Thursday, August 18, 2011

Summer Editorial Series – The List

There’s nothing like a little time out of town to give you perspective and appreciation. Last weekend, I was in downtown Indianapolis for GenCon, a convention of gamers that’s the largest of its kind in North America. This was the weekend after that whole debt ceiling nonsense had been resolved and the same weekend that saw the United States lose its prestigious AAA credit rating, which it had possessed for nearly 95 years.

But on the streets of Indiana’s state capital, where a homeless individual or other needy person seemed to be taking up residence on every corner at the intersection of Washington and Capital, none of that mattered. Better still, none of that seemed to matter to the people handing out postcards outside the convention centre, advising people going in of the importance of living, and if necessary dying, by the word of The Bible. Perhaps they hadn’t heard that connections between Dungeons & Dragons and Satanism had been debunked decades ago.

In the back of my mind was the comfort that I has heading back to Canada; where people were smarter, where they were more caring, and where radical Christianity hasn’t gotten a stranglehold. When I woke up Monday, it was literally morning in Canada. And then I saw the front of the Toronto Sun. Handed down from on high, or wherever it is that their editorial board meets, were the three main focuses that they thought should make the top of Mayor Rob Ford’s to-do pile: licensing bikes, panhandling, and getting rid of surcharges for plastic bags.

Now, I can’t for the life of me understand the appeal of Mayor Ford; he has all the personality of Boss Tweed, but has the extreme misfortune of being a politician in the Information Age. (Guy can’t even flip the bird at cautionary citizen pointing out his law violating Blackberry use behind the wheel without making CP24.) Still, he won the election, he’s the mayor for three-and-a-half more years at least, but should these really be the three most important things he needs to get immediately?

Certainly, the Sun thinks so. After Monday’s cover story, they launched into a week-long series of covers demanding, practically ordering, that something be done about panhandlers. First of all, what’s the urgency? Second of all, can one get rid of the poor like they’re overstock cookies at a bake sale? Solving the problem of all the poor people on the street requires one of two solutions: social spending to help these people out with the programs and services they need (which I’m sure would tick Sun editors off) or two, rounding them up in debtors’ prison and poor houses like the social welfare state never came into effect in the first place.

What about licensing bikes? Were does that come from? Actually, I know where it’s coming from, the recent, well-publicized traffic incidents involving cyclists. Incidents, mind you, where the cyclist was usually at fault. That is regrettable, and while I don’t necessarily disagree with the notion that a bike should be licensed, should making it so really be in the Top 3 of Mayoral priorities in Canada’s biggest city. Besides the whole thing smacks of “Summer of the Shark” syndrome, something’s made the news a couple of times in quick succession, which means a clear and present danger is there and it needs to addressed. It’s the chicken and the egg problem of the modern media: Problem A is in the news because it’s an immediate threat, and it’s an immediate threat because it’s in the news.

Last, but certainly least, is the matter of paying a nickel for a plastic bag at the grocery store. Aside from sorting your recyclables and being mindful of much electricity you use, it’s literally the least you can for the environment. No Frills has been doing it for years, I wonder if Ford pushes through on this and the by-law is repealed, will Toronto take the grocery store chain to court? What am I talking about, it’s not like they’re Guelph.

But seriously, this is a matter of world-crumbling urgency? How can you fault a law that encourages people to be more environmentally conscious, while making them pay a premium for using something that harms us and the planet? Doesn’t the Sun know there’s a big floating pile of plastic in the Pacific the size of some larger U.S. states? What am I talking about? They’re too busy swearing under their breath trying to find pocket change for a plastic grocery bag.

Perhaps once the immediate problems of these three issues are resolved, Ford can get busy working on other issues. For instance, there are trees in Toronto with too many leaves. Doesn’t he know people are going to have to rake them up in another month? Also the TTC subway trains make too much noise, but we don’t want to pay more for quiet trains. Maybe you should be writing this down…

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