Saturday, December 24, 2005

Why The Arctic?

Why are we all so dog gone fired up about Canada's sovereignty over the Arctic?
I've been to Yellowknife, which kinda reminded me of Minto, New Bruswick without trees. Was nothing real special. And I know there's herds of walruses up there, but I've never heard of a real good use for wallruses (or is that wallrae). Do we still slaughter them to make girdles? Fewer and fewer caribou all the time up there from what I hear. And Han Island, my God its not even big enough to build a golf course on. I hear there’s lots of ice up there too, but again supposedly less and less all the time. I know those icebergs look kinda pretty but I wouldn't wanta own or bump into one. And I'm willing to settle for a picture of the big white things rather than enumerate them to see if there are any chilly souls who want to vote in the election.
And I understand that there are people who live in the arctic that we claim to be Canadian. As far as I know, they don't care about Canada one way or the other except that there has been all kinds of trouble and problems brought their way by their connection with us.
I know that the way it is now we gotta provide RCMP, CBC and all the other government services all over the place up there, when I get blessed few here in Toronto. Have ta keep sendin up troops who haveta keep puttin up flags when they blow over. Must cost a lot to do this.
I suppose it’s about the oil and diamonds, maybe the water. But I don’t see any more Canadians wearing diamonds since they discovered them up there, and God help us if we end up having to keep our cars running on oil drilled from under a hundred feet of ice.
And I know that they’re talking about the Northwest Passage again (comes up every hundred and thirty years or so) but I don’t see us needing it any time soon. We got Canada Post, Via Rail and Air Canada.
So, let’s give it up. Maybe sell it if someone wants to pay us a fair price. We ain’t doin nothin useful with it. I’m not one of them who thinks its “cool” to be a northern people. I think it’s hard to be “cool” when your teeth are chatterin’ and knees are knockin’. Maybe we can swing a trade for Hawaii.
Now that would be cool.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Globe Columnist Says 'Whole Lot' of Seats for Harper

Larry Martin on Duffy's show tonite said that not only will Harper's release of his Quebec Strategy possibly result in the Liberals losing a few more seats, but if the trend continues that Harper might win a whole lot of seats in Quebec.

He also expressed the opinion that there is big momentum for the Tories in Ontario that the polls haven't picked up on yet.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Welcome to Parlsylvania

Am I the only one who has noticed an eerie resemblance of the actors in the creep show that has become the Liberal Party of Canada to cast members in a vampire movie? Maybe a Lon Chaney picture or even worse, Rocky Horror Picture Show, or worse still, Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

I apologize for making such a cheap and obvious comparison, what with the entire cast of this reality flick drinking our blood and picking their teeth with our bones. But, the resemblance goes well beyond metaphoric standards. These folks really look and act like a cast from a 50’s B movie, with the Peace Tower serving as a suitable gothic stage.

Wild-eyed Tony Valeri, the Liberal House Leader, appears straight from the vampire digest; slightly graying slicked-back hair and a toofie grin that appears ready to expose fangs at any moment. Sort of George Hamilton in “Love at First Bite”, but without all the plastic surgery.

And no one in any fangs film has ever been better cast than Anne McLellan as a shrieking banshee. Has anyone ever seen her in front of a mirror?

I can’t help but picture Scott Bryson as Eddie Munster: cute, friendly, and pint-sized, but behind that cunning smile are little canines just emerging from the gums. Very scary.

Paul Martin would be a great Frank N Furter, but frankly, the thought of the PM in fishnets is far too terrifying to imagine. Given his seeming harmlessness and frequent bumbling, I think he’s a better Count Floyd from SCTV.

And of course, we need to include Belinda. Fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer will well remember the episode when she went over to the dark side. Shortly after this, the show was cancelled.

Up against this monsters’ gallery is Stephen Harper as Van Helsing, committed to their destruction; a cross in hand to keep them at bay, staring them down with ice-blue eyes, equipped with a quiver full of pine stakes and a bandolier of silver bullets.

All of the vampire movies I ever went to had a happy ending. I wonder if this one will. But of course what’s happy for the vampires ain’t happy for the townspeople.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Ranting Against Toronto Streetcars

This is no more or less than a rant, came upon a few days ago while following a streetcar, stopping at every corner on Queen St. in the middle of a dozen or two
of my fellow car people; seeing a ten minute spin turn into a 40 minute voyage. Getting behind not one or two, but six (count'em) streetcars in a row.
Not for the first time.
Streetcars are terrible forms of transportation. They even hold up other streetcars. They are inflexible, noisy, require huge maintenance costs, and, in this city, often go from nowhere (i.e. Maple Leaf Gardens soon to be a Loblaws) to nowhere (i.e. High Park, which is well served now by subway).
And, these Victorian-era dinosaurs trade diesel-fume smog for coal-fueled-turbine smog. No environmental benefit there, Dave (Miller or Suzuki).
Plus, they make cars spew whatever they spew for longer periods of time (although modern ones are quite environmentally friendly). But our city is in the middle of making an even greater commitment to these anachronisms.
But today my focus is not only on streetcars, not even on the whole darn family of public transportation vehicles, but rather, the system in which they exist.
Admirably there are about 500,000 people using our public system every day - assuming return trips. But this is out of 2.5 million Torontonians and includes a pile of folks from outside the city who use the system and the numbers represent a relatively insignificant number of users compared to the amount of personal transportation conducted.
I (and the other 3 or 4 million non-transit-users in the GTA ) would complain a lot less about public transportation in Toronto if it were anything resembling an efficient form of getting from somewhere to somewhere else.
Fifty years ago the Toronto subway was established to funnel nearby suburbanites from Rosedale to Union Station. Now, we have a system that tries to do the same thing for far away suburbanites, despite the fact that only a small share of the GTA labour pool works downtown; of the 2.5 million people who work in the GTA, only about 600,000 work in the old city of Toronto. Almost as many people from Scarborough work in Mississauga as there are that work downtown. And for that matter, lotsa downtown livers work out in the burbs. And a similar number of Mister and Mississaugans work in Markham or North York. Check out the 401 any day.
Short of creating a home exchange between families to get them to live closer to where they work, what about a solution for other 84% of us? We don't hate public transit, we just hate that it doesn't allow us to get anywhere we need to go. If it were any good we'd use it. Might even come to like it.
All we need to catch a ride to this transit utopia is commitment. Our transit idea people already have the solutions developed, they just lack the commitment of their political overlords to put their ideas in place. So what if it costs 10 or 15 billion dollars; we are either committed to a public transit solution or not.
We should reopen the challenge to public leaders to find the answer today: figure out the costs, get federal money (we are the only major city in North America that doesn't receive federal funding for our public transit), confirm funding from air rights and development charges, study privatization options, figure out the extra taxes generated, the savings from the Front Street Extension and other road developments, the economic development benefits, and just do it.
But our political leaders hate taking a real stand on anything, they just like to pretend they do or focus all their political energy on pissant projects that don't get anybody, anywhere (metaphorically speaking). Let's push them along, now.
The sooner we start, the sooner we'll get it done. Maybe by the time our baby boomers have to get out of their cars anyway.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

An Open Letter to Mayor David Miller

Mayor David Miller
Toronto City Hall
100 Queen Street West
Toronto ON M5H 2N2

Dear Mayor Miller:
I attach an invoice in the amount of $126 for the engagement of a private firm to remove my garbage when City Works failed to do so during the past two collection periods. I look forward to receipt of this amount as soon as is possible, but certainly within 60 days, after which it will be referred to a collection agency.

Note that I am not charging you for time spent in sorting and wrapping my garbage, nor storage for the 4 weeks that much of it sat in the back yard. I am pleased to inform that the private firm I hired did an excellent job: they offered to sort my recycling in the future, picked up all the scraps, even brushed off the sidewalk.

Please also accept this as my formal notice to "opt out" of municipal services, just as City Works and other agencies have opted out of providing them. Obviously, I will no longer be using city garbage services in this new arrangement.

As far as Police Services, I have taken advantage of this service many times over the past, indeed, every time I have overstayed my paid parking period by a few minutes. However, I prefer to no longer call upon this well delivered municipal service. As well, in past occasions that I have had property stolen or damaged nothing was ever done to serve or protect. And in looking at the 21 shootings in the last two weeks in the city, it seems to me that Police Services has chosen to opt out of providing public safety services, so I have a need no longer for these. I have good locks and excellent insurance.

I do not use hostels, or any other social programs, however, do contribute generously to a number of charities that seem to achieve good success at helping people with needs. I do not use Transit, as it is slow and dirty and doesn't go to any place to which I need to travel. I appreciate that I will continue to use City-owned roads, however, it seems to me that the city has opted out of maintaining them, even though I contribute large sums by way of gas tax which I understood was to be used for this purpose.

With the utility's opting out of the reliable provision of electrical power, I am currently exploring my options relative to a generator, however, will continue to pay hydro bills as they are received. I will keep in touch on my progress on this matter.

I promise that I will no longer use city-regulated services - no more hot dogs from vendors and no more taxi rides. If required under this opting out arrangement I will install a septic or chemical system of some sort in lieu of using city sewers. I will continue to pay water bills, but will use bottled water at every opportunity.

During my frequent travels, I will aggressively promote Toronto as a destination for Tourism, and smile at every person I see in my neighbourhood in cargo shorts that appears lost. I will not apply for City Grants (not that I would qualify anyway).

When I was parenting a child, school board employees opted to go on strike and we opted to use the private school system from then on. It worked fine and I have no need for public educational services.

I am very careful with open flames and am well insured against fire damage, so will not call upon Fire Services in the rare event it might be needed. I will gladly pay full market price for any other emergency services that might be necessary.

Unhappily, by opting out of the Ferry Service, I will no longer be able to visit Toronto Islands, as a bridge I had counted on was not constructed. So I guess I'll have to settle for recreating on Harbourfront (oops, I forgot the governments have opted out of making these user friendly).

I appreciate your acceptance of my decision to opt out of using municipal services and look forward to discussions with your financial authorities to determine what credits might accrue to my account.

Thanks for your help. I remain,

Sincerely yours,