Category Archives: Politics

The last post about Rob Ford (I hope)

It’s kind of hilarious that the last time I wrote about Toronto’s (to put it lightly) controversial mayor, I thought the most bizarre behaviour I had seen from him was getting up from a special Toronto meeting and putting “ROB FORD MAYOR” fridge magnets on people’s cars.

But nope, nope and nope, that does not even come close to strange Ford behaviour. Chances are you’ve probably heard about this even if you’re not from Toronto, since the story was broken by John Cook of Gawker, a US website.

In the story, first appearing on Gawker and later in the Toronto Star, the reporters (Cook of Gawker and Kevin Donovan and Robyn Doolittle of the Star) were able to view a video that was being shopped around by, supposedly, Somalian drug dealers in the Toronto area. The video showed Rob Ford smoking what appears to be crack cocaine. He also apparently called Justin Trudeau, the leader of the Liberal Party, a “fag” and apparently referred to the students he deals with at Don Bosco as their former coach as “fucking minorities.”

For a lot of people, I don’t think it was surprising to hear about yet another stupid thing Ford may or may not have been caught doing. Don’t know if anyone was necessarily thought the latest Ford salvo would be crack-smoking allegations, but that’s what happened.

At first, Ford simply said to reporters (who understandably swarmed around his house the morning after the story broke) was that the allegations were “untrue” and “ridiculous” but then kept silent about it the rest of the day. And the day after that, and the day after that.

Eventually, Ford’s executive committee signed a letter to get Ford to speak about in full. By the way, this letter came about yesterday, at which point Ford had been silent for eight days. Ford did finally speak to the media at 3:30 p.m. yesterday, sporting a new hair cut and a look on his face that could be called a smirk or a grin depending on what you believe.

He said “I do not use crack cocaine” and said he is not an addict. It was an interesting choice of language, as many pointed out. because of the verb tense. The statement could be interpreted as “I do not currently use crack cocaine” which might suggest that he did in the past.

His denial of the allegations was interesting in that he tried to blame the Toronto Star solely for the story, even though it was Gawker that broke the story first. He then went on to talk about the fact that he was recently fired as the coach for Don Bosco but still supports the school, and then wished Mark Towhey, his former chief of staff (who he fired) the best of luck with whatever he’s going to do now.

Interesting point about the Towhey firing: the Toronto Sun (which is usually a staunch Ford supporter) claims that Towhey told them that the reason he was fired was that he suggested that Rob Ford get help in the form of rehab or whatever. The Star in this morning’s paper also suggested Towhey might have been fired when he refused to go and collect football equipment Ford had donated to the school.

A lot of people weren’t convinced by Ford’s denial thanks to his selective language and refusal to take questions. Now, if this weren’t enough, another paper published something this morning. This paper was not the Star but the Globe & Mail, one of Canada’s most prominent national newspapers.

After an 18-month investigation of the Ford family, reporters cited ten unnamed sources in saying that Doug Ford, Rob Ford’s older brother and mayoral office force, sold marijuana as a teen. As well, Rob’s brother Randy and sister Kathy were also alleged to have connections to drug dealers.

Doug Ford was quick to pounce on this one, outright denying, with very clear language, that he ever sold drugs. He used a sentence that Rob Ford should have used in yesterday’s statement. Doug said “I never sold” marijuana.

At this point, Toronto city hall is a huge circus. Nothing is going to get done unless Ford puts this to rest, and as far as I see it, that can only be done in two ways. One, Ford could hold a press conference in which he takes any and all questions aimed at him re: the crack cocaine scandal. I’d be a little more reassured if he actually says he’s never smoked crack cocaine and I’d like him to comment more on the video. Second, Rob Ford could resign.

And to be honest, I think he should. I’ll be the first to admit I’ve never been a particular fan of Rob Ford, but I think his personal drama is now stopping Toronto from doing anything, and he’s probably not building confidence in the taxpayers he’s trying to represent.

As I said in my previous Ford post, I genuinely believe, beneath the burnt bridges and buffoonery, that he wants to help Toronto become a better city. He’s just chosen way too many awful ways to do that.

Toronto’s mayor

And just when I thought I had done with hearing weird Rob Ford news.

The latest story, of course coming from the Toronto Star, tells of some very bizarre behaviour from Ford in which he bolted out of a council meeting so that he could put “Rob Ford Mayor” fridge magnets onto people’s cars.

Apparently a reporter suggested to him that people might find his behaviour a little strange (a perfectly fair—and accurate—suggestion) to which Ford replied that people might find the reporter strange.

A comment on the story held out genuine concern that perhaps Ford is mentally ill. I don’t know if that’s the case, but who knows, it might be. Anyways, it’s been a relatively peaceful time for Rob Ford news lately. The last time he was actively involved in the news was probably when he sent out the open letter in support of a Toronto casino. And perhaps very briefly after that, some time last week, when Ford delayed the council vote because it was fairly obvious that he was going to lose it.

A nickname that Ford has gotten since taking the mayoralty has been The Teflon Mayor. Lots of things are thrown at him but nothing sticks. He has twice eluded the potential for him to be thrown out of office. He has done numerous things wrong including driving past an open streetcar door (and subsequently refusing to hire a driver) and rerouting a TTC bus to transport the high school football team he coaches.

It was funny how little I knew of Ford when he was elected. In fact, all I knew is that he was a very available man before he was elected. My friend Wes actually profiled him for our first-year reporting class.

When it was Toronto election time, I recall another friend saying something to the effect of “It’s time to vote. And by vote, I mean don’t vote for Rob Ford.” But he won. And as much as people complain (A LOT) there’s nothing we can really do until 2014, when the next municipal election happens. Something in me says there’s no way the guy is going to be elected again, but if a promising candidate fails to step up then we might get a few more years.

I believe underneath the blunders and buffoonery, Rob Ford genuinely wants to help Toronto get out of its debt crisis. But he’s burned so many bridges, has been so abrasive and so unwilling to compromise that it’s hard to believe he’ll ever get anything done.

And with this latest incident, it seems unbelievably tacky to leave an important meeting in order to weirdly start campaigning even though the campaign doesn’t really start until next year.

I don’t know what you want, Rob Ford. I really don’t.

Trudeau

As a journalism student (and I hope soon to be actual journalist) I’ve paid an increasing amount of attention to politics and local news over the years. When I was in high school, when I put my political views on Facebook it was “apathetic” for the longest time, and I knew once I got into my post-secondary institution that it’s not useful to be apathetic when it comes to politics. Close to neutral is better, because than at least you can agree with conservative or liberal policies as you choose.

I know now I’m politically a liberal, and probably have been for some time. Yesterday was a pretty big day for Liberal politics. Albeit over 30 minutes late, Justin Trudeau, the son of the former prime minister Pierre Trudeau, easily won the race to become the next leader of the federal Liberal party. Trudeau needed 15,000 points to win, and he got 24,000. If that’s not a clear signal of the confidence federal Liberals have in Trudeau, I don’t know what is.

My friend Kevin rightly pointed out that the media did do one thing wrong when talking about the leadership race, and that was often referring to Trudeau’s non-surprising win as a “coronation.” The thing is, Trudeau did not run unopposed. Sure, he easily won, but he was against several other candidates. Calling it a coronation makes it seem like he was the only person in the race. From the way he was covered, it certainly seemed that way, however untrue.

Now I have no problem with saying that I am really excited about Mr. Trudeau winning the leadership race. It’s been quite some time since I was ever genuinely excited about a politician. Sadly, the last politician I was a little excited about wasn’t Canadian, and that was Barack Obama.

In Canada, it’s a whole different story when it comes to politicians. As a high school teacher said once, Canadian politics is rarely about voting for the candidate you like the most; it’s almost always about the candidate you hate the least. Depending on how Trudeau proves himself in the House of Commons, I might actually be voting for someone I truly and genuinely like.

Justin Trudeau first really came into attention a while back, when he called someone, during a House session, a “piece of shit.” It took guts to get angry like that, and he did apologize, but he had a point. I don’t remember how long ago it was, but Trudeau had a real point to what he said.

Since then, he’s proven himself to be a genuinely personable and intelligent guy. I remember talking with my friend Diana last August about politics, and we both agreed that we thought Trudeau would be a great new leader for the Liberal Party. This was before he officially announced his campaign, and it now seems almost prophetic that we had the conversation we had.

Of course, one thing that critics are pointing out is Trudeau’s “thin resumé.” But as Rick Salutin points out, lots of former PMs have gone in with thick resumés and accomplished surprisingly little. It’s nice to have a candidate who is articulate and can focus on the future.

All of this is conditional, naturally. Trudeau could wither under the intensified limelight or he might not. He could be a very dangerous opponent of Stephen Harper and he might just captivate a higher percentage of the population to vote. Or he might not.

But I think Trudeau has the capacity to get people excited. As I mentioned earlier, it’s rare that Canadians get to see politicians they genuinely like, and Trudeau might just be that guy.

Opinion polls are NOT headlines

Yesterday morning I noticed that the front page of the Toronto Sun had an Oscars theme, which made sense, considering the Academy Awards had happened the night before. (As a side note, I won’t comment on the Oscars in too much detail because, quite frankly, film isn’t much my area of expertise. That aside, it has made me love Jennifer Lawrence. Also, I thought Seth Macfarlane was alright as a host, despite a large swath of critics saying the opposite. People need to lighten up a little. Especially you, Peter Howell.)

But anyways, the Sun Oscar-themed front page wasn’t talking about the Oscars. No, it was talking about how, according to a poll that Forum Research recently did, apparently Torontonians love mayor Rob Ford or something. When I saw the headline, I became immediately suspicious, and with good reason. My journalist training has given me the impulse to look up a specific paragraph every time I read a story about an opinion poll. And anyone who reads these stories should look for this paragraph too.

What you should be looking for is the paragraph where it tells you how many people were surveyed, what the margin of error is and how many times out of 20 the poll is accurate to. When I searched out the paragraph in the accompanying Sun article, I found what I feared I might find. The poll randomly surveyed about 800 Torontonians. Therein lies the problem.

In my first year of journalism school, we were taught about the perils of polls. First of all, polls are conducted via random digit dialing (RDD). If they aren’t, the survey isn’t legitimate (on this factor, the Sun poll does alright). Secondly, though, the sample size needs to be at least 1,500 people. I don’t remember the exact reason why this is so, but it has something to do with improving the margin of error, if I recall.

So the Sun failed the second part of the test.

And I don’t mean to say that the Sun is the only paper that does this. While I admit I’m not a fan of that paper, a newspaper I do read, the Toronto Star, is equally guilty of making polls they conduct front-page news (most of the time, these days, the front-page poll news is usually how Torontonians wouldn’t vote for Ford, or something along those lines).

There are several reasons why newspapers should really, really stop using polls as top items. First and foremost, think about the segment of the population that these polls represent. Toronto is home to over two million people, and most surveys talk to no more than a few thousand. And who are these people pollsters reach by RDD, anyway? The always wonderful Rick Mercer has a brilliant rant on polls that echoes my sentiments almost to the letter.

And then think about the value of these things as news items. Quite frankly, who gives a shit what a thousand-and-someodd people think about pertinent issues of the day? Shouldn’t we be caring a little more about items that will actually affect our lives, like transit funding or government scandals? This is by no means an exhaustive list of issues, but it’s something that I think people should be a tad bit more interested in.

And the worst part is that, increasingly, the golden paragraph that tells you how it was done seems to be disappearing more and more often. The last few times I’ve looked at Star poll stories I’ve failed to find the information-bearing paragraph. For god’s sake, if you’re going to make a poll about Canadians hating Stephen Harper a front-page item, at least tell us how legitimate your data is! I end this rant with another person who echoes my sentiments, Arianna Huffington. She also brings up another pertinent point about the failure of polls.

Rob Ford by any other name

Yesterday was some pretty big news for Torontonians. One ongoing saga came to an end that very few people actually saw coming: Rob Ford won his appeal in a court case that would have had him removed from office as mayor of Toronto.

Rob Ford is to Toronto, in a sense, as George W. Bush was to the States. And by that I mean a laughing stock in not only his own country but internationally. Naturally, the stuff George Bush did in the States is far worse than anything Ford has really done to Toronto, but still. he’s a mayor that is just so fun to make fun of.

He’s definitely the most divisive GTA mayor in some time; you either love the guy or you hate him. The first time I had heard of Ford was before he was officially elected mayor. My friend Wes ended up interviewing him for a profile assignment we had in our first year of journalism school. At that time, Ford was the most available guy on city council and freely gave his phone number out to people who wanted to get in touch with him.

Unsurprisingly those days have long since gone. Ford has done a boatload of stupid things since being elected mayor (and several stupid things before he was elected mayor), here’s a short list:

  • Diverted two TTC buses to transport the high school football team he coaches
  • Called the police on a cast member of This Hour Has 22 Minutes
  • harassed a Toronto Star reporter who came near his property

And many more. These things have gotten the attention of not only the Canadian national media, but also other countries that look on and say “Canada, how could you do this?” What the mayorship of Rob Ford has also done is divide the city’s newspapers.

At one end of the spectrum is the Toronto Sun. They are firmly pro-Ford and have been since day one. They will defend the man to the death and blame people like “lefties” (or maybe “pinkos,” thanks to Don Cherry’s popularization of the word). On the other end of the spectrum is the Toronto Star, who have been anti-Ford since day one. They are possibly even more anti-Ford now because, due to a story the paper ran, Ford excludes the Star from all press releases and news events. Whenever Ford slips up, you can bet it will be a front page story.

At first I tended to be quite pleased with the Star‘s knocking of Ford, but after a while it gets a little tiresome. I was quite pleased to read, today, Royson James’ column on Ford’s win in the courts. I agree with him when he says that Ford winning his appeal was the best option for Toronto; if he did lose it sounds like minor chaos would erupt in Toronto, either broken trust as councillors decided on a new mayor or a $7 million byelection that no one needs at a time when the city is seriously strapped for cash.

I’m surprised to find myself not as passionate about the world of Rob Ford anymore now that time has passed. This whole court debacle isn’t quite over, though; one the one hand, the opposing side are going to appeal to the Supreme Court, even if it’s a long shot. And next week, the findings of a wholly different investigation are going to be revealed, and through that Ford could once again lose his seat (or be fined, depending on what the recommended punishment is).

Ford is certainly comedy gold for the city of Toronto, but perhaps these skirmishes with the law might finally humble him a little bit and perhaps allow him to get some things done before the next mayoral election.

Teachers

It’s funny that Dailypost’s suggestion for today was about teachers and the impact (positive or negative) that they’ve made on one’s life. You are probably living in a cave without wi-fi or a TV if you are living in Ontario right now and are unaware about the massive protest action that teachers are taking.

Long story short: teachers have been without a contract for months and months, and the Ontario government just recently passed a bill that forced a contract on teachers, limiting, among other things, their ability to bank sick days. The contract imposed, teachers can no longer strike, so they’ll do the best kind of protest they can do under the circumstances- work to rule. So no extracurriculars for most students, unless they’re part of the Catholic school board.

I’m not going to talk too much longer about this, but my opinion is as follows: I’m at a loss as to whose side I should be on. On the one hand, the government is setting a fairly chilling precedent for any future major contract negotiations. Labour unions have had a long, difficult battle over the last few decades to be as recognized as they are now. The later 1800s and early 1900s were a really bad time for unions in Canada, as the Winnipeg General Strike can attest to. Strikes were often quashed by government forces with violence.

But on the other hand, I’m through feeling sympathy for the teachers. Banking sick days is an archaic practice and more and more businesses are getting rid of them. Worst is that students are caught in the middle of all of this chaos—they’re being punished for something they’ve had nothing to do with.

But anyways, I do want to talk about a few amazing teachers I’ve had over the years:

  • Ms. Papp-Sanford (Grade Seven, Language Arts/History/Geography/Drama): I was fortunate to be in her class as in grade seven I was initially placed in a non-band class by accident (I was supposed to be playing the clarinet). Ms. Papp taught me so much about the world and was probably responsible for shaping my worldview now- she always knew how to make jokes but at the same time took things very seriously and got angry at people who slacked off. I still try and say hi to her if I’m near my old middle school, though that doesn’t really happen anymore since I’m about to wrap up university.
  • Ms. Deveau, nee Maxwell (Grade Eight, Language Arts/History/Geography): I was blessed to have a very young and brilliant teacher for my grade eight year. She never, ever yelled but managed to keep everyone under control simply by being understanding.
  • Mr. Beairsto (Grade Eleven, World Religions): I only had him for one course, but I’ll still remember so much of the studying I did under him. He travelled the world and was thus extremely wise. He taught the entire course with barely a reference to a textbook and taught the various theologies hilariously (ie. talking about two Biblical figures meeting at a Starbucks). He was also the one who inspired me to stray away from my goal to become a teacher and into journalism—he told me I was too smart to be a teacher.
  • Mr. Arthur (Drama, grades Ten through Twelve): I almost think of him less as a teacher and more of a really good friend (though I did learn quite a bit from him). Completely understanding, down-to-earth. I tend to see him at least once a year along with some other people who were in my grade twelve drama class.

So teachers definitely can make a difference in one’s lives. I don’t know where I’d be without those four teachers I just mentioned.

What you need to know about police officer deaths in Canada

 

Ryan Russell's funeral yesterday was a solemn occasion rarely experienced by Canadians (Facebook)

Constable Ryan Russell, 35, the Toronto police officer killed by a snow plow at the intersection of Avenue Rd. and Davenport Rd. on January 12, is the 821st officer killed in the line of duty in Canada. In Ontario, he is the 249th officer to be killed.

While 821 police officers may seem like a lot, this number pales in comparison to the number of police officers killed in the US- a staggering 20,400 officers. 8 police officers in the US have already died this year compared to Canada’s 1 so far.

The last time a Toronto police officer was killed was in 2002, when Constable Laura Ellis’ squad car collided with another car. Ellis was the first female Toronto police officer to die in the line of duty.

The Toronto Metropolitan Police Service, the department that both Russell and Ellis were a part of, has suffered the most deaths in all of Ontario’s history. 35 police officers killed since 1918, when Acting Detective Frank A. Williams, 28, was killed by gunfire while investigating a theft.

A Toronto Police car responding to a call. Many officer deaths are caused by car accidents. (Public domain)

 

The last Canadian police officer to die before Russell was Constable Sébastien Coghlan-Goyette, 25. He was killed in a car accident on November 14, 2010 while responding to an emergency call.

Tragic as deaths of police are, they tend to happen rather infrequently in Canada.