Archive for the ‘Toronto’ Category
The National Post‘s Toronto news discussion panel, featuring Chris Selley, Jonathan Goldsbie, and Matt Gurney, tackles the question of the alleged Rob Ford crack video. Their conclusions leave me with the feeling that no one is going to come out of this looking very good–not the media, not the Toronto electorate, certainly not Rob Ford himself–but that this still might not be enough to change things.
Goldsbie: I’ve spent the last few days just assuming that the video would eventually get out, and probably sooner than later. But then I recalled that I took the same approach to the tape in which Rob Ford allegedly cursed out some 911 operators, and now I’m faced with considering the terrifying possibility that the footage may never be released. The thought that — in the absence of hard, publicly-viewable evidence — Ford might try to deny and move on from this allegation, as he has so many others, is upsetting to the point of being enraging. The thing is that, by now, it is difficult to imagine a scandal from which Rob Ford could not somehow escape: he is superhuman in his political abilities, with a hardcore fanbase that would find a way to rationalize a murder charge. Somewhere out there is a video recording that apparently depicts our mayor smoking crack and making disgusting homophobic and racist remarks, and yet nothing in his political experience would suggest to Rob Ford that the appropriate reaction is anything other than to carry on though there weren’t.
Gurney: I tend to agree that we’ll see the video. I’d have no doubt if we were dealing with rational actors. A deal would be reached and honoured. But both the Star and Gawker have said that the gentlemen in possession of the video are involved in the drug trade and their paranoia — making reporters meet them in backs of cars in random places — speaks to their mindset. I wouldn’t be surprised if the intensity of the coverage spooks them and sends them to ground. Again on the assumption that it never comes out, I agree with Chris that the voters would probably conclude that this indeed happened as related by the Star and Gawker. And they’d remember that in 2014. But Council, now? I don’t often give that group of human beings the benefit of the doubt. But here I will. Whatever they conclude about Ford’s alleged use of crack, if the video doesn’t come out, they’ll keep their private thoughts private and get on with the job. That’s good, I suppose. But it also leaves us where we were before the alleged video.
Selley: For now, sure. No point rubbing it in every chance they get. But suddenly it’s just that much more toxic to be seen supporting the Mayor himself, as opposed to happening to agree with him on any given issue. So many of his ideas depend on leaps of faith or logic — casino revenues build subways, for example — that this could become a significant hindrance, at least to the limited extent that the Ford administration operates according to standard rules of space, time and politics. Looking beyond that, it would certainly be an intriguing election dynamic. You’d think it would be easy to run a spirited campaign against an alleged crack-smoker, but it’s a fine line between pariah and victim. Ford’s best political play right now would be to step down, check into rehab — whether or not he really has a problem — and vow to return a better man in 2014. I don’t see that happening.
Torontoist’s Patrick Metzger had an interesting examination of how Singapore made its casino work for that city-state, with a minimum of social pathology. The key lay in Singapore’s very tight regulation of the casino’s development, something that–as Metzger notes–was not necessarily available in the case of Toronto.
[T]he broad approach—ensuring the development process is guided by government and not casino operators—makes sense. Singapore spelled out a set of conditions to be placed on any gambling facility before considering specific proposals, and made licensing contingent on operators accepting any future regulation they might choose to impose.
Toronto has already set out a list of 47 conditions that a potential casino would have to meet (although they’re far less draconian in addressing social issues than those imposed in Singapore). However, unlike the Singaporean government, which isn’t beholden to any higher authority, Toronto is subject to the whims of Queen’s Park. This is why many councillors feel forced into a binary choice: that their only real decision is the yes/no question of whether to open up this question. If they do allow the process to go forward, they fear, they won’t have the capacity to direct the development process thereafter. Though the province has said it will listen to the municipalities, subsequent negotiations will largely be left to their creature, the OLG (“creature” in this case being not only the technically accurate term but also one that serendipitously conveys just the right tone).
Also, even if the province and OLG were to agree to include Toronto’s conditions in any negotiation, many of those conditions are sufficiently vague (“the casino will have an urban form that is designed to fit within its local context”) that there’s plenty of weasel room, particularly when the cash-strapped government is under pressure from a developer dangling bags of Yankee greenbacks and resistant to anything that might hinder efforts to hoover loonies from the pockets of hopeful punters.
Singapore seems to have found a trade-off that works, largely through its willingness to take a strong stance on regulating the casinos it has allowed. It’s an example that suggests Toronto could introduce casino gambling in a way that could be an economic and—don’t laugh—a cultural asset. But to get there, the province would have to let the City drive, or itself take on the task of regulating the facilities very strongly, and the prospective operators would have to sit in the back seat.
The good news comes from CP24.com’s Chris Fox.
City council has voted in favour of rejecting any new gaming facilities for Toronto, effectively shutting the book on a multi-billion dollar casino and entertainment complex proposed for downtown.
During a special meeting Tuesday morning, council voted 40-4 against the creation of any new gaming facilities within the city. In a separate vote council also voted 24-20 against the expansion of gaming at Woodbine Racetrack.
A motion from Mayor Rob Ford that would have rejected a downtown casino outright, but left the door open to adding table games at Woodbine Racetrack was defeated 31-13.
“This was about the impact on the citizens of Toronto and the people of Ontario that didn’t want us to put forward a policy that encourages more people to get addicted to gambling and raises money in that fashion,” Coun. Mike Layton told reporters following the vote. “This was about how we treat people in the City of Toronto.”
“The casino vote was what thousands and thousands of Torontonians asked us to do,” added Coun. Paula Fletcher. “This is probably the biggest vote that we will have in our entire term.”
I last photographed this magnolia south of Bloor on Dufferin in April of last year. Happily, it’s still blooming this year.
I was passing by the tree with my father as we were headed south to the Dufferin Mall when we encountered a woman walking her dog. We chatted briefly, mentioning our plans to visit High Park later that day, and then she offered us advice about the best route to take to see the cherry blossoms departing from the High Park station.
Torontonians are friendly, often spontaneously friendly. I’ve heard people from my native Prince Edward Island claiming that Torontonians are closed-off compared to Islanders, and I don’t buy it. Islanders have to maintain a certain superficial level of politeness in order for a still-isolated island society to function, whereas Torontonians have the freedom to choose to involve themselves in others. Very frequently, they do.
The ongoing media controversy surrounding the alleged tape showing Toronto Mayor Rob Ford using crack and saying stupid things is, well, ongoing. With luck we’ll actually see the alleged video and have its veracity be judged.
My main reaction to the whole controversy is sadness. Between the squalid idea of Toronto’s mayor being addicted to crack (something that I have to say doesn’t strike me as unbelievable, given his past alleged substance abuse and demonstrated patterns of erratic behaviour), the crowdsourcing of fundraising by Gawker to raise the needed funds, and the whole thing, it’s just … sad.
Disembarking from Osgoode station to street level on Friday night recently, I saw some sights.
The Canada Life Building is most noteworthy for its weather beacon, which changes colours to let passersby note the latest Environment Canada weather forecast.
Yet another condo tower rises.
The Four Seasons Centre is a premiere centre for the performing arts in Toronto, most notably of opera.
Campbell House, on the northwestern corner of Queen Street West and University Avenue, is the oldest house remaining in Toronto, dating from 1822 and having been moved to its current location 150 years later.
A typical enough Friday streetscape, this.
Back in the 1990s, 299 Queen Street West was famous across Canada as the home of MuchMusic, Canada’s home-grown English-language music video station and star of the CHUM-City empire. As media conglomeration has proceeded and MuchMusic lost relevance as a place for new culture, it has lost much of its charm.
Over at Torontoist, the presence of mayor Rob Ford at a PFLAG ceremony today–documented by Torontoist’s Desmond Cole that might have once been welcomed as a sign of progress became problematic on account of the ongoing scandal.
(Compare Jonathan Goldsbie’s arguably more sympathetic piece “Standing proud” in NOW Toronto. Not to say that Wong-Tam isn’t entirely right to point out that Ford’s progress is positively glacial, of course.)
Today, as they do every May 17, Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) held ceremonies internationally to mark International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. The Toronto ceremony takes place at the flagpole on the rooftop podium at City Hall—today a more frantic place than usual. As the event unfolded PFLAG president Irene Miller spoke about love and acceptance; as she ended a moving address on acceptance of sexual and gender diversity, Miller urged those in attendance, “hug one another, do not leave without a hug today!”
Then she went directly over to Mayor Rob Ford and embraced him.
[. . .]
After reading a proclamation to open the event, an extremely red-faced Ford stood off to the side, literally cornered near the flagpole on the east side of City Hall. Following his brief embrace with Miller, Ford marched back to a second floor entrance to the building, ignoring questions from the phalanx of reporters asking questions about his alleged drug use and discriminatory comments.
[. . .]
In a conversation with us after the event, Councillor Kristyn Wong Tam (Ward 27, Toronto Centre-Rosedale) applauded the inclusion of two trans speakers, TK and well-known trans activist Enza Anderson. “It’s not often that trans people are able to share the stage publicly and express their pride,” Wong-Tam said. “They are really brave.”
Wong-Tam also expressed strong feelings about the mayor’s attendance at the ceremony. “I was fairly conflicted when I saw him,” said Wong-Tam. She said that while the queer community is constantly trying to reach out to Ford, he rarely responds. “It’s not good enough for someone to show up once a year and then just expect us to applaud him,” she said. “There’s more to being an ally than reading a proclamation prepared for you by staff.”
Gawker’s John Cook, the man who broke the story of Rob Ford’s alleged crack tape, announces that Gawker has launched a fundraiser to raise the 200 thousand dollars needed for the purchase of said video.
How Much Do We Need? $200,000. That’s what the owners of the video want. That sounds like a lot of money. The good people at Indiegogo believe that, with the appropriate amount of virality, that goal is achievable.
Christ, That’s a Lot of Money. Yes, it is. But they’ve got the video! And it’s not all about greed, though of course most of it is. The owners of this video fear for their safety, and want enough money to pay for a chance to get out of Toronto and set up in a new town. Their fear is not entirely unwarranted. Rob Ford is a powerful if buffoonish man, and he was wrapped up in a drug scene that purportedly involved many other prominent Toronto figures.
What Will We Get? A crystal clear, well-lit video of the mayor of Toronto smoking crack cocaine, published on Gawker for the world to see. We will also be throwing in some perks, for specific donation amounts. But the main thing is the video of the mayor of Toronto smoking crack cocaine.
How Does This Work, Exactly? We’re using Indiegogo. We’ve set a target of $200,000, to be reached within 10 days. If we reach the target, we get the money. If we don’t reach the target, you get your money back. If we do reach the target, we will pay the money to the people who have the video. They will give us the video. We will publish the video. You will watch the video.
What If This Whole Thing Goes South? We are mindful that people who hang out with and surreptitiously record crack-smoking mayors may not always be reliable. The people we’ve been dealing with have so far honored every commitment they’ve made. And they have pledged to sell it to us for $200,000 if this Crackstarter works. But if they disappear, or sell it elsewhere, we will donate every penny we receive to a Canadian non-profit that helps people suffering from addiction and its consequences.
The Indiegogo page is here. Large amounts of money are being raised, two thousand dollars over the past hour and change to a total of $34,237 as I type.
Via the National Post comes the inevitable Taiwanese animation of the Rob Ford crack story.