Bask in the Fordish wisdom:
Bask in the Fordish wisdom:
At this point, the news of Rob Ford openly breaking yet another Ontario law has made headlines from coast to coast.
This time around, Ford was caught on camera, driving on the Gardiner Expressway reading some printouts.
This is hardly the first time that His Illustrious Rotundness has been caught brazenly endangering others on the road, but it’s the first time that photographic evidence proves it. Not only that, but Ford doesn’t deny doing this and, in his casually wishy-washy way, pretty much admits to doing it outright in the media. And so what, he claims…he’s busy!
But if that wasn’t infuriating enough, Toronto Police have declared that, instead of charging Ford with the serious offense that careless driving is, that photographic evidence of him breaking the law isn’t enough (especially without witnesses).
So the cops have, once again, unilaterally decided that they are the arbiters of what laws apply to who, refusing to lay charges without even asking for witnesses to come forward (presumably there’s at least one — the person who took the picture), and are openly lying to the public by claiming that photo evidence isn’t enough to prove that someone is breaking the law, despite the fact that it seems to be good enough for the cops to drag people in front of courts when it comes to reg light cameras, photo radar, and protests (unless, of course, it’s their own people).
Additionally, the cops say that the mayor’s offense isn’t charge-worthy unless “there’s a pattern of behaviour”, a pattern that has now been clearly established, while they simultaneously lay charges on others breaking exactly the same laws in exactly the same way in a blitz barely two weeks old in which they insist that “impaired, distracted, and aggressive driving will not be tolerated”.
Even the cops’ flimsy excuse that this is Toronto and not Ontario jurisdiction is complete bullshit with Toronto Police themselves recently launching another rake-in-the-cash distracted driving campaign in which they had no problems laying charges against no less than 10,000 people.
And then, just to add insult to injury, Ford’s police chief buddy insists that the solution is for Ford to get a chauffeur (no doubt on the taxpayers’ dime), who doubles as security because it’s the mayor that needs protection from us!
” Scumbags” doesn’t even begin to cover it.
You could almost see the Bush-style “Mission Accomplished” banner waving behind the incomprehensibly obstinate Ford supporters at City Hall. “We did it!”, they scream, “we got a major campaign promise under our belt!”
Except that, at very best, at this point it’s only half true:
The City must put in place solutions to make waste collection reliable and affordable. Etobicoke, for example, uses contracted providers and saves the city $2 million each year. By adopting the same approach for the whole city, taxpayers will save about $20 million each year and can have the confidence their garbage collectors won’t go on unnecessary strikes.
Everything west of Yonge constitutes precisely half the city (both geographically and in the estimated savings), not the whole, so claiming 100% victory is like saying that Ford won the election with a majority of votes (in reality 47%)
What makes this “victory” especially laughable is that it was supposed to demonstrate the “efficiencies” and remarkable resilience that the private sector musters over city employees (the kind of statement repeatedly used in Ford’s campaign literature):
Garbage and other solid wastes must be collected on schedule, without fail. The strike during the summer of 2009 put the health of people and families in Toronto at risk.
The City must put in place solutions to make waste collection reliable and affordable.
Now that Rob Ford’s buddies at GFL have taken over garbage collection, what we’re seeing is the exact opposite of what Ford claimed:
Three days after a private company began collecting garbage between Yonge St. and the Humber River, its chief executive clashed with Mayor Rob Ford’s administration and the city’s waste chief over how long it should be forgiven for missing pickup deadlines.
It will take four to six weeks for Green for Life Environmental Corp. to start meeting the 6 p.m. daily deadline in its seven-year contract, said CEO Patrick Dovigi.
Six weeks is unacceptable, responded solid waste general manager Jim Harnum. The city will consider imposing financial penalties after four.
Funny that Dovigi should be saying this considering how much “research” he claims his company has invested in – 20 people for 10 weeks, to be precise — to ensure that it would be providing the most efficient services:
GFL submitted the lowest bid in Toronto’s tendering process, a testament to the company’s proven record as an efficient operator, its cost efficiencies realized from its existing Toronto infrastructure of three facilities and the efforts of its dedicated workforce.
“While some have questioned how GFL can deliver $78 million in savings to Toronto while providing residents with waste collection service as good as or better than they currently have, the fact is that we carried out extensive research prior to submitting our bid,” said Patrick Dovigi, President and CEO of GFL Environmental.
“The research we conducted prior to submitting our tender offer included analyzing the process of how the City collects waste, right down to observing the routes and operations that trucks use when on the streets,” said Dovigi. “The cost savings GFL has identified and efficiencies we bring to waste collection will result in service levels as good as or better than what people currently enjoy, at a lower cost to the City of Toronto.”
It’s not that people weren’t calling bullshit on this. In fact, questions were raised years ago, and another GFL “too good to be true” bid was rejected elsewhere in Ontario (after which GFL took out a full-page newspaper ad to express their disgust at being questioned by city council). Note how drastically even the estimated “savings” has jumped around; Ford initially claimed $20 million, then revised it to $8 million, while Dovigi puffed it up to $78 million. Today it sits somewhere around $11 million.
But none of this kept people like Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong from jumping the gun and announcing GFL had won the bidding process before anything was official. Yeah, that’s the same guy now expressing surprise at what he himself enthusiastically rammed through City Hall:
…Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, the public works committee chair and Ford’s point man on the garbage file, said he did not expect delays of such length.
“We didn’t hear any of these reasons and any of the excuses — all these things that occurred this week were not presented by GFL. They didn’t tell us that these delays would be occurring,” Minnan-Wong. “So I think the public is being very generous and understanding with a company coming in with new routes, and we all want them to succeed, but the patience and goodwill of the residents in District 2 is not limitless.”
It also didn’t stop people like GFL’s Dovigi conveniently ignoring his own crap about using a “dedicated workforce”:
In 2009, the Ontario Labour Relations Board presided over a case involving GFL subsidiary National Waste Services. After winning a contract to haul residential waste in Hamilton, the firm relied on a personnel agency to provide staff instead of hiring drivers and haulers directly. The practice came to light during a certification drive by the Canadian Auto Workers; the OLRB ruled in favour of the CAW.
And after all this, it’s not simply that GFL is running late in picking up garbage, it’s actually missing chunks of the city altogether. “Inefficiency” doesn’t even begin to cover it.
Beyond even this, all of Ford’s angry tirades about the unions failed to mention that Dovigi is CEO for the Ontario Waste Management Association which acts as both a powerful government lobby as well as a sort of union for collectivizing the efforts of private, for-profit waste management companies in Ontario:
All levels of government recognize the OWMA as the ‘voice’ of the private sector waste industry in Ontario. We monitor and assess regulatory and policy initiatives to determine their impact on the industry and on your business. We provide members with advance notice of new or changing government initiatives, and work proactively to ensure that such initiatives are justified, simple, and practical to implement.
I was strolling by the south-west corner of Nathan Phillips Square a couple of weeks ago when I noticed something was conspicuously missing:
I recalled that on this very spot used to stand a podium dedicated to free speech. But was it just some weird mixed-up memory that was bubbling up to the surface?
I searched the web and discovered that I had, in fact, been correct. The podium was called Speakers’ Corner:
Yeah, that’s the one! It was a podium guarded over by the ghost of Winston Churchill, dedicated to free speech and public expression.
Except that now, it’s gone. All that’s left is a slab of concrete where it used to stand. And to be honest, I don’t remember the last time I’d seen it there anyways.
I visited City Hall and asked the information desk about its whereabouts.
At first they had no clue what I was talking about — a podium? Speakers’ Corner? Oh, wasn’t that at the old Citytv building further west on Queen Street?
Nope, I replied. It was in front of the old statue of Churchill.
Ask security, said the woman behind the desk. Maybe it’s been temporarily moved because of the construction.
Okay, I suppose (even though it wasn’t near the fence).
The guy at the security desk also had equally little idea of what I was talking about. He called the boss and was told that the podium can be found at the south-east end of the Square.
Umm, actually, I think it had been moved from there, I replied. And besides, it’s definitely not there. Not south-west either.
The security guy shrugged his shoulders and said he had no idea. But maybe I could call the City of Toronto information line?
Okay, I’ll do that.
3-1-1 … hello?
The guy on the other end responded courteously.
“Hi. Just a quick question for you…I’m looking to find out what happened to Speakers’ Corner. It was a dais at the south-west corner of Nathan Phillips Square where people could go to speak their mind.”
“Oh, well if you want information about Citytv…”
“No, no, not that Speakers’ Corner. I’m talking about the lectern that used to sit in front of the Winston Churchill statue at the south end of the square. It had a plaque on it that read that it was provided by the city for the people of Toronto. Dedicated to free speech.”
“Hmm, I’ve never heard of it. You should try to contact the City Hall staff…”
“Oh, I already did. I spoke to the receptionist as well as to security. Neither of them had even heard of it.”
“Well, I suppose Marguerite Reid might know something about it. She’s the special events coordinator at City Hall.”
Special events? Didn’t seem like a special event. Still, I let the 311 guy connect me to her extension which landed me in her voice mail. It told me that she’ll be on vacation until the 13th of August, at which point I have no doubt that she’ll try to refer me to Citytv to discover what happened to their vaunted corner.
Essentially, the tiny section of City Hall set aside for citizens to voice their opinions and express their free speech disappeared, and no one noticed. In fact, few people even remember it.
Okay, yeah, it might not have gotten much use over the years that it had been there, but then again no one “uses” the statue of Churchill just behind where it stood either. Yet the statue remains while the podium, a symbol of citizen freedoms, was quietly removed. And yeah, it’s fair to say that it was mostly symbolic. In the same way, the Canadian flag is merely a symbol of the country, even if it doesn’t really do anything. It could just as easily be replaced with something like a twisted Swastika or a sickle and hammer. A few years down the road, would anyone even remember what Canada had been?
I was planning on going down to Caribana today but the heat and humidity were so oppressive, I thought better of it early on.
And that wasn’t the only thing that was oppressive:
Police, volunteers and private security guarded entrances to the Scotiabank Caribbean Carnival, patting people down and searching bags before they entered.
A network of barricades and fences kept the public back from the dancers with glitter-dusted skin and colourful headdresses as they made their way down Toronto’s Lakeshore Blvd.
“There’s so much fences that I can’t hardly see anything,” said Ann James, a nurse from Bloomfield, CT., who was trying to find her way to the end of the parade route.
Pat downs? I thought there weren’t going to be any pat downs! And I thought they were supposed to be reserved only for the saps in the bleachers … you know, all the lowlife criminal scrum like families and the elderly that attend the parade.
And now that I think about it, I’m certain that I mentioned that this was going to turn out to basically be security theatre intended to intimidate the general public.
And now, having mentioning these things (and incidents involving police acting as simply armed thugs, not enforcers of the law), I’m sad to report that they happened last night and today exactly as I predicted.
In fact, Sarah and I decided to go out for some chicken wings in the evening and I don’t remember seeing such a ridiculous number of cops on the streets since the G20. There were cops from all over; Peel Region, Waterloo, Halton. And they were parading around in gaggles of anywhere from four to ten at intervals of — and I’m not exaggerating in any way — every single block around the city core. At times there were more cops than pedestrians.
And I can’t tell you the number of parking enforcement cops that simply strolled by cars parked in front of fire hydrants and blocking intersections, right in front of our wing place, no more than a meter away from us and clearly visible through a huge glass pane window. To put it another way, the police weren’t enforcing the law, they were out to make sure we all saw their presence.
You may, at this point, be wondering if the word “despotism” was accurate in the title of this post. After all, it’s a pretty weighty word with lots of nasty connotations. Well, how about we let Encyclopedia Britannica explain (and while you watch, keep the banking bailouts, growing disparity between rich and poor, government censorship and gagging, and the near dictatorial pronouncements and oppressive, repressive laws and practices coming from both down south and here from Harper’s Canada, in the back of your mind):