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Canada Day – Celebrate?

I’ve been quiet for a bit. Unfortunate illness took hold. While I was a victim of the OHIP mess a lot happened. C38 passed, our blessed mayor continued to do absolutely nothing for 168,000 dollars a year, Elliot Lake showed us rather succinctly what C38 will do to us, the mayor decided he was far more important than the law and jeopardized the lives of a streetcar full of people. I could go on and on. What the fuck is happening to our country? Granted it appears that people are waking up but it’s too slow people. We should be mirroring the behavior of the Quebec students. We should be banging pots and pans as loud and as long as we can. It is time for Civil Disobedience in the tradition of the fine gentlemen who started the American Revolution. Though, I will admit, they are probably rolling in their graves at the state of the country they founded.

Yesterday my wise father pointed out to me that in the time of Pearson or Dief or especially Trudeau. A Cabinet Minister like McKay or Kenney or especially Ms. Oda would have been fired point-blank within 24 hours of the start of a scandal. Just, straight up, hand over the keys to the limo and scram. Our current not so benevolent dictator seems to support this debauchery to the point that they just get bolder and bolder with their actions. Why are we tolerating this? This man is making a mockery of all that Canada has stood for since the days of Confederation. My God, he’s even allowing U.S. law enforcement to operate unimpeded within our borders!

The leader of this fine country of ours is still the Queen. I know that many object to this but it could play into our hands right now. She is the only one with the power to recall a Prime Minister. Would she do it? It would take some mighty big action. What if a real, hard paper, petition were drawn up? Not a computer petition, they are not legally recognized. Perhaps one you could down load, sign, and mail. What if a hell of a lot of Canadians signed it? Say more than voted for him. Say a majority of Canadians. What if that petition was delivered to the Queen through the Governor General? What if ??? Think about that.

We pay a lot of taxes in this country. We pay them because a long time ago we decided to be a Social Democracy. We pay those taxes to the Government so that they can provide us with the Social Services a social democracy is supposed to do. Like Universal Healthcare and welfare and old age pensions and ……. We seem to have forgotten this. These services are all half what they once were, with thousands of people falling through the cracks. Our government has become very enamored of expensive fighter jets we don’t need, corporate lobbiers who are up to who knows what, election fraud no one wants to do anything about. What the hell?

This is not the Canada I was born into. The Canada of Vimy Ridge and Paschendale. The Canada of Lester Pearson and Tommy Douglas. Everyone used to know how we fought like bandits in two world wars. We were the true heroes of D Day, did you know that? We were the peace keepers the world looked to first. Lester Pearson won the Nobel peace prize for God’s sake. And by the way he deserved it for his brilliance during the Suez Crisis. Do you even know what that was? We don’t even teach our history anymore.

We used to be known the world over as a place where you could come to get away from whatever horror you were living with in your country of origin. This where we took Jewish survivors of the holocaust when no one else wanted them, Hungarian refugees fled here from their revolution, the Vietnamese boat people were welcomed with open arms. Now we are denying healthcare to the ones who actually make it through the red tape and bureaucracy to get here. Huh? The world has known us as a soft place to land for many years. Our country was built on the strengths of those we welcomed. The vast majority of these people became our hardest working citizens.

We send out a lot of money at tax time. It’s supposed to get divvied up among the Provinces and Feds. The Provinces are supposed to carry the cities & towns as part of their responsibility. In theory they should be getting the lion’s share of that money. We are currently sending a huge amount of money to the Feds and I can’t see that we are getting a damn thing back for our buck. They are downloading their responsibilities to the Provinces and the Provinces, in turn, are downloading to the cities & towns. We live in these cities and towns. We, who they are supposed to be looking after, have been left with nothing but property taxes to finance a whole hell of a lot. Cities are being forced to go, hat in hand, to the province or Ottawa and beg for what they are entitled to. More often than not they come away empty-handed. Why are we tolerating this. Why do we think we can’t do something about it?

I want my Canada back!! I want Mr. Harper to crawl back into whatever hole he came out of. I want a Parliamentary Government that I can respect again. Pierre Trudeau once had the largest majority in our history. He did not use it to become a not so benevolent dictator. He loved this country and he made us better and stronger and prouder. I want that kind of leadership. Frankly, I don’t really care which party leads. As long as that party respects me and my neighbours and gives me the social assistance I expect and need. I was born into a proud Liberal family but I would have voted for Jack Leighton’s NDP in a heartbeat, God rest his soul. He had the same love and pride and respect for us and the vision we so badly need.

This Canada Day I will not celebrate. I am considering how to best make my position very clear. Banging pots and pans, disrupting the local PC picnic one way or another, hanging the flag upside down, all of these? We’ll see. I feel nothing but grief for us right now. There seems nothing to be proud of. Except US. We the people. We are Canada! We can make a difference. We can make a better country, the country we once were. All we have to do is want to. It’s really that easy. There are many out there who are ready to lead us down the path of real protest.

Please, join me in grabbing our country back where it belongs, in our hands.

 

 

 

 

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Plastic Schmastic

Seriously folks. Give me a break. There have been plastic bags on earth for less than 50 years. What do you suppose the rest of us did before that? A really fond memory of my childhood is my Mom rolling down the top of a brown paper grocery bag and setting it in the kitchen garbage can. She could roll it down, 2 rolls without splitting the edges once. I could never do it right.

When we went to the store, any store, we got whatever we were purchasing in a paper bag. Of varying sizes and shapes. It was really cool if you bought, like, a new coat and you got a shopping bag with a handle. That was the ultimate and you could use it over and over and over. Your friends were so jealous. I collected shopping bags for a long time.

What I find really interesting is that I recall every single argument I’ve heard today being said about plastic bags. We regarded them with high suspicion for a long time. They seemed cheap and flimsy. What were we gonna do without paper. I can remember the ladies of our neighbourhood crabbing about those floppy plastic bags. No one seemed to know how to pack them properly and suddenly no one was offering to carry them out to the car. After all these had handles and they were smaller.

For heavens sake people, you’ll get over it. It was going to happen eventually. You can say what you like about no research or consultations or spur of the moment. Whatever. The half-life of a bag is 500 years and we are drowning in them. Do you really need the city to spend more money we don’t have to tell us that yes they are filling land fills, and yes they do last that long, and yes they are bad and yes they do get made from petroleum by-product as well as natural gas. The City of Toronto staff can tell you what it costs us every year to deal with 250 million bags.

There has been a gradual shift away from plastic bags occurring for at least 10 years, world-wide. When a city the size of LA does it, you can bet your life it’s coming to a town near you, damn soon. I stood in a Carre Four store in Caens, France 10 years ago blinking stupidly as it was explained to me that they didn’t have bags. You brought your own or you had a problem. I had a problem.

The “what will I do” school of folks aren’t even thinking. Retailers will not jeopardize your right to shop by not figuring out how to pack it for you. Use your heads. You’ll take your reuseables to the grocery store. If you don’t have one in the mall, they’ll have a solution. Nothing gets between a store and your God given right to buy stuff and be able to bring it home. I can tell you from professional experience, the packaging industry is nothing if not non-stop innovative. They are rising to this challenge mightily.

We’ve done something brave and bold. It’s all part of reclaiming our Toronto the Good title, in spite of ourselves. It’ll get worked out but the screeching is far from over. We have a city with literally thousands of needy people, and things that need repairing, and grass that needs mowing, and Lord save me Grafitti that needs cleaning, and the list goes and goes. And a plastic bag ban wakes us up? Let’s get Harper to ban plastic bags nationally. Maybe that will get us banging pots in the streets.

Why is our sense of right and wrong so buggared up these days? There’s a shooting in Eaton Centre and someone dies and we’re shocked and dismayed for about 48 hrs. Then we find out it’s probably gang related, and the two guys targeted are of questionable histories, and the shooter is under house arrest, and we lose all interest. But for Christ’s sake, don’t mess with our plastic bags.

I wonder quite seriously what has happened to us as a people. Nothing seems to move us. When I was a little girl I knew that when I was playing out on our street with all the other kids, if I did something wrong, my mother would know about it before I got home. The neighbourhood Moms Patrol hits again. Everybody kept an eye on everybody’s kids. When we went to school they were all about watching us and correcting us on any number of manner related infractions. Not to punish but to teach though we were appropriately pissed when caught. Everyone, it seemed, took some level of responsibility for our behavior. I have a neighbour who had her townhouse robbed in broad daylight. They carried out TV’s, and stereo’s and even a laptop while neighbours watched. No one even thought to call the police. In my childhood those kids would have had seven Mom’s in their faces demanding to know who they were and where they were going.

But life is different now and we don’t seem to care about anything that doesn’t have a direct effect on our immediate lives. It’s really very sad to me. When exactly did we stop caring. I always knew, growing up, that there was help behind virtually any door. Now we teach our kids to fear every unfamiliar face. Since we don’t get to know our neighbours that pretty much leaves our kids high and dry in an emergency. The Toronto I used to know was full of people who cared. Everyone smiled at everyone. That still exists in pockets. Why can’t we grow this back out over the whole city?

We will survive without plastic bags. Maybe carrying brown paper grocery bags will cause neighbours to start helping each other again. The free wheeling council meeting that brought this about might have been more disciplined, but in the end it was going to happen one day soon. Let’s just accept the inevitable and get back to being concerned about real issues. In the grander scheme of things, whether you have a plastic bag or not will have no baring on whether the homeless man sleeping on the corner gets enough to eat today.

#StopHarper – 13 Heroes

Two posts in one day! Wow. Just read a blog that has inspired me in a huge way. http://bigpicguy.blogspot.com/2012/05/13-heroes.html?spref=tw

My grandfather was a war hero in the first World War. He flew a plane for the RAF and he lost a beloved brother to the horror of Paschendale. In the second World War he was a true Canadian hero though he didn’t see it that way. He was a government employee working within the Ministry of Immigration or whatever they called it then. He was a soft-spoken man, a life long Liberal, a man who always did the right thing.

He brought War Brides over to Canada, unloaded hundreds and hundreds of Jewish refugee orphans from ships in Halifax harbour and found them homes, aided in ever so quietly moving US planes across our borders so that they could reinforce the RAF during the Battle of Britain before the US joined the war, and no doubt all sorts of other things he never really spoke about. He did not see these as heroic things. He saw them as doing his job. Nothing more, nothing less. He always felt angry that the PMO wouldn’t let him join up and fight in WWII. In his mind the real fight was denied him.

I tell you this because I am so proud of him but more importantly because it is such a perfect description of a singularly Canadian citizen. This is what we do. We get the job done. The whole world knows that. Well we have a job to do now and one of my fellow Tweeters has challenged us as Canadians to make it happen. It is my theme for the year 2012 I guess. Get up off the lawn chair and do something. Stop saying you don’t like it to no one and start saying it to some one.

You don’t like Harper playing Divine right of kings? Are you in a conservative riding like me? Start writing your member. Tell your neighbours and tell them to tell theirs. Do you really think, when push comes to shove, these guys are going to jeopardize their seats for one man’s arrogance? Especially if they are back benchers. They have the least to lose, the most to gain. Make it very clear that if they continue to vote for these idiotic socially abhorrent bills they will not be returning to Ottawa. We only need 13 members to rebel. The Prime Minister is but a member of Parliament with one vote. He is the leader of his party. HE IS NOT THE LEADER OF THE COUNTRY. That role belongs to the Governor General. We seem to have forgotten that.

We are sitting at a place in history that could be very alarming or could be very inspiring. We have a Prime Minister under the mistaken impression that he can do as he pleases because in the House he holds a majority. Well that’s bloody ridiculous. We hold the majority. We are Canada, We gave him the opportunity to represent ONE riding in Ottawa. We elected his party to a tenuous majority. They chose to let him be the party leader and now even they seem to have forgotten the rules of democracy. As several councillors in Toronto City Hall can teach them. They do not answer to him. His job is to represent the will of the majority of his party. Not to demand that they blindly follow him into hell. They answer to us. We are their bosses.

We decide if these guys get to go back to Ottawa next time. They would do well to remember that. It’s high time we reminded them. Start writing. Take 10 minutes out of your busy life to make that busy life better. Email, post, phone. Let them know how you feel about, F35″s, and electoral irregularity, and omnibus bills, and C38 and the gradual peeling off of Medicare and Old Age Pensions and EI reforms (I use that particular word ironically). These people need a rude awakening. We need a rude awakening. Time to take back the country.

To go back to my Grandfather. He would be absolutely astonished at the lack of engagement we have with our current governing bodies. He came from a time when Canadians showed up at all political meetings by the hundreds. We had a vested interest in the country’s progress. We were the Canada everyone remembered as utterly fearless during the DDay offensive. We were the Canada whose Black Devils played such a huge part in the battle of Paschendale during the first great war. My Grandfather lost a brother to that battle. He knew what it meant to be a proud Canadian.

Where is that pride today? Why are we so willing to be utterly dominated by the very system we created. In a time when unemployment is only a paycheck away for the vast majority, we seem paralyzed with our lot. This government is choosing to remove all the support systems so carefully put in place for ALL our citizens. We are choosing to let them. I have to keep asking, why? Why why why? Sixty one percent of us did not vote for the conservative party in the last election. Where are you? Why aren’t you making a big loud noise?

Go to the web site above. Read what he has to say. See how the support has begun to grow. Write a letter, make a call, send an email, tweet. Remind Ottawa why we sent them and who’s in charge! It’s us. Never forget that. WE are the boss!

3 Things YOU can Do

So I’m whizzing, well maybe not whizzing but definitely driving, down Bloor Street on Wednesday. Vehicle packed to the roof beams with food for my compatriots at our WiTOpoli panel session. I’m pondering the differences on that street from the days when I was 17 and we thought we were cooler than cool going to have coffee at The Colonnade. Poking in the fabulous little quirky shops in the old 2 & 3 story buildings that lined both sides of Bloor.  Getting really brave and wandering, against parental orders, up onto Yorkville or Cumberland to stare at the Hippies hanging out all over the street doing incredibly racy things like talking and playing guitars in the street.

Now from Yonge to Avenue it’s all shiny glass towers right to the street. Only the Museum and Varsity Stadium really break it up before Spadina. What do my friends think of what has become of Rochdale? It was our go to place for all sorts of naughty activities. Does anyone remember that Bloor to Yonge was once as it still is from Spadina on? It was glorious.

That’s something I can do for Toronto. It will be my #1. Reminding us of what we were. Kensington Market in the 60’s when you could still get fresh hot bagels and watch them killing chickens. Bloor West Village where you could get real homemade perogi’s and cabbage rolls from ladies in scarves who spoke no English. Dim Sum at Spadina and Dundas before anyone else knew what it was. Yes there’s a bit of a food theme but I did grow up to be a chef! Wandering around High Park for hours on a hot summer day.

The City of Calgary has this fabulous web site and movement called 3 Things For Calgary. I lived in Calgary for 10 years so I feel a bit of kinship. It’s a beautiful city and one that like ours, is constantly criticized by its own citizens. Check the web site for inspiration http://www.3thingsforcalgary.ca/  I propose that we need the same. 3 Things For Toronto. I am in danger of being seen as a nag here, certainly by my Twitter friends, but damn it all. Enough! We all know what’s wrong. We all know we have problems but guess what? In the greater scheme of things, we are light years ahead of so many other places. We’re sliding backwards right now. That famous Canadian complacency is in danger of doing us in kids. Time to get up and shout.

Yesterday someone died at Eaton Centre. Some lunatic opened fire in the Food Court. It’s a singularly ridiculous action. But this is a big city and among 3 million people there’s bound to be a few morons with no regard for their neighbours. If we decide to hide in our houses, the moron’s take the streets. This is the town where you can stroll down a street full of hookers and they’ll say hi and you’ll laugh and say hi back. I’ll be damned if one fool is taking me down. Sure you should be careful. You should be careful crossing the street too. As much as it truly grieves me to say, it will happen again. This is the way of cities. While you are reacting, ask yourself, was this the right time to cut the police and EMS by 10%? Did you do anything about that?

Why is it so necessary to whine and carry on nonstop, about all that is wrong with Toronto. Is this the way we build this rumoured “world-class city” we constantly speak of, but never seem to quite believe in. A great city is not built of bricks, mortar and glass. It is built of people. All sorts of people. Natives and immigrants, businessmen and janitors, councillors and mayors. We need each one of them to survive and grow. A city is built with heart. It is built of neighbourhoods and it is built with love. It has history and soul. The path it travels is long and full of the constant ebb and flow of history. We seem to have forgotten that.

What have you done for Toronto today? It really isn’t complicated. Smile at someone, pick up some trash blowing by, drop a loon in the hand of a homeless person. Involve yourself with a community council, take part in a neighbourhood garage sale. Ride the bus, the subway, walk down the street and see what’s around you. Know your neighbours. See the good. And by God, VOTE. If you do not vote you give up the right to bitch. It is the ultimate antisocial act. If you don’t like a single candidate then spoil the ballot, send that statement in place of a choice, but vote.

All around us the world is in flux. It’s almost as if we’re nearing Sodom and Gomorrah. For some reason we just seem to sit and watch as others make change, and give no input. We don’t seem to understand that we can make change too. We don’t seem to remember that the government bureaucracy was of our creation. We built it. It’s outrageously complex and top-heavy after nearly 150 years, but we built it. It’s ridiculously naive to say, I know, but what we built we can take down. It’s a symbolic dismantling in many ways but it can be done. They’re doing it all over the world as we speak.

Here’s something to think about as you watch the pots being banged in Quebec. Fully 80% of the economy of Canada emanates from Toronto. We are not happy with the carrying on of this government in Ottawa. Well suppose we began to bang pots and suppose we began to demonstrate and cause general strikes. Just suppose. Suppose we left the comfort of our living rooms and the stuff we have come to believe we can’t live without. That’s really what it comes down to. We will begin to bang those pots when someone finally pushes us out of our comfort zone.

Let’s be honest for a moment. Many many of us don’t honestly give a damn what happens to our neighbours. It’s very easy to just not see that homeless man sitting on the street with his hat out. We drop a loon or two in the boxes and we put the food we won’t ever use in the food bank boxes but really. Did you stop to think what the poor will do with artichoke hearts you bought 2 years ago? We bitch about the LTT and we won’t be surprised if it doesn’t get dropped. We’ll bitch mightily if it is raised but will we do anything. Hell no. The people most affected by it can afford it, and then some, so don’t kid yourself, it’s just rhetoric. If the vehicle registration tax came back, and I am one who thinks it should, we will scream like hell. At our friends. But we won’t do anything because it’s just a bit of extra money and not enough to stop us from any of the great things we have and do.

The Clam Shell in City Hall can hold 250 observers, plus press. In a city of 2 and a half million, that seems small. But it is a rare day when it is full. Even for the last transit vote there was room for at least 100 more. I find that appalling. I constantly hear from people “oh what do they do for me”. Standing in one spot I can point out no less than 20 things they do for you. Answer is always “oh, never thought of that”. City Hall has a far greater impact on your daily life than either of the other 2 governments we live with. I maintain that if more people really watched the goings on at City hall, on T.V or going there, certain councillors would be job hunting for certain sure in 2014. Yet we sit back and allow the childish carrying on of people who could never have been elected had anyone cared to watch their embarassing performances on the floor of city hall.

We allow those other two levels of government to rob us blind. How is it that they get to take so much of what Toronto earns for this country? We are Canada’s doorway to the world and we have to go hat in hand and beg for our own money. WTF to use Twitterease! But we make it pretty clear that we aren’t really going to do much at all to make it plain that we do not approve.

Quebec is showing us what simple civil disobedience can accomplish. Whether the students win or not is almost irrelevant at this point. What is absolutely clear though, is that Mr. Charest will no longer have a viable political career. When this is done he will not be welcome in any party at any level.

If you don’t like what is happening to our city. Do something about it. Just offering the garbage man a glass of cold water on a hot day in August is making Toronto a better city. Try it. You might like how it makes you feel. Try it for a couple of days. Three simple things. Take posession of it. Be it. Please?

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