It’s Canada Day here in the Great White North! That means a day of no work, beer drinking and fireworks. Americans can think of it as July the 4th, except it’s early because of the exchange rate.
I figured it would be appropriate to honour our country’s birthday today, but I was torn on what to write about – the depressing state Canada currently finds itself in, or ice cream. Not being able to decide, I went with both. Let’s start with the depressing stuff.
I’ve spent much of the past week or so lamenting the erosion of our freedoms, thanks to the G20 summit. First, before the conference even began, there was the outrageous security bill, the walls and the omnipresent police officers, who made a normally safe city feel cold and alien. Then, when the summit actually happened, there was the violence, civil rights violations and abuse of power. I was starting to get over some of it, but then I watched the video below of Naomi Klein, journalist and author of several great books including her latest, The Shock Doctrine, speaking at a rally on Monday in front of Toronto police headquarters.
The protest itself was amazing – around 1,000 people gathered to protest not the G20, but the police’s behaviour over the weekend. Check out the video:
If that doesn’t make you mad, I don’t know what will. Klein is absolutely right: with $1 billion spent on security – 10 times more than what has ever been spent on a G20 before – it is inconceivable that even a single store window was allowed to be broken, much less several police cruisers allowed to burn. That either means conspiracy, where the summit organizers used the event as their “personal ATM machine,” or gross incompetency. In either case, heads must roll.
As expected, there are calls for various inquiries. I say bollocks to that idea – it’s not democratic and, forgive me for being cynical, it’ll only result in more bullshit. Maybe we’ll need to have a further inquiry to sort out that bullshit.
Hell no. This whole fiasco calls for a reaffirmation of democracy, and the best way to do that is to have an election. Or a whole bunch of them. There’s evidence of complicity on every level. The federal government made the idiot move of having an event that always turns out to be a clusterf&^%$ in the middle of the country’s largest city. The provincial government passed and/or changed laws in secret to facilitate it (our media is still trying to figure out exactly what happened). The municipal government sided with the cops and tried to pass the buck to the feds by claiming their pleas to hold the summit in a different location went unheard – a bullshit excuse if I’ve ever heard one. Like holding the summit a few blocks west of downtown would have stopped the protestors.
Fortunately, we’re going to have a municipal election later this year. I suspect the fallout from the G20 will stick around long enough on a municipal level to have a big impact on that election. The provincial government is a little luckier – the Liberals have a majority and are set to rule until next year. Federally, though, things are shakier with a minority Conservative government running things. Anger over the G20, depending on how far up the chain it goes, could make things very interesting in Ottawa.
The Conservatives have maintained a minority government for four years so far, a veritable miracle when compared to the track record of minority governments (I believe the average is 1.5 years). That they’ve been able to do so is a pretty big condemnation of the opposition – it goes to show just how bad the Liberals are. Someone mentioned to me the other day that even if we wanted an election right now, there just isn’t anyone better to vote for.
That’s true, but what people forget is that in a democracy, you don’t always vote for the better person, you sometimes vote to punish the other person. If enough Canadians expressed their anger over the G20 fiasco and demanded an election, the Liberals would certainly seize on that. They’d take votes any way they could get them. And a newly elected Liberal government, unless its members were completely brain dead (which could be up for debate), would be cognizant of how they came to power. Namely: if you abuse the public trust, you get yourself booted. Barack Obama’s 2008 victory is a good example – his landslide was fueled not just by the strength of his character, but also by the public’s desire to punish the Republicans.
Another friend also commented that while we Torontonians may be angry, the Conservatives don’t really give a damn because they never fare well with voters here anyway. That’s also true, as this map of the 2008 election shows. There’s also the thinking that the rest of Canada looks on at us Torontonians as a bunch of cry-babies.
If anyone outside of Toronto does hold that view, that’s pretty sad. If lamenting the beating of journalists, the unwarranted imprisoning of innocent citizens and the arresting of a guy who was simply heading to his fantasy role-playing game are only Toronto-centric issues, then I’m not really sure what it means to be Canadian. These are offences that shouldn’t be acceptable in any part of this country, so I would hope non-Torontonians would put aside their normal disdain for us (some of which I’m sure is warranted) and join us in calling for an affirmation of democracy. As the old saying goes, if you sit silently by and let it happen to someone else, there may not be anyone left to object when it happens to you.
Okay, with that said, I did promise that it wouldn’t be all frowns and bitching today. The other day I ran into an old friend at the checkout counter of the grocery store, and she had an item that blew my mind: it was a package of ice cream that had a Canadian flag pattern worked into it (see photo above). Call me a nerd, but I couldn’t help but wonder at this wondrous display of food technology (even if ironically, it may not be made in Canada).
So there you have it: why not enjoy a blob of Canadian-flagged ice cream this Canada Day? The sweetness may distract somewhat from the bad taste left in our mouths by the G20.