This afternoon I heard a lot about the BBQ held at the Toronto mayor’s family home and how there was a surprise visitation by the Prime Minister. They all apparently enjoyed themselves, congratulating each other on how they’ve managed a Conservative takeover of city and country and (possibly: we’ll see in the fall) the province as well. Some described it as a “love-in” (Sun News) where it was “revealed” that the Prime Minister and mayor have gone on “secret” fishing trips and been “fishing buddies” for some time. I have to admit I thought this totally in keeping with both their work: much of it is “secret” and behind closed doors and, of course, beneficial for all those clandestine supporters. They apparently took “jabs” at the left wing; I suppose they were making fun of those who need the services they are cutting and congratulating themselves on motivating people to do things for themselves. All in the name of cutting taxes for the rich… I mean saving money for the city.
There was apparently a video of the event published on YouTube. I decided I didn’t want to watch it. The whole Ford family Conservative reign over the city reminds me entirely too much of George Bush and his family’s empire in the U.S. I had hoped that we might be able to keep them from doing as much damage as they did in the States, but we don’t seem to learn very well. Much though Canada hates to be called the fifty-first state… we often act exactly like it. Except we don’t get the benefits.
Marget Atwood apparently has a similar view of the Fords’ BBQ (Globe and Mail). She wasn’t invited either. She has most recently been in a battle against the Fords, particularly since they have come out against libraries (Global Saskatoon). It seems that when Rob couldn’t find the “gravy train” savings that he had been elected to uncover (anywhere other than the pockets his own rich fishing buddies) Mr. Ford has instead suggested pulling important services like libraries. The mayor’s brother, Doug, apparently said he would close them “in a heartbeat” and quipped that there were more libraries than Tim Horton’s coffee shops in his ward… a statement that is false. Much though we can chalk this up to the inevitable pattern of exaggeration that is so common today in politics, it also reveals a number of things about Mr. Ford:
he doesn’t know his ward or this city nearly as well as he thinks he does
he devalues libraries and those who use them precisely because he doesn’t go near them
he doesn’t care about the truth. It was more important for him to have a “sound-bite” about the prevalence of libraries than it was to be accurate in his comparison. This has characterized both brothers in their campaigns, where they’ve spoken much more about what people hope and would like to hear than what is true.
A poll recently asked the residents of Toronto about libraries. What it found was that the majority of us not only want our libraries, but 84% of us want to keep them from being privatized. Libraries are a city function. To start pulling such things out of the city is to stop being Toronto.
In Chicago, libraries are being revamped to provide an atmosphere that is safe and fun, and provides books for children. (New York Times) And in New York, kids are being encouraged to “pay down” their fines by reading books. This summer program in the States is something I would be proud of. According to MSN Money: ” ‘The country is in a pretty tough financial climate right now, and we know that kids more than ever need to use the library because their parents might not be able to afford to buy books or not be able to afford Internet access at home,’ Jack Martin, the library’s assistant director, told Reuters.’” Here in Canada, books are even more expensive: in spite of the current height of the Canadian dollar (book prices relative to their U.S. counterparts reflect the value of the dollar in the 1980s). Both of these American programs encourage the use of libraries and provide for the poorest in the cities. It used to be that here in Toronto we surpassed American ideals for city living, but that must have been in our past.
We used to be Toronto the Good. We’re becoming nothing more than Toronto the Rich.