Archive for the ‘local issues’ Category

As Carly Weeks of the Globe and Mail stated: “Jack Layton didn’t lose a fight: He died of cancer”. It was us, Canadian citizens, who lost. We lost a great leader, a man of values and dreams, a dedicated and beloved politician, an iconic moustache.

After hearing the news that Jack Layton had died this morning, I felt a great sadness, which actually then led to feeling kind of angry. I felt angry with Canadians for not catching ‘orange-fever’ earlier, giving Jack a better chance at leading the NDP party into power. I felt angry that so many people continue to die from cancer, from other diseases, from poverty, from abuse. I was tempted to blog in this fashion, letting my outrage pour onto the screen.

But later in the evening, a vlog post by a good friend of mine put this situation into a bit of perspective for me.  Though the context was slightly different, the message was clear: while I could write something angry, I should focus instead on the courage, love, and inspiration Jack brought out in all of us. Love and hope, not hate or distress. Thanks Tom!

It was truly beautiful and bittersweet to see the response of Canadians to the loss of Jack Layton:

The letter Jack Layton wrote to Canadians was direct, optimistic, moving, and ridiculously beautiful. Read it if you haven’t done so already. In particular, the section dedicated to young Canadians was incredible, and really spoke to me:

“To young Canadians: All my life I have worked to make things better. Hope and optimism have defined my political career, and I continue to be hopeful and optimistic about Canada. Young people have been a great source of inspiration for me. I have met and talked with so many of you about your dreams, your frustrations, and your ideas for change. More and more, you are engaging in politics because you want to change things for the better. Many of you have placed your trust in our party. As my time in political life draws to a close I want to share with you my belief in your power to change this country and this world. There are great challenges before you, from the overwhelming nature of climate change to the unfairness of an economy that excludes so many from our collective wealth, and the changes necessary to build a more inclusive and generous Canada. I believe in you. Your energy, your vision, your passion for justice are exactly what this country needs today. You need to be at the heart of our economy, our political life, and our plans for the present and the future.”

Mr Layton, you were an inspiring leader for my generation, and you will be missed. Thank you for reminding us that change is possible.

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Like with most world events, I am usually a little late on the uptake. I don’t watch the News, I rarely read the newspaper, and even though I follow BBC World News on Twitter, they sometimes tweet SO much that I skip over their posts. But eventually I catch on and get myself up to date.

The 2011 England Riots began a few days ago, and if you want to know the basics, go read what Wikipedia has to say.

Most people, both within and outside Britain, are condemning the riots as senseless, gang-related looting and violence that is without cause or justification. But this view fails to consider the broader social context, and instead looks to place blame on the easy targets: gang culture, crime, unemployed rebellious youth, etc. These are scapegoats for the real problems (though I am aware that these factors did play a role in the riots, I believe they were just one part of larger issues).

On March 26 of this year, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) organized the March for the Alternative, an anti-cuts protest held in London. Apparently unable to get a fairly accurate figure, sources estimate that between 250,000 to 500,000 people showed up to the demonstration in protest against planned public spending cuts by their government.

Hmmm… is this ringing any bells?

This article by Nina Power looks at the social unrest within Britain, and goes into a great explanation of the protests. Have a read! It touches on unemployment, lack of police accountability, police brutality and racism, poverty and class tensions.

Now, I am a firm believer that violence does not solve anything. Therefore, the looting, harm, and murder that has resulted from the England Riots is not something I support. What I do believe in however, is the courage, commitment, passion and rebelliousness these Brits have shown.

Here I sit, unemployed, hating on the Mayor of Toronto for cutting funding to social services (and hence contributing to my unemployment BIG TIME), and I kinda want to take a lesson from those Brits and start a riot of my own. Maybe run up and down Bay Street banging a drum and yelling out chants of shame on Ford for threatening public libraries (not pushing, looting, or hurting anyone of course). Or maybe start my own anti-cuts collective/gang, customize t-shirts, and loiter en masse (respectfully) outside City Hall.

Then again, haven’t Torontonians already done all this? So what’s next?

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While Doug Ford may prefer to see his neighbourhood streets filled with waste-producing, commercialized Tim Hortons franchises, there are still those of us who would prefer the presence of public, local branch libraries. With Toronto Mayor Rob Ford hanging on the words of his brother, the city of Toronto is now faced with the threat of privitization of libraries.

With the recent win of the Conservatives and of Rob Ford, Canadian cities are now faced with a cost-cutting agenda that has and will continue to target public and social services. The budget-slashing plan has now turned to review the Toronto Public Library, which will impact Toronto communities significantly:

“How could a private company make a profit running a free service that is funded by taxpayers?

The mandate of the private operator would be to reduce the level of public funding that now supports our libraries. At the same time, they need to make a profit. There is an inevitable conflict here which signals bad news for all library users, from children to seniors.  First, local branches of the Toronto Public Library would almost certainly be closed. Library users would see higher user fees, fewer books and less access to the information and other vital services our public libraries offer for little or no cost as hours of operation are limited. The cuts to library staff that have been going on for years will be accelerated.

It’s also bad news for our city. We would lose a powerful educational and cultural force that opens books and opens minds, taking from Toronto a public service that all other great cities jealously guard.”

For more information, check out Project Rescue.

Check out the Reality Check page, and listen to the comments made by Doug Ford.

Don’t forget to sign the petition!

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