the whole world lives side by side, where whole neighbourhoods will light fireworks on Canada Day in local school yards.

Toronto is a town of many colleges and three huge universities. UofT sits as an island of new and old, a universe of world class learning and research floating in the centre of the city and in growing campuses in Scarborough and Mississauga. YorkU sits on the edge of the world, crossed by power lines and bordered by oil storage and highways; a community built on melding Art, Science and Knowledge into a cohesive whole. Meanwhile Ryerson grows, relentlessly, just a bit off-centre in the old Core, charting a new way forward through technology and design.

Toronto is a morning ride on crowded buses and subways where absolutely everyone is a minority, and everyone respects the space of others and the hard commute they go through every day. Toronto is also commuter’s traveling beyond the city. It is the transit hubs at Union, Yorkdale, York University, Finch Station and others. Where people step every day off their TTC bus or subway and get onto another bus or train run by VIA, GO, YRT or others to continue the long journey home. This too is Toronto, it is the orbit of our great city, and it cannot be great without all its neighbours like Markham, Richmond Hill, Brampton, Mississauga.

Toronto is the Belt-Line trail, a running path tracing an old commuter rail that stretches from working class old York through the back yards of Forest Hill, across uptown and into the great Mount Pleasant cemetery down to the Don Valley.

Toronto is more than the Gardiner and the Don Valley. Toronto is the 401, Allen Parkway, Black Creek Drive and all the ramps and roads that feed into the highway universe that is so essential to this city. People live in the shadows and view of those highways and never see the crumbling Gardiner at all.

Finally, Toronto is not just a city of neighbourhoods, it is a city if cities. People still identify as living in Scarborough, Etobicoke, North York and even tiny York(represent!) and East York. They are also Torontonians, a duality of identity within the city. One that hurts when the very real wonders of The Core are the beginning and end of anyone’s description of the city.

Toronto is so much more than the Core or the car centric suburbs. But that is just my Toronto. What is your Toronto?


The Freedom of MPs

May 27, 2014

Andrew Coyne isn’t always great, but when he’s great, he’s great. Spot on here.

Andrew Coyne: Trudeau helps the cause of democratic reform (by not pursuing it)

MPs should be free to vote as they wish at least in theory. In practice they will often vote with their party, that’s why they’re in the party. But whipping votes and party lines merely insure that all issues are simplified down to two or three simple points of view. Life’s more complicated than that. There are only 308 people in parliament for the whole country, surely we can handle them each making their own decisions.

Marois: It’s not a priority for me to break up the country…right now.

March 22, 2014

Image from the Canadian PressSo Pauline Marois wants to focus on issues other than a referendum on breaking up Canada.

“It’s not a priority for Quebecers at the moment and it’s not my priority either. Our priority is to reinforce Quebec, reinforce it in all areas, reinforce the economy and adopt a charter.” -Pauline Marois

“At the moment” … so it’s on the table then.

Therefore, it’s a valid thing for people to be obsessed with. It’s not a small thing. It’s not something you can just try out when you feel the time is right. It’s about the fundamental nature of our country, all 10 provinces and 3 territories of it.

You are essentially saying :

‘It’s not a priority for me right now to break up the country. But maybe later if I think enough people want it. Just don’t worry about it, it’ll be fine. I’ll only try to break up the country if I think people want to.’  – What Pauline Marois means to say

But. What. If. People. Don’t. Want. That. At. All?

The safest, logical, course is to simply not elect you in the first place.

If you can’t get elected proudly proclaiming that you want to have a referendum, then don’t try to hold that possibility in reserve for later. It’s called a mandate. If you think you can get a mandate for your handling of the economy and instituting a mildly racist charter that targets minority religious groups in your province in favour of the white Judeo-Christian majority…ahem…then focus on that and promise there will be no referendum before another election. Or could you not get elected if you said that either? Tricky.


Mayor Rob Ford The Time Traveller

November 5, 2013

Rob Ford spoke to the media twice today, twice!

The first time he admitted that yes, he had in fact smoked crack in the past but he doesn’t really remember it (which is why he wants to see that video).

The second appearance seemed on the surface to be innocuous, it was just a statement with no questions where he said “sorry” a lot, and I mean a lot. He didn’t specify for what exactly he was apologizing but from his past statements we can only assume it is for (a) drinking too much, or as he calls it “getting hammered” (b) smoking crack (c) getting caught doing (a) and (b). Of course lots of people are also pretty angry about his (d) habitual lying about (a-c) and other things (e) his absolutely viscous attacks on journalists who correctly reported many of these things and thus were doing their job very well and (f) other stuff, just google it.

However, in this second speech he made one particularly impassioned comment which I think people will overlook but which has truly cosmic importance. It began by him saying:

“I’d do anything, anything…”

Now perfect completions of this sentence include:

  • “…to make up for what I’ve done to those who put their trust in me. And that’s why I’m going to resign.”
  • “…to make this city a better place. And that’s why I’m resigning as Mayor and I will let the people of Toronto decide if I should be Mayor in the next election.”
  • “…to heal the damage I’ve done to the city. And that’s why I’m resigning from politics forever and moving to Iqaluit.”

As you might have heard, he didn’t go with any of those. Here’s how he chose to finish that sentence:

“…to change the past.”

Really? You’re expending all that sincerity on how much you’d like to change the past? Is that something you’re close to being able to do? If so then this is much worse a claim than even he probably realizes. You see, his smoking crack that fateful day is now a fixed point in time. So many people know about it and have seen evidence of it that there is no way it could have failed to happen. Even if the mayor had the ability to change the past in principle he wouldn’t be able to change that event. River Song tried doing just that and look what happened (careful, spoilers!)….




…she almost destroyed the entire universe and Time itself. But the mayor says he would be willing to anything to change the past. So we must assume that includes destroying the universe.

Rob Ford, you arrogance truly knows no bounds. Or maybe you just don’t watch Doctor Who, I don’t know, either way it’s a horrible character flaw.

Rob Ford’s Apology and Promise to Continue is Unacceptable

November 3, 2013

Mayor Rob Ford has apologized sincerely for something , he won’t say what. He then spends part of the rest of his Sunday radio show attacking the media and his opponents who keep hounding him…despite the fact that what they were hounding him for seems to be true. He says “no one will want to get into politics” after this kind of thing. Isn’t that his fault? He’s hurting our democracy by playing to the “politics is a pointless game” idea.

Some Context

The Mayor of Toronto is the elected leader of the largest city in the country; it’s the position which gets the single largest number of votes of any office in the country including the Prime Minister since federal ridings are only around 100,000 voters and the mayor is vote for by all Torontonians (around 800,000 people voted in the last election)

He won the election outright, gaining 47% of the vote with the next candidates getting 35% and 11% respectively, both much more centrist or left leaning candidates. So, while he definitely won the election, beware of anyone who says a majority of Torontonians elected him, most of those 53% of voters did not want him to win. So shouldn’t he have some sense of representation of that majority as well?

He’s Hurting Our Democracy

For leader of this great city to sit there and say that politics is dirty, that you won’t get a fair shake is the media don’t like you, that it’s all run by the elites, that hurts everyone. It discourages people from running for office, it discourages people from voting. Rob Ford has no respect for democracy or for the city he thinks he is helping so much.

His Policies

He’s so focussed on saving pennies here and there, on fighting the wrongs which conflict his common sense, that he doesn’t look at the bigger picture. He’s tearing the city apart, pitting downtown against suburb, drivers against bicyclists, and brother against brother. He’s also hurting the image of Toronto around the world. Wherever I go now and say I’m from Toronto the conversation inevitably turn immediately to Rob Ford and the crack video. That’s not how I want to be talking about my hometown. Rob Ford and his brother seems to assume that only some people really know what is right and everyone else is not just wrong but vindictive and out to get him. Well, people can just disagree, and you can actually be wrong about what is best for the city.

My Opinion

I don’t think the mayor of a Canadian city should smoke crack. If he did he should resign. I also don’t think he should wander the streets blindingly drunk, if he does, he should apologize and consider resigning. I also don’t think they should lie about any of these activities to the media and attack journalists for doing their job as “out to get him”. This is especially abhorrent if they turn out to be right! People complain about convicting someone with a trial and the “court of public opinion”. For a politician the court of public opinion is the only court that matters, it’s the electorate that hires and can fire you. If you it is clear you have broken your promise they hired you on, you should have the decency, even feel the obligation, to resign and ask them again for their support. The Mayor and his supporters say “everyone makes mistakes”. Yes, they do, and if they make them over and over and lie about and attack those who call them out on it what do you do with a person like that? Elected politicians need to be held to a higher standard, they represent us in the interests of society.

The Mayor of Toronto should resign. Now.

If he really wants the people of Toronto to give him another chance then he should run for Mayor next year, as he has promised and let the electorate resign. Saying sorry and then saying you’ll “fight like never before” isn’t the right answer. What are you fighting? Truth? The Media? The people of Toronto who are disappointed in you? Why are you fighting Rob?
Maybe it’s time you just stop, for your own good and for the good of the city you claim to love so much.

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Conservative Party Does Not Believe in Equality of Voters

November 2, 2013

This fascinating and scary post just showed up on the FairVote Canada Facebook page:

FairVote Facebook

The Conservative version of equality. Bigger picture below.

A couple of things to notice here and I’ll just leave it at that.

They’re Worried

The Conservative party is worried about what the NDP and Green Party have to say about reforming our democracy. They are scared of PR and Elizabeth May and the NDP. They are scared that Canadians will finally say yes to staring to improve our unfair system.

Ridings, Not Voters

“Our country was founded on the equality of riding first and foremost.”

Gee, I thought it was the voters who were equal. Why do we care about ridings being equal? If every single person in the country has the same power to affect the process of governance in Ottawa, surely that is what we want. Apparently not.

Equality = Majority

Somebody should make buttons with Stephen Harper saying this. Notice the “Equality = Majority” and “Say yes to future strong, stable majority conservative governments”. This shows that the Conservative Party has made a calculation that the only way they can hold on to majority rule is to maintain the current system. The current system weights riding equally, that is true. But it does not weight voters equally. 39% of voters supported the Conservatives last election and they were rewarded with complete, untrammeled power. The weight that a voter has in determining what happens in Ottawa is not only due to population and rules about smaller provinces having more seats. The weight of a voters in a non-competitive riding where they are in the minority is effectively zero.  When a riding is split more than two ways all the votes for smaller parties are wasted. There is nothing about proportional representation which would cause one riding or region to have more votes than another. What PR would do is remove the current inequality between voters who have different impact depending on the largest voice in their riding.

Conservative Voting Rules

Let’s see that poster more closely shall we? This is a flyer being distributed at the current Conservative convention. Care of FairVote Canada. Click to zoom in.

With a fair, more proportional system every voter would have a chance to have a voice even if they  were surrounded by a majority against them. This goes for Conservatives in Quebec just as much as it does for NDP and Liberals in Alberta or Greens in most ridings.

What matters is that every voter has a voice, that every vote matters. The ridings are only important if you are counting your pieces of the pie and worrying that it might be split more evenly in the future. The only one who worries about that is the one who knows he is getting too much pie. And right now, the only one in that situation is the Conservative Party.



Following discussion in the comments I whipped up this image for the counterargument I think people need to make against this approach by the Conservatives. Feel free to use this image as you wish. (Click on the image for the png file. Click here for a pdf : votingfairness.pdf)

Equality of Voters = FAIRNESS

Equality of Voters = FAIRNESS

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