Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Toronto.
Tags: ford crack, ford scandal, heather morgan, municipal government, neoliberal, rob ford, roger hollander, toronto, toronto council, toronto government, toronto politics
Roger’s note: As a former member of the Toronto Council, I have been following the Ford fiasco with interest, but mostly disgust. As the article below will demonstrate, it is not Ford’s drug and mafia connections or his vulgar behavior that is of primary concern; rather his mean-spirited regime, his intimate connection to the ultra right Harper federal government, and what this all means for ordinary working people and those in need of essential social services in Toronto.
| November 19, 2013, http://www.rabble.ca
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is not an accident. He’s not a car that suddenly lost control of the steering and veered off the road.
Is Rob Ford cunning or pathetic? Or both? Is he a ridiculous political clown who got elected by fooling everyone? Ford doesn’t only show us the flaws in Toronto’s system of municipal governance. He shows us what the radical right has brought into politics.
Something that I will call Dark Politics. Political ideology that accompanies economic neoliberalism. Politics that seeks to obfuscate, misinform, change the rules of conduct and flourishes most when no light of truth is shone upon it.
It continually seeks to convince a weary public that government is the problem and that funnelling tax dollars upward and lowering taxes on wealthy corporations, while driving down wages, is the best way out of any economic slump — despite all evidence to the contrary. That rich people are “job creators” that should not be burdened with tax woes because of all the good they are doing for the economy.
Tax burdens shifted from prosperous businesses, corporations and the wealthy onto the backs of the average tax payer creating an ever alarming divide between the 1% and the rest of us. This created a self fulfilling prophecy about the trust worthiness of governments. Governments elected to carry out this agenda were backed by powerful financial interests that paved the way for governments to become almost indistinguishable from administrative arms of corporations.
It is pathological politics that lives by its own circular logic. Attempts to engage it with facts and logic are quickly countered with an Escher-like road around any sense of sound reason. Logical premises fly out the window and a bizarro world of normalizing the absurd ensues.
Just as the Christian right demands that creationism be taught alongside evolution, as though the two things deserve equal billing, Dark Politics routinely demands that equivalencies be made where no equivalency exists.
Dark Politics demands that corporate psychopathy be treated, and often with even less criticism, as organizations that desire to better society for all of us and our planet. It expects that under the guise of “balance” a far right radical should be viewed through the very same lens as a slightly left leaning moderate.
Only it is the moderate who ends up being labeled as some anti-business spend-happy job killing socialist. It demands that the likes of Sun TV be regarded as equally deserving of the public trust as the CBC. In this altered state, America’s Fox News portrays itself as a “real” and balanced voice in a liberal media conspiracy.
With the rise of economic neoliberalism and the Dark Politics that came with it, certain ideas took hold that became increasingly pervasive and practically invisible.
Ideas such as the notion that the role of government should be increasingly inched towards the ultimate goal of doing little more than reducing taxes while begrudgingly still paying for things like the military and a few other “essential” services. That government should largely divorce itself from civic engagement or from acting as an equalizing mechanism. From fulfilling the collective will of the people.
Governments that continued the role they had for generations, even if they had balanced books, were labelled “tax-and-spend liberals.” Meanwhile governments that cut services and turned surpluses into debt laid claim to being the fiscally responsible choice.
It was within this ideology that Rob Ford achieved his support. He would be the cost cutter — cutting taxes, cutting government, taking care of your money. Don’t look over there at the broader picture of multi-billion dollar multinationals getting billions in subsidies and tax breaks, look instead at how much money those lazy union protected city workers are getting! Don’t peel back the curtain on what goes on with developments in Toronto, look at the “gravy” of municipal programs for the poor.
In spite of what can only be described as “off-the-rails” behaviour of Tea Party style politicians: the crazy antics, hypocrisy and spectacle that so many Tea Party style politicians display — Ford included — the ideas behind Dark Politics nevertheless persist.
As though the very side-tracking with all the political entertainment allowed these ideas to sneak past the radar. To sit undetected in people’s brains, while we looked away at the three ring circus. Move the goalposts so far to the right so that less fringe ideas seem normal and rational in comparison.
It is politics that strays ever further from fact, evidence, reason, science and especially from empathy and compassion. It is contemptuous of these things even.
Ford was an ideal candidate for Dark Politics. His populist “everyman” persona — in spite of being a member of the 1% — meant he was successfully able to co-opt the very type of citizen that is most harmed by Dark Politics. Inspire their loyalty even. His personal failings were excused and separated from his politics and his policies. His short comings actually appeared to aid pushing through his agenda. A Dark Politics agenda that always supports increasing inequality.
But Rob Ford’s personal conduct should not be separated from his politics. His personal conduct displays a lack of empathy and a sense of entitlement and so does his politics. And he certainly didn’t rise to the office of Mayor alone. He had many backers right there with him. Enabling him all the way.
Ford’s conduct is the politics of entitlement taken to an extreme. His addiction problems simply highlight how far you can go before you cross a line with a core segment of political and public supporters who are believers.
Whatever Ford does, no matter how out there it is, he has thus far managed to elude normal consequences. And as far as Ford Nation sees it, if anyone attempts to hold him accountable then they are the ones victimizing him.
Rob Ford may seem to be an anomaly — an outrageous example of a politician gone off the rails, but he is in fact an example of what Dark Politics allows in. Ford also demonstrates how far afield things have moved.
Even though most of his political supporters have now jumped ship, they do not seem to be taking any issue with the politics that brought someone like Ford to power in the first place.
Ford was a clear and obvious liar before he was ever elected as Mayor. He clearly had substance abuse issues before he was elected. But the right didn’t care. They supported his views, enabled him and aided his rise to power because ideology always trumps everything else in political extremes, whether it’s right or left. He was on the winning side, so he had eager members to join his gang and overlook or be in denial about his obvious short comings.
Now they divorce themselves from his antics and try to claim that his character is no reflection on their ideology. But it is profoundly a reflection of their ideology. For it was this ideology that gave them their willful blindness in the first place. Because there were plenty of others who could see Rob Ford for what he was right out of the gate.
We must not lose sight of the political darkness that Ford represents. Rob Ford should be an indictment of radical right-wing politics in Canada. The Tea Party and what it has wrought, should be an indictment of radical right wing politics in the United States.
How far must things go before the public starts to wake up to the political lies they have been sold?
Rob Ford is not a champion of the little guy. The little guy is never what politics for the rich and by the rich is about. The Rob Ford sideshow is merely Dark Politics accidentally showing it’s hand in ushering in a dark age of the decline of reason and social responsibility for government, business and citizens alike.
Heather Morgan is a writer and musician living in Toronto. She tweets @HeatherMoandCo
Illustration by Arlene Bishop
Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Toronto.
Tags: Canada, canada government, canada parliament, canada politics, david pellettier, Jack Layton, layton memorial, mike layton, new democratic party, olivia chow, roger hollander, toronto government, toronto island
Roger’s note: Jack Layton was a friend and colleague, both before and during the time he was a public figure. We served together for several years on Toronto’s Metro Council; together we moved the historic successful motion to close down the polluting Commissioners Street Incinerator, this in the middle of a waste management crisis in Toronto. Jack was one of the very few people I knew in government who combined a principled approach with incredible personal warmth and humor. I cannot remember a moment with him when he was not smiling and upbeat. He was so open and honest and caring and hard working that he connected with people in a way that few politicians have ever achieved. Along with millions of Canadians, I miss him dearly.
Jack Layton’s daughter, Sarah, granddaughter Beatrice, widow Olivia Chow and city councillor Pam McConnell share a laugh as a statue in memory of Layton was unveiled in Toronto, Ontario Thursday, August 22, 2013.
(Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail)
A life-size statue commemorating Jack Layton, the late leader of the federal opposition New Democrats and former city councillor, was unveiled on Toronto’s waterfront.
The day he died after a battle with cancer, Nathan Phillips Square in front of Toronto City Hall was transformed into a makeshift memorial for the NDP leader with hundreds of supporters scrawling messages in chalk on the square’s walls. Now, two years’ to the day later, this more permanent memorial was unveiled: a bronze statue of Mr. Layton on the back of a tandem bicycle. The Toronto ferry island terminal has also been renamed the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal.
The statue, entitled Jack’s got your back. Stronger Together: The Layton Memorial, was donated through approximately $350,000 of fundraising by the Ontario Federation of Labour. Sculptor David Pellettier worked closely with Mr. Layton’s widow, Member of Parliament Olivia Chow, to get the politician’s likeness just right.The statue depicts Mr. Layton grinning on the back of a full-size tandem bicycle similar to one he owned. It was designed to invite people to hop on the front seat.
Ms. Chow, was on hand for the unveiling. She related memories of her late husband and the time they spent on Toronto island, where they were married in 1988.
“The Toronto island is truly a magical place,” she said to applause from the crowd of hundreds who attended the unveiling.
“In many years, after all of us are gone, this bronze sculpture will endure.”
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford also spoke, fondly recalling Mr. Layton and some advice he gave the mayor when they were both Toronto city councillors.
“I had the privilege as a rookie councillor to sit beside Jack for the first few years,” he said.
“He taught me an important lesson about politics. He said, ‘Rob, never take things personally. It’s politics.’ I’m still trying to learn that.”
Also attending were several city councillors, including Mr. Layton’s son, Mike Layton, as well as many of his family and friends. Mr. Layton explained the significance of the tandem bicycle as not only a cherished family item but a symbol of his father’s beliefs.
“A tandem bike is about co-operation: working towards a common goal. More ground can be covered when you’re working together,” he said. “That’s how he lived his life; He worked hard, he co-operated with others in his job and he had fun through it all.”
Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Democracy, Toronto.
Tags: anarchism, bill blair, bridette depape, Canada, catherine porter, chief blair, civil liberties, democracy, free speech, G20, g20 summit, leah henderson, peaceful protest, police brutality, police riot, political activism, political protest, richard lautens, roger hollander, sandro contenta, sid ryan, Stephen Harper, toronto, toronto g20, toronto police
Published On Sat Jun 25 2011. Toronto Star
A festive reveller joins the gathering at Queen’s Park to mark the first anniversary of the G20 at Queen’s Park.
RICHARD LAUTENS/TORONTO STAR
Sandro ContentaStaff Reporter
if (jQuery('.ts-main_article2_image').width() John Pruyn says the thought of returning to the site where police allegedly yanked off his prosthetic leg during last year’s G20 summit made him sick to his stomach.
But while speaking at the “G20 Redux” rally at Queen’s Park Saturday, his voice was strong and clear.
“To this day, I still don’t know why I was dragged away (by police) from Queen’s Park. I still feel like I was kidnapped,” said Pruyn, 58, recalling how he was manhandled by police and thrown in detention.
“Bill Blair should resign or should be fired for what happened at the G20,” Pruyn added, referring to Toronto’s police chief. “Mr. Blair allowed the police to beat us … In effect, he allowed the police to loot and riot.”
A retired Revenue Canada employee, Pruyn says he was resting with his family at Queen’s Park — after participating in a peaceful protest march on June 26, 2010 — when he was allegedly “attacked” by several police officers, one of whom “ripped off” his leg. He was released without charge a day later. He says police never gave him back his walking aids, or the $33 he had in his pocket. In an interview, he said he can’t discuss the settlement he received after complaining to the Ontario Human Rights Commission.
He was one of nine speakers cheered by some 400 people for insisting that Blair resign, and for demanding a public inquiry into police actions during the summit. Some officers violated police policy by taking off their badge numbers and name tags while rounding up protesters. More than 1,100 people were detained — the largest peacetime mass arrest in Canadian history. Most were never charged. Some speakers also called for charges to be dropped against 56 people still before the courts.
In an interview with the Star Friday, Blair rejected calls for his resignation. A 70-page report released by police Thursday indicated the service was overwhelmed and underprepared to respond to the “dynamic situations” the G20 posed.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Premier Dalton McGuinty have both flatly rejected calls for a public inquiry. Nathalie Des Rosiers, a lawyer with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, described that as “dangerous for democracy.”
“We’re allowing a culture of impunity to develop,” she told the rally. “If we tolerate (police) illegality when we see it, we sanction abuses that go on when we don’t.”
“A truth commission is what we need,” she added.
Police kept a low profile throughout the rally. Rarely were more than eight of them visible at any one time. They sat on bicycles on the edges of Queen’s Park circle. More could be seen patrolling the streets on their bikes. Now and then a couple of officers would ride close to the crowd, but the atmosphere was never tense.
The music was live, and the signs were colourful, most aimed at police. “You were put here to protect us, but who protects us from you?” read one. “We know what you did last summer, and we’re still pissed,” read another.
Many interviewed said they suspected police officers — thousands of whom patrolled the streets during the summit — of deliberately allowing police cruisers to be burned and shop windows to be smashed as an excuse to crack down hard.
“I just want them to be transparent about the whole thing,” bartender Karen Nickel, 45, said in an interview. Nickel said she was slammed with a police riot shield while protesting peacefully.
Several speakers referred to an exclusive Star poll Saturday indicating that 67 per cent of Torontonians want a public inquiry into G20 policing, 54 per cent believe the police response to demonstrations was unjustified, and 44 per cent say their confidence in police has dropped.
“A year later, I want to know who was responsible for sending the cops at Queen’s Park to beat the crap out of citizens,” said Sid Ryan, president of the Ontario Federation of Labour, noting police had told his union that Queen’s Park would be a designated protest area.
“You let us down, Chief Blair. You did not protect the citizens of this community, Chief Blair,” Ryan said, accusing the chief of protecting the identity of police officers who beat up peaceful protesters. “Because of that cone of silence you engaged in, we are demanding here today that you step down.”
Brigette DePape, who was recently fired as a Senate page for holding up a “Stop Harper” sign during the Speech from the Throne, equated the police response during the G20 to Harper’s Conservative agenda.
“The social chaos and pain he inflicted on this city is a microcosm of the social chaos and pain he wants to inflict on this country,” she told the rally. “But we will stop him.”
After the rally, about 100 protesters marched through the streets of downtown Toronto, heading to Queen St. W. and Spadina Ave., where a year earlier protesters were hemmed in by police in a controversial crowd-control technique known as “kettling.” The marchers later went to police headquarters and then back to Queen’s Park. Some traffic was disrupted, but police characterized the protest as peaceful and said there were no incidents.
Porter: For G20 accused Leah Henderson, 2010 was the year her life ended
Published On Fri Jun 24 20
Leah Henderson spent 25 days in jail before being released on a hefty, $100,000 bail. The conditions of her release were harsh.
RICHARD LAUTENS/TORONTO STAR
For Leah Henderson, 2010 was the year her life ended. She was arrested at gunpoint, jailed and then trapped in a house. She lost her job and her fiancé because of draconian bail conditions.
The alleged G20 protest organizer hasn’t spoken to some of her closest friends for a year now, even when one’s mother died and another was married. She couldn’t dash out for toothpaste or milk. And most important for a person whose weeks were once packed with as many as 10 meetings to help organize political actions, she hasn’t gone to one single protest meeting.
But 2010 was also the year Henderson’s friends saved her life.
When she was still in a Milton jail awaiting bail, a team of five pals coordinated their schedules and cars to visit her. Once she was released to full house arrest, they’d drop by with the roti she was craving. They slept over on New Year’s Eve, planned wig and martini parties at her home, divided their engagement parties into shifts so she and her co-accused could come without breaching their bail conditions.
One friend moved to a new apartment so she could become Henderson’s surety and live with her.
“In all honesty, I didn’t know I had relationships this deep, this important and that I could count on in this way,” Henderson tells me as we take one of her friend’s golden retrievers for a walk.
Those close to her depict Henderson, 26, as a caring, committed den mother of activists in Toronto — cooking for meetings and mentoring new recruits. The Crown depicts her and her former common-law partner Alex Hundert, as dangerous anarchists with the Southern Ontario Anarchist Resistance who intended to attack Metro Hall, Goldman Sachs, The Bay and a number of consulates during the G20 weekend.
Early in the morning of the big, June 26 labour march that ended in disaster, police officers kicked through Henderson and Hundert’s apartment door with their guns drawn.
“I was contemplating getting out of bed to put my pants on,” she recalls. “But then I saw the red laser bouncing down the hall towards me. I just put my hands up and stayed in bed.”
Together with 15 other people, she was charged with three counts of conspiracy: to commit mischief over $5000, to assault police, and to obstruct justice. She spent 25 days in jail before being released on hefty, $100,000 bail. The conditions were harsh. She couldn’t leave her home unaccompanied by a surety. She had a nighttime curfew. She couldn’t help plan or attend a public demonstration. She couldn’t communicate with any of her co-accused, many of whom were close friends. She could see Hundert only if they were supervised by both his and her sureties —awkward, since they were each living with one of his divorced parents.
They broke up in October.
“It was exhausting, the navigating of schedules,” Henderson says. “It was an enormous pressure. We had been such important foundation of support for each other, and now we were going through an incredibly hard thing which we couldn’t go through together.”
Up to that Saturday morning, Henderson worked as a paralegal, making a $100,000 salary. Although her law firm sent a letter to court stating it still wanted her to work there, her bail conditions made it impossible.
Now she lives on welfare.
My question to the Crown: isn’t Leah Henderson innocent till proven guilty?
I watched in horror as stores were smashed and cop cars burned that Saturday afternoon. But there is a wide gulf separating vandalism from violence against people. The Black Block is not the Hell’s Angels. How are these bail conditions reasonable?
Henderson defines herself as an anarchist. To her, that means a commitment to “non-hierarchical locally-driven communities.” She had travelled around North America to protest at previous G20 meetings. To her, Toronto’s event was an opportunity to both protest Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s right-wing measures and to form new networks with activists from across the country. For the past year, she’d spent most nights preparing for the weekend.
“Hands down, the hardest part of this year has been not participating socially the way I think ethical,” she said. “I felt I was being ripped away from my community and isolated.”
In March, after Jaggi Singh — one of Henderson’s co-accused — contested his bail conditions, Henderson’s house arrest was lifted and her curfew softened. She can now go out at night with a chaperone approved of in writing by her surety.
She moved out of Hundert’s mother’s home and into the apartment of a childhood friend, who posted an additional $20,000 bail for her.
She reclaimed some of her activism in very subtle ways. While she used to facilitate events, Henderson now caters them — cooking up vegetarian lasagnas for a Council of Canadians’ meeting and quiche and cinnamon buns for a midwifery event. She babysits for friends and walks their dogs so they can go out to activist gatherings. She transcribes the jotted notes from friends’ meetings into something intelligible.
“It was really important for my self-care and survival to find ways I could support others,” she says. “I’m not going to spend the next how many years just taking.”
Henderson’s trial won’t start for another year — at the earliest. If her bail conditions were meant to smother her activism, they’ve had the opposite effect.
Catherine Porter’s column usually appears Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. She can be reached at email@example.com