Archive for October, 2006


Sunday, October 22nd, 2006

Here on Toronto’s “Danforth Peninsula,” that strangely unrecognized spit of land that extends from the highlands of Scarborough westward to a line dangerously close to the “real” Toronto, we have a war on our hands. It’s going to be resolved one way or another on election day, November 13, but in the meantime it bears scrutiny.

But first, who or what is the “Danforth Peninsula?” Why has it never been recognized for what it is? What is its potential?

For answers to these questions, we turn to our resident urban designer, Jacob Allderdice.

The ‘Danforth Peninsula’ is bounded to the south by Lake Ontario, to the west by the Don Valley, and to the North by the Taylor Creek Ravine. Historically, the peninsula consisted of farms, marshes and small creeks running down to the lake. At a later time it held many of the polluting industries that typically locate east of any city’s bespoke citizenry (assuming the wind blows from the west): today it’s a bedroom community for the rest of the city and an emblem for the badge that claims “Nothing Ever happens in the East End.” People live here because it’s close to somewhere they need to get to but not so close the real estate is outrageously priced. People live here because they work in the film industry that’s built itself into the fabric along the waterfront. People live here because they’re anti-snobs who hate (and secretly envy) the west end’s plethora of cultural activities. And people live here because they always have: they’re “east end” boys and girls: they like the waterfront and the ravines that define the margins; they like the churning, pedestrian-friendly shopping strip that’s the Danforth (west of Pape); they hold dear a hope that things will get better, somehow.

Some of us in the latter camp even work for that “better” world.

The peninsula is bisected on a North-south line by Coxwell Avenue and on an east-west line by Danforth Avenue: these lines also divide the peninsula into four of the city’s 44 wards: ward 29, reprehensible by councilor Case Ootes: ward 30, represented by councilor Paula Fletcher; ward 31, represented by councilor Janet Davis; and ward 32, represented by Sandra Bussin.

One of these wards is not like the other. Can you tell us which before we finish this paragraph?

Yes, it’s Case Ootes who stands out. Is it because he’s a man among three women? Is it because he’s a conservative among three progressives? Is it because he’s an old-guard, suburban-style pro-car goon, a malingering Mel Lastmanite among folks who generally “get it,” in Mayor David Miller’s inimitable phrasing?

Yes, yes, and, well, check the voting record and decide for yourself.

But there’s more.

Case Ootes, more than any other elected offal in the city, represents failure: failure on the part of the progressive vote to move beyond the dark clowning that typified Toronto during the era of Premier Mike Harris: a time that reigns in infamy for its many undemocratic and Machiavellian events. With the ineffectual buffoon Mel Lastman at the Mayor’s throne in City Hall, it was this dark period that saw the city amalgamated from five cities to one, and the removal of power from the hands of people to be placed in the hands of big business and their lackey politicians. Yes, and it was this same Mel Lastman, whose name will forever be stamped on the horns [shurely you mean “antlers?” –ed.] of the many fiberglas moose that artists sold their souls for the chance to “decorate” (moose that even today can be found in nooks and crannies all over the city), to whom our own Case Ootes swore fealty as “the city’s first Deputy Mayor.”

With Lastman finally unelected in 2003, the city was promised a “new broom” in the hands of Mayor David Miller. But the Danforth Peninsula still bears the imprint of the old guard. Now, three years later, the time has come to rid city hall of the “embarrassment from ward 29,” Mr. Odious.

So we are here to tell you about that movement: the ABC movement. No, it’s not a new move to ensure literacy among our many immigrants from the Netherlands and elsewhere. In short, ABC stands for “Anybody But Case:” It’s a movement that’s under the breaths of everyone who lives in ward 29, which fact alone will mean that Mr. Odious (who lives deep in neighbouring ward 31 and is ineligible therefore even to cast a vote for himself) will not have heard it.

But it’s out there. We have heard it.

Not that we subscribe to it. There could be worse things than having Mr. Odious back in office for “four more years.” Odious hates bikes (a result of his inability in his native Holland to “get the knack” of the wheel before emigrating at age 13 to Canada, we understand), but he does so in such a clumsy, transparent fashion that it pulls energy from many other activities to which he could do much more damage. In fact, we love the fact that the Toronto Sun, in its annual rating of city Councillors, gave Odious a “C” in 2004 or so, specifically citing his distraction to tilt at pedal-driven wheels.

So while we aren’t ABC, we wish those alphabetizers all the luck. If it means Diane Alexopoulos gets some extra votes because she’s the visible alternative to Case, we can live with that. If it means the vote is split between Alexopoulos and the one cyclist to have declared himself against Mr. Odious, Hamish Wilson, well, we’ll have to live with that too.

What we know however, is that things on the Danforth Peninsula will never “get better” until Case Ootes leaves his pubic office for good.

General Motors: Toronto Sun’s biggest customer?

Sunday, October 15th, 2006

Pride goeth before a fall.

According to Grant Robertson, media reporter for the Glob and Blame, Toronto’s National Newspaper of Record, the Toronto Stun (that little newspaper that coulda, shoulda) is fading. Fading fast:

In 1995, the Toronto Sun had an average weekday circulation of roughly 250,000 copies. By 2000, that number had fallen to around 200,000. And this year, it sits at around 182,000. Held up to the rest of the industry, that 27 per cent decline in the span of a decade is staggering. Toronto’s four daily papers are all worried about competition from the rise of the Internet and free commuter newspapers, but the Sun’s dramatic losses have caused management to unleash a torrent of changes — including a recent round of layoffs — that have left staff worried about the future of the paper.

Actually, we like the Sun. We know people who work there and we know people who have worked there in the past. We hear for the writers and editors it is less of a snakepit than most of the Toronto dailies.

But now the paper is stumbling. Is is the “Nearly Naked Newsgirl” formerly found on page two? Is it the communist-leaning commentary of the editors and columnists?

Or–gasp–is it the car advertising found everywhere throughout, starting on the front page?

DID CAR AD KILL (Toronto Sun cover, Jan 26 06)

You know what we think it is. The Sun has been corrupted from within: automobilious corruption has set in, and until it is purged, the paper is a goner.

Two paragraphs near the end of the Global Male story told us everything we need to know about where, why, how, who, and what is happening to the Toronto Sun:

The union representing Sun employees is now launching a Save our Sun campaign that will ask members of the newspaper’s core readership to write to Mr. Lee and protest the consolidation and cutbacks.

On the list are fire halls, restaurants and the General Motors plant in Oshawa, the Sun’s largest single customer, buying a few thousand papers a day.

The Toronto Sun, famous for bikini-clad enchiladas, now faces a crisis: its biggest customer is a dinosaur and facing extinction.

UBU: The Kingmaker in Toronto’s Ward 29?

Wednesday, October 11th, 2006

Just one question matters in the imminent vote for city councillor in Toronto’s Ward 29:


Is it Case Ootes [um, sorry, website “under construction”–ed.], who immigrated to Canada from that cyclist’s Nirvana, the Netherlands, at age 13?

Is it Diane Alexopoulos, whose campaign literature tells us she wants more “green space” in the ward?

Or is it Hamish Wilson, among whose chief involvements this past year has been the call for a “bicycle expressway” from East to West along Bloor/Danforth, the Tooker Gomberg Memorial Bikelane?


It’s not Mr. Odious: he of the gilded Mercedes Benz (vanity plate: “CASE”); the record of threats against hard-won bicycle infrastructure throughout the east end (his call to “scratch out” the bikelanes on Dundas East, with its massive Mercedes Benz dealership alongside, still resonates); his successful push for motorcycle exemption from on-street parking meter payments across Toronto (his son thanks him); his employment history as a highly placed lackey at Imperial Oil (Mr. Odious, did you happen to glance at this month’s Business Executive journal?–but more on that subject later).

It’s not Ms. Alexopoulos: she decries many lacks in her analysis of ward 29: public green space; public library branches; public housing; but never mentions the public denigration of the bicycle under Councillor Ootes’s reign. She touts many an endorsement: from Paula Fletcher (and Paula’s husband’s Labour Council); from Jack Layton and the Toronto Firefighter’s Association (they share mustache secrets). But she is on record with resounding silence on the subject of the incumbent’s spite of the bike. A wink is as good as a nod, Ms. Alexopoulos.


Hamish is more than a cyclist, of course: he’s an organizer and a writer, a single father and an urban missionary of the Jane Jacobs school. As a green party member it has to be acknowledged that he “gets” the connection between one’s consumption choices and the climate we are bequeathing our children.


What you want to know is, who are those people who ride bikes? What are they? What can we say about the bike riders of this town? What are their characteristics? What is it about the potential of cyclists in Ward 29 that should have Mr Ootes and the other non-cyclist candidates defecating in their trousers and running for cover?

First of all, it must be said that in previous ward 29 battles, the lines have never been so clear. Yes, we had the same odious bike-hater running ward 29 in 2003, but back then we had just Mr. Papadakis running against: Papadakis, with his weird cop-love, his secret desire for the police helicopter, and his political posturing as a born-again progressive when his political baggage had always been even more regressive than that of Mr. Ootes. It’s interesting that he garnered even the 56% of the incumbent’s vote that he did, given the then-deputy mayor’s “power” and “prestige,” for many folks must have stayed away, not convinced there was even a real choice.

Today we have a real choice. We have a Real Cyclist to vote for.


A statistical analysis of bicycle riders in Canada has recently come to our attention. Entitled CROP Research Profile of Cyclists in Canada, it was published in the October 2006 issue of “Business Executive” journal [shurely you know it, Case? –ed.]. It identified a number of pertinent facts.

1. Cyclists (those who ride “regularly” or “occasionally”) number 37% of Canadians.

2. Canadian Cyclists are more affluent and better educated than the general population.

3. Cyclists are “very involved” in their community. “They seek to help those in need and are sensitive to environmental issues.”

4. Cyclists are “liberal, tolerant, and value freedom over discipline.”

5. Cyclists “do not measure their worth by means of their possessions and are insensitive to others’ opinions. Cyclists are moreover suspicious of advertising and of the models it sets.”


What they will want to know is twofold.

1. Are there sufficient cyclists in Ward 29 to give the seat to an upstart on a bike?

2. Can cyclists–proud, independent thinkers to a one–be convinced to vote en bloc for a candidate who self-identifies first and foremost as one of them?

In other words, is there a Union of Bicycle Users (UBU) in Toronto who can take the Odious throne? Is UBU the king-maker in Ward 29?

We don’t know the answer to this question. We do know that in 2003, Sr. Odious defeated M. Papadakis by a vote of 9,352 to 5,207 (a third party received 480 votes). We also know that in Toronto at large, just about 40% of eligible voters cast ballots. If this ratio held true for Ward 29, there would be some 37,500 eligible voters in the ward. Let us suggest that, in accord with the CROP data printed above, 37% of those self-identify as cyclists. If that group could be reached on election day, that would represent 13,900 voters.

Which is to say: if UBU can only struggle from its sleep, there could be a real upset in Ward 29 this fall.

Case Ootes, you can sit down. Diane Alexopoulos, relax. The Cyclists want this prize.

Case Ootes is so going down. And we don’t mean that in a good way.

Thursday, October 5th, 2006

News flash: the ward 29 race just got a little more piquante.

We have received word that Hamish Wilson, he of the offal puns (“Carmegeddon,” anyone?) and the stout heart, has put his good name on the line against Mr. Case Ootes.

Wilson is a Green party member, but don’t hold that against him (Mr. Ootes’s buddy Paul Charboneau also ran under the Green party banner for MP against NDP Peter Tabuns, but was never more than a closet Liberal [the East York Mirror caught up with Mr. Charboneau “congratulating” Liberal Ben Chin, the close runner-up to Tabuns, on the night of the election–that’s all we need to know–ed.]).

Wilson is to be commended for his staunch support (some would say “windmill tilting”) for the Tooker Memorial Bikelane project, a dedicated “bicycle thruway” parallelling the Bloor/Danforth subway, to connect Toronto for bicycles from east to west.

Wilson has been consistent and logical in his opposition to the proposed Gardiner Expressway Extension (aka Front Street Extension), a proposal many (including Mayor Miller) have “reluctantly” backed.

For that alone Wilson deserves Case Ootes’s seat at council.

He’s an excellent writer, especially when he gets a good editor [hey! how come you never call anymore? –ed.]. His work has often graced the pages of NOW magazine. He can speak well, though in the City Idol competition he fizzled for some reason.

Is Wilson to be backed over Diane Alexopoulos, the “Team Miller” candidate? We haven’t heard boo from her about cycling, we will say that. Can Wilson beat Ootes? That depends. Can Alexopoulos? We don’t know.

What we do know is the NDP can not be counted on to support the long term interests of the climate over the short term interests of jobs in the auto sector. We do know the NDP is scrambling for union support, especially since the high profile defection of CAW boss Buzz Hargrove in the last federal election. And Alexopoulos is NDP as far as she can throw Jack Layton. She describes herself as “Director of Development and member of the senior political staff of Canada’s NDP.”

Where does Wilson stand on the call to Ban Car Ads? We don’t know, but we can guess that he will get it: there’s a connection to be made between a destructive addiction and the advertising that sells people on that addiction. We wonder if in Wilson the ALLDERBLOB has finally found the candidate who will back our call to “expand the non-driving zones of the city?” Could it be Wilson who will start the rebirth of the Danforth Peninsula? Will we have Wilson to thank next year when Nuit Blanche includes something east of the Don River?

Such high hopes. So little time.

We will be following up on this one.

Nuit Blanche in Toronto: Replace Art with some “thing” nicer

Monday, October 2nd, 2006

Most cities have a part of town where everything seems to happen. We mean everything. Theatre, beautiful parks and open spaces, universities and other civic places like museums and galleries. They’re where people work or wish they worked, where people live, or wish they lived. They’re where people’s friends all seem to move to, leaving behind only longing and anger.

Meet Toronto’s west end.

Nuit Blanche, the all-night “art thing” that we wandered around in on Saturday night, sat its situationist-inspired butt (and we’re not the only ones to say so) down on three zones of the city, all of them west of Yonge Street. How come? Simple.

There is no art east of there. Get over it.

You want art? You want restaurants? You want happening scenes? You gotta go where the action is: and that means leaving the “Danforth Peninsula.”

So that’s what we did the other night, and we can’t say we’re sorry we did.

We had fun.

Adrian Blackwell’s swirly meeting place, behind the Art Gallery of Ontario in Grange Park, was our starting point. There we made some music with a circle of people we hardly knew. The music consisted of mutterings, creaking, stomping, pattering feet, all under the direction of a guy in the middle of the swirly place holding up coded messages for all to see. The sounds we made were amplified and augmented by electronic microphones and three guys playing brass or reed instruments. What a gas.

It sounded great from afar, too, as we wandered away to the Settlement House where a bunch of 10-year-olds were D-J-ing a rave. This appealed to the kid in us in a big way, but we couldn’t stay too long because the place was warm. Too warm.

Outside under the Sharp Centre (or whatever you call Architect Will Alsop’s black and white-splotched cow blimp on oversized pencil crayons that hovers over the Ontario College of Art and Design) we watched someone sleep, and waited our turn for the marble tournament, and used the toilet near midnight inside the Art Gallery.

Fun! Did we say fun? What a nuit blanche we had!

And all in the West End!

We saw lots of people, all walking, stumbling, crawling, wandering. We saw uniformed security guards tangoing on the street. We lined up with hundreds of others to remind ourselves of a foggy night we once walked through in the south end of Halifax, many years ago.

We saw nearly everyone we know in Toronto.

Who wouldn’t have been there? It was great!

One other thing jumped out at us–we mean besides the fact that we had to take the subway back home, a long way in the east, when it was over.

What it was was people were bicycling and walking and scooting from place to place on buses. No one did the Nuit Blanche in a car. The people in cars were looking for a place to park, in order to get out and live for a while.

The advertisers got it too. The event went off under the sponsorship of some bank or other.

No car advertising required.

Did our Mayor, David Miller, have anything to do with the success of this Nuit Blanche? We haven’t heard him take credit, exactly. But we saw the weird slogan that’s come to be associated with the Miller era: “Toronto: Live with Culture,” everywhere. We suspect the Nuit Blanche has sealed his victory over Jane Pitfield, just like that last mayor, Mel Lastman, sealed victory over Tooker Gomberg with his “Moose in the City” imagery.

We hope so, anyway.