Posts Tagged ‘Harper

06
Sep
11

RIP Jack. The Struggle Continues

I went to Parliament Hill to file by Jack Layton’s coffin that Thursday, and it was the makeshift memorial full of cans of Orange Crush, letters of thanks and encouraging messages for the future that left me choked up and wiping tears off my cheeks. The idea of an Elmaks street art memorial piece crossed my mind and didn’t leave. It had to be done. Like most of my ideas, its birth came about in the form of two images. Layton’s mustache and NDP orange. I went looking for material and knew things were looking up when I stumbled upon a half-sheet of 1/2″ plywood behind the local trip mall. This would have to go from idea to finished product in 36 hours- my version of a no-huddle offense.

The most frustrating part of this was laying down Krylon indoor-outdoor gloss finish on top of Montana Black. The latter’s a proper artists’ paint and has a powdery finish, while the former’s gotten worse in terms of its consistency in recent years and sports a ‘tamper proof’ unremovable nozzle that sprays a blotchy wedge pattern which requires at least 2-3 coats even if you’re painting wicker furniture (Even though its cans are useless to proper street artists, Krylon’s cheap and that makes it a good friend of taggers). I laid down 3 coats of orange (10 minute drying time my ass…I spent 1 1/2 hours waiting for each coat to dry) before it hit me that Weld Bond glue could be used as an improvised primer.

Jack Layton wasn’t just a politician, he was an activist and an advocate. He was a tireless fighter for the rights of GLBT citizens, the homeless, immigrants, wounded soldiers and just about anyone else whose voice wasn’t being heard. He was an honest politician who sought to bring civility to Parliament. As his state funeral showed, he was a man who touched many lives.

He was also a powerful rallying figure for those who know that this country of ours is being steered in the wrong direction and want to turn the wheel sharply away from its present course. The enthusiasm of many who’ve vowed to carry on his tasks of activism and advocacy hasn’t quite hit me. It’s been patchy. But I’ve been also thrown into a bit of a worry-and-frustration-induced depression. Reality-induced funk, I guess.

It’s not just the slashing of Environment Canada jobs, the lack of whistleblower protection, the justification of $1 billion in expenses for the Toronto G8 summit and excusing of horrible police violence and unconstitutional mass arrests, the elimination of the Canadian Long Form Census, the blatant lie that crime rates are increasing being used to justify the construction of US-style megaprisons, the exorbitant expenditure on overpriced and untested single-engine fighter jets (I’ll say that what this country really needs in terms of home military equipment spending is a modernized Navy and Coast Guard), the “it’s the economy, stupid” claims of economic success in a petrostate with booming oil-prices (Canada’s economy has become a resource-extraction-based one), the refusal to answer media questions, “But That’s Simply Not True…”, the massive expansion of the tar sands and invite to foreign oil companies to make a mess they won’t ever have to clean up, the abyssmal conditions of Native reserves, the slashing of social spending, the falsifying of documents by a senior minister, or the Canadian Taliban-esque social conservatism that occasionally bursts through the background noise like a demented SETI signal broadcasting “Screw you all! We’re not only content with wrecking the environment but we’ll wreck all of your sinning, criminal lives to boot because that’s the way things were intended”

No, it’s not just that. It’s also the media’s cowardice in failing to press Harper even when he restricted them to five questions per day. It’s the chilling political climate this country’s taking on. It’s the rise of right-wing politicians who gut city and provincial treasuries like human locusts by slashing their tax base and handing out unscrutinized contracts to their friends.

It’s also the anger these politicans turn into a carefully directed hate and rise to power on, and it’s the fact that many among their electorate are cheering them on the entire time.

The other side never takes a day off from steering the reins in their direction. The struggle continues. We’ve got our work cut out for us. Thank you Jack. We lost a great fighter, rallier, inspiration and human being. Vires in Numeris. Let’s roll.

19
Aug
10

DIY Bike Lanes and Imaginary Crimes

First of all, let me begin with an awesome street art initiative from Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Urban Repair Squad

As the article mentions, Sao Paulo is known for its congested streets which pose a dangerous challenge for pedestrians and cyclists alike. During Brazil’s World Cup games, a group of street artists took to the city’s empty streets to paint bike lanes and pedestrian crosswalks in hazardous areas, a project which reminds me a lot of Montreal’s very own Roadsworth.
Train Tracks by Roadsworth

There’s some talk about initiating traffic-calming initiatives and pedestrian-friendly urban improvements in Montreal’s St. Henri Borough to manage dangerous and confusing intersections. (Ongoing construction has, in some places, created a maze of concrete barriers through which pedestrians must weave in order to cross streets). I’ve suggested that the local borough council, if and when it begins a public awareness campaign to raise support for intersection overhauls, get a street artist like Roadsworth (or myself) to paint new pedestrian crossings in certain intersections. I’m thinking of something along the lines of a meandering clown-shoed path to best illustrate the danger that construction barriers pose to pedestrians crossing far-too-wide streets in which they’re often forced to stop halfway. Or a stencil of the Montreal Pedestrian Charter, which was adopted to prevent situations like these.

And now on to gripe-town. The Harper government continues to stand pat on its decision to eliminate the mandatory census long-form, a decision which has been condemned across the board. To this date, only a handful of groups have come forward to support Harper’s decision. These include the Fraser Institute, a right-wing, pro-‘free market’ think-tank, as well as the National Citizens’ Coalition, site of Stephen Harper’s old job, and the euphemistically-named Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation.

Stephen Harper’s contempt for others and their points of view has been glaring and at times, even chilling. Watching Industry Minister Tony Clement being apparently forced to publicly defend the scrapping of the census long form, seemingly as punishment for having criticized Harper’s decision to do so in the beginning, smacks of a tragic comedy; one part misery and two parts farce.

As a future urban planner I will be one of the many people who will be making important use of census data that, in Canada, currently has an international reputation for accuracy, proper documentation and strict privacy controls. What it all boils down to is this:

As Noam Chomsky has said, media discourse no longer revolves around a debate or interaction of two opinions. What has replaced it is instead a strategy by which a message is repeated over and over until it enters the public consciousness and becomes public opinion. Facts are replaced by buzzwords. And it works. For example, take the recent survey which found that close to 20 per cent of Americans believe that President Obama is a Muslim.

Harper’s people have been trying to push a conservative Christian agenda on Canadians for a number of years, an agenda which requires more than a complete ignorance of the facts. For example, it’s not enough for them to say that Insite does not work, in spite of the massive support it has received at a city, provincial and even international level. It’s not enough to call for a recriminalization of marijuana and mandatory minimum sentencing for possession charges in spite of a tremendous amount of evidence contradicting the very same fear-mongering pitches which Harper & Co. toss out.

No, in order to successfully pull something like this off you have to sway public opinion in your favor first. And that involves both flooding the airwaves with your own message and destroying the foundations of your opponents’ arguments. As long as census data remains reliable you’re bound to see situations where Conservative ministers get caught with their pants down, as was the case when Treasury Board President Stockwell Day tried to claim that the Canadian crime rate is rising rather than falling in order to justify a planned $6 billion dollar expenditure on new prisons.

You can’t call your opponents “ivory-tower intellectuals” and “thug-huggers” and get away with it very well if they can meticulously tear your arguments apart with cold, hard data. You’re just stuck in place babbling on about Imaginary Crimes. These types are the worst kind of policy-makers. Like ‘bio-ethicist’ Margaret Somerville, these people follow a scientific approach insofar as it suits their ideological goals. They prepare an ideological argument first, and then scour for figures that supposedly back it up.

29
Jun
10

New Posterchild stencil, “Harper’s Army”

New piece by Toronto’s Posterchild, fresh for the G-20 summit where Toronto’s 41 and 42 Division were given the chance to run amok. Huge props to Posterchild. This is gorgeous.

And if you haven’t seen this yet, watch it. TOPD overreacts to peaceful protesters singing our national anthem





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