The People’s Republic of Toronto (Redux)

July 31, 2018 at 4:39 pm (Uncategorized)

I had meant to write a follow-up piece to Marxist Prediction Power and Marxist Prediction Power II about the Ontario election. But, life and work got in the way, and I never did. As it turned out, I was right (along with everyone else) that the Tories won the election, but I was surprised that the Tory vote was so large. The right-wing social-democrats of the New Democratic Party picked up some of the collapsing Liberal vote, but hardly enough to make a difference. After that, things proceeded pretty much as expected. Lots of grand talk, lots of fear-mongering, the I.S. held a “How we can stop…” [insert name of candidate you just failed to stop] meeting etc. Anyway, this piece is what you get instead. Not a trenchant piece of political observation, but a few random thought. 

In the later part of his long political life, Murray Bookchin promoted the idea of libertarian municipalism; In Bookchin’s words, “The overriding problem is to change the structure of society so that people gain power. The best arena to do that is the municipality—the city, town, and village—where we have an opportunity to create a face-to-face democracy.” On a certain level, this makes sense. Municipal government tends to deal with the day to day problems of life (garbage pickup, pot holes in roads etc.) although on a much more important level, you can’t create islands of (municipal) socialism, anarchism or whatever. Still, as you may or may not remember, Toronto’s recent municipal history has been…well, let’s say, interesting.

First there was the reign of error of Rob Ford. Ford was a long-time councilor who was elected mayor in 2010 who during his time in office briefly caught broader attention as “Toronto’s crack-smoking mayor.”  if you’ve forgeotten all of the details, read Robin Doolittle’s book Crazytown, which is an excellent summary of the Ford years, and contained a lot of things I’d forgotten (repressed?) Ford planned to run for re-election, but his diagnosis of cancer forced him to drop out and run as a councillor (He was elected, but died after the election, and his spot on council was one by his …nephew). His brother Doug ran for Mayor in his place representing the so-called “Ford Nation.” Comedian John Oliver had this to say at the time:

Ford lost the election to John Tory, but earlier this year captured the leadership of the Ontario Progressive Conservative party as they were heading into an election they were widely expected to win. Despite, Ford largely staying away from the public eye, and the lack of any kind of comprehensive program, the Conservatives handily defeated the ruling Liberals and the NDP and captured a majority government.

The first two months of  the PC term were relatively uneventful and hardly surprising: As promised the new sex-ed curriculum from 2014 was rolled back to one dating from the 1990’s (i.e., before smart-phones, cyber-bullying, the legalization of gay-marriage, etc ); Pro-police noises were made ; the Ontario Hydro Board were fired (which will not affect the notoriously high Ontario hydro rates); there was a lot of rhetoric about Ontario being open for business. Yeah, nothing too surprising.

Then last Friday, just before the deadline to register as a candidate for this year’s municipal election, Ford announced that Toronto’s city council would be reduced from 47 councillors to 25, and that two elections for regional leadership positions in the sprawling 905 region would be cancelled. The rational being that by reducing the number of councillors, Toronto would save $24 million over four years, though many were quick to respond that $6 million for a city with an operating budget of over $10 billion is almost pocket change. The second reason was in terms of efficiency, and a vague campaign promise to “shrink government.”

There are three levels of government in Canada: Federal, provincial and municipal; however, the Constitution only recognizes two. Therefore, municipal government exists under the  umbrella of the province. In 1998, Conservative Premier Mike Harris amalgamated Toronto, East York, North York, Scarborough, and Etobicoke into one city on similar grounds, although it was widely believed that he did it because he loathed Toronto and expected dire results to follow. There are over 400 municipalities in Ontario. Ford has expressed the desire to intervene in three so far: The 905 decision will affect political rivals, and the Toronto decision affects the city that rejected him as mayor. Seemingly the mark of a petty, vindictive man. But there are plenty of them elected to high office these days.

All of this makes the upcoming municipal election interesting. Centrist mayor John Tory is running for re-election. There are also the usual gaggle of fringe and perennial candidates including a neo-Nazi and an alt-right commentator who was fired from the Canadian younger brother of Fox News Rebel Media. Lastly, Jennifer Keesmaat, a former city planner, who is considered Tory’s main rival recently called for self-governance for the city of Toronto. Yeah, People’s Republic here we come.

I guess we do live in interesting times.


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Music Notes: July 2018

July 31, 2018 at 4:38 pm (Uncategorized)

Half way to fall! 

1 Liz Phair – Girly Sound to Guyville

If you thrilled to the sheer audacity, the sheer brilliance of Exile in Guyville, you must surely want to own this set too:  The original album, along with the “Girly sound” cassettes. The packaging is a little underwhelming, but the music is worth it.

2 Rolling Blackouts CF –  Hope Downs

Jangly Australian pop. Lovely summer sounds.

3. The Undertones – Get What You Need

A wonderful band which released two (possibly three) near perfect albums and then breaks up. The band reforms with a new singer. Gotta be shit,  right? Erm. Actually no. It’s a pretty great record. Buzzing guitars and catchy sounds. And while Paul McLoone will never truly replace Fergal Sharkly, he comes close.

4. Shacks – Haze

You may remember them from an Apple commercial a while back, but the full-length record by Shacks is a fuzzy dream pop treat. You might still be able to find editions with a bonus disc of demos too.

5. Robert Gordon – Live Fast Love Hard

If you’re a fan of Gordon, this is really something to have. Two live discs, one with Link Wray, and the other with Chris Spedding (man, the guy had good taste in guitar players), and pretty amazing sets. The sound is good, the song selection choice, and the energy high.

6. The Crystals – “He’s a Rebel”


7 Sleaford Mods – “Stick in a Five and go!”

You be the judge. Good to see you back lads.


8 The Pixies – Acoustic: Live at Newport

One of my biggest regrets is never seeing the Pixies in their prime. This DVD doesn’t make up for it, but it’s a good way to spent time.

9 Mazzy Star – So Tonight that I might See

If you’re in the mood, this is untouchable. Like the Cowboy Junkies or Lana Del Ray, all their songs kind of sound the same – whispered, world weary vocals and a groovy backing, but who cares? It’s a great sound. Fine record.

10 The Pirate – “My Babe”

Wilko Johnson mentions this in a recent piece in Uncut. Basically a rewrite of “This Train is Bound for Glory, ” but a hell of a good one. Listen to that guitar.


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