Bell needs parking more than cyclists need safety, and the City of Toronto agrees

(This is a roughly edited version of a letter I sent to Councillor Joe Cressy, Mayor Tory, and Film Toronto about Bell Media closing down one of the few bike lanes in the downtown core so they would have a convenient spot to park. Cressy, my very own councillor, acted with speed & efficiency rarely seen in government to get it re-opened before the end of the day.)

Bike lanes, like any other piece of infrastructure, must sometimes be closed. But Richmond is the only westbound bicycle lane between College street and Queens Quay. To many cyclists, the bike lane is the only thing that makes it a bike-friendly route, given the high speeds of many drivers. This is a central route for cyclists such as myself for travelling to work in the downtown area, and it should be closed only when there are no other options – and this was clearly not the case. It’s important to find out how and why this happened, and make sure it doesn’t happen again.

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Career Politician John Tory criticizes Olivia Chow for being a Career Politician

In his latest press release, Mayoral candidate Jonn Tory takes aim at Olivia Chow’s history of spending money as a politician. Matt Elliott took a good look at the accuracy of those claims, but the one thing that stood out in Tory’s release is the dreaded accusation that Olivia Chow is a Career Politician.

“Toronto needs a mayor with experience, fiscal common sense, and restraint – not a career politician who has been living off the public purse for three decades.”

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Stop taking pictures with Rob Ford

It’s not just about being a fat stupid drunk.

We all know Rob Ford is ridiculous. At his best, he mixes simplistic catch phrases with incoherent bluster until he turns red in the face. One might think he was drunk or high most of the time, until he shows up in public demonstrating what a drunk Rob Ford really looks like. There was also that time he got so drunk he accidentally smoked crack.

And so we have the Crack Mayor, the godsend to late-night talk show hosts, who says and does things that politicians simply don’t do. He appears on Jimmy Kimmel, and people crowd around him to take his picture wherever he goes. Some people even take pictures of their kids with Rob Ford. Some of those people are probably true supporters, while others are doing it out of irony or celebrity spotting. Either way, they should stop.

If he were merely a buffoon, if he were only a stupid rich man pretending to be mayor, then it might be okay. But there’s so much more to Rob Ford than the crack mayor who has plenty to eat at home.  Continue reading →

The Olympic Torch Relay is Decadent and Depraved

They stood along the side of Yonge Street like idle panhandlers who forgot to keep their palms extended. The crowds are sparse south of Dundas, with people gathered in small groups, staking out prime sidewalk real estate. The streets are washed with the glow of streetlights, Christmas decorations, and neon signs that flash brighter and more erratically as you travel north. The Cannon Theatre looks a little classy, and the Eaton Centre stands as a surprising beacon of good taste amidst dollar stores, bargain-basement electronics depots, and sexual paraphernalia outlets. Video billboards take over the landscape as you near Yonge-Dundas square; I pass one that’s promoting either perfume or softcore pornography.

It may seem a strange location for the Olympic Torch relay, but it couldn’t be more fitting.

I should have known something was up as I passed Nathan Phillips Square, which held more people and police than on most nights. The crowds on Yonge revived my memory: The Torch was passing through Toronto. And while my initial reaction to the news had been one of casual indifference, seeing the event in action was something else completely.

It’s not like I’m opposed to the Olympics. I like sports, generally, and think people who slide down an icy chute at 100 km/hr on a skateboard are pretty cool. I understand, and even agree with, the issues some people have with the Olympics, but it’s not something I feel terribly strongly about.

I don’t even mind Yonge Street that much. It’s gross and tacky and usually pretty dirty, but, hey, it’s Toronto. I love my city. It’s still better than Scarborough.

But sometimes, things just come together in a way that makes you want to throw up. It probably doesn’t help that it feels like I’ve been hearing about the Vancouver Olympics for most of my life; while regular Olympic hype can be overwhelming, Olympic hype in the host country is even more omnipresent. I have immense respect for athletes who train for their entire lives to become the best in the world at a sport, but considerably less interest in listening to their reminiscences of childhood or their favourite hats as someone else tries to sell me a savings account or a new pair of shoes.

So I was already prepared to be sick of the torch. The torchbearers didn’t exactly help: Ivan and Jason Reitman. Bollywood star Akshay Kumar. I’m a big fan of the Reitmans’ work – Ghostbusters and Juno alone earn them my respect – but neither one conjures thoughts of Olympic competition. They’ve never even made a sports movie, let alone competed in anything. At least they’re more-or-less Canadian; I don’t know what Kumar has to do with anything, other than attracting crowds. Karen Kain probably makes sense, given that she was probably as athletic in her prime as most Olympic athletes.

Maybe I’m not cynical enough. Maybe it’s ridiculous that I think of the Olympics as anything more than a marketing extravaganza, an orgy of branding, product placement, and real estate development. Maybe I miss being a kid – I remember the 1988 Olympics in Calgary, how exciting it was, how I didn’t have the experience or sense to think about all the political and commercial factors.

But I like my dreams, my ideals, my optimism. I like the idea of the Olympics as a great sporting event, a time for people from all across the world to come together and celebrate the best athletes in the world.

Watching crowds gather in the artificial glow of electronic billboards to see a Hollywood director run down the street carrying a flaming cola advertisement is a good way to have your optimism punched in the face.