Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Is the tide turning against Toronto Mayor Rob Ford?

Marcus Gee

Is the tide turning against Toronto Mayor Rob Ford?

MARCUS GEE | Columnist profile | E-mail
From Thursday's Globe and Mail
In the first seven months of his four-year term, everything went Rob Ford’s way. His moves to trim minor expenses, cut an unpopular tax and expand the contracting-out of garbage pick-up sailed through with relative ease. Kept under tight control by his staff, he avoided the verbal bloopers and dubious behaviour that marked his 10-year run as a dissident city councillor.
In the past few weeks, though, things have been going sideways. The mayor’s inexplicable decision to boycott all of Pride Week gave off a whiff of intolerance and alienated many voters. His ham-handed conduct of the budget review at city hall is making even fiscally conservative residents wonder about his leadership.

City councillors are hearing from voters who are alarmed over all the talk about cutting back on street cleaning, closing children’s attractions such as Riverdale Farm or shuttering some libraries. Reacting to more than 300 messages against library closings, TTC chair Karen Stintz, a leading member of the mayor’s administration, made a point of declaring publicly on Wednesday that she could not support shutting library branches.

“A week ago somebody came up to me on Mt. Pleasant and said, ‘What the heck is this guy doing?’ ” said North Toronto Councillor Josh Matlow. “ ‘I voted for lower taxes and no service cuts. That was what I was promised. Meanwhile, the mayor is suggesting more taxes and lower services.’ ”

If things were not bad enough for the mayor’s camp, his brother, Councillor Doug “The Smart One” Ford, poured oil on the book pile by declaring he would close at least one Etobicoke library in a “heartbeat.” Reminded that novelist Margaret Atwood had joined a save-the-libraries campaign, he declared that “she could walk by me, I wouldn’t have a clue who she is.” It did not help that he has the habit of dropping one of the R’s when he says “libraries,” pronouncing it “lie-berries.”

The next day, he tried to explain himself to Global News. “What I was saying is, everyone knows who Margaret Atwood is. But if she were to come up to 98 per cent of the people, they wouldn’t know who she was. But I think she’s a great writer and I look forward to her input.” Ms. Atwood must be grateful for the endorsement.

The very same day that Doug Ford was getting in hot water, his brother the mayor was caught up in the affair that Twitter is calling “fingergate.” A local artist, Ottilie Mason, says she was driving on Dundas with her young daughter when she saw Mr. Ford talking on his cellphone in his van. When she made a thumbs-down gesture to indicate he should obey the law against phoning while driving, she says he gave her the finger.

The mayor’s press secretary now admits that he was on the phone – “He is a very busy guy; the phone is ringing constantly” – but “he did not give anyone a rude gesture. That’s where we believe the misunderstanding took place.”

Of course, when Mr. Ford was caught shouting drunken insults at an out-of-town couple during a 2006 hockey game, he denied that too, only to admit it later and apologize. An extended middle finger is not easily misunderstood. Someone is not telling the truth here.

The mayor’s handlers seem to realize that things are getting out of hand for their guy. As city hall prepared for a big meeting on budget cuts, they sent Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti to the press gallery to try to explain the mayor’s driving lapse and change the channel back to budget issues.

Unlike many public officials, Mr. Mammoliti explained, the mayor drives himself around in his van and can’t make calls while others chauffeur him. Mr. Ford, he offered, is a “different” kind of mayor.

He can say that again.

Minister rejects concerns about judicial discretion

Nicholson rebuffs CBA critics
Minister rejects concerns about judicial discretion

HALIFAX — Federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson brushed off a barrage of criticism for his tough-on-crime policies during his annual appearance at the Canadian Bar Association’s conference in Halifax last week.

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson faced tough questions at the CBA conference last week.
Earlier, the CBA’s council passed a string of resolutions sponsored by its criminal justice section calling for the federal government to tone down legislation expanding mandatory minimum sentences for certain offences by inserting a so-called safety valve in Criminal Code amendments.

It also asked Nicholson to reconsider the policies in the light of their costs through increased imprisonment and their effects on the aboriginal community and mentally ill offenders.

But Nicholson stood firm under questioning from lawyers and reporters, insisting that lawmakers are entitled to give guidance to the court and that voters had endorsed his approach during the federal election in May.

“That is our job. We set the guidelines where we believe they are appropriate. There are a number of mandatory minimums already existing in the criminal justice system. I would suggest the ones we have introduced are reasonable and appropriate under the circumstances.

I think that’s part of our mandate that we are given as legislators. We set maximum sentences, and in some cases where we believe it’s appropriate, we set minimum sentences.”

Manitoba lawyer Josh Weinstein attempted to extract a compromise from Nicholson through one motion at council that called for a safety valve allowing judges to consider other sentencing options “where injustice could result by the imposition of a mandatory minimum sentence.”

According to Weinstein, the safety valve could kick in when offenders have mental illnesses or other conditions, including fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. He said legislatures in Britain, Australia, and South Africa have all implemented similar provisions alongside mandatory minimum legislation.

“Judicial discretion allows judges to take into account a number of factors in relation to sentencing an offender, taking into account both the offender and the offence. With the imposition of mandatory minimums, that is eroded and in some cases absolutely gone.

It’s hopefully a starting point of an approach that we could take with the government to deal with injustices that are occurring with respect to sentencing.”

Montreal litigator Simon Potter said he worries the government is showing a lack of trust in judges to do their job, something he calls a “very dangerous path” to tread.

“To throw in what is merely a safety valve to allow a justice as a last resort and as a matter of simple justice in a particular case to go back to judging is a minimal step we can take to preserve some balance,” he said.

But Nicholson shot the idea down at the conference, claiming judicial discretion remained intact. “I think we’re giving that discretion to the courts. We set the maximum, which is our obligation to do, and in some cases we set a minimum, and within that framework, the judiciary can decide what’s appropriate,” he said.

Supporting a separate resolution, Brad Regehr, chairman of the CBA’s national aboriginal law section, said he feared an increase in the number of mandatory minimum sentences would exacerbate the overrepresentation of First Nations peoples in Canada’s jails.

In Manitoba, where he works, 75 per cent of inmates are aboriginal despite making up just 15 per cent of the population.

“Mandatory minimum sentences are doing absolutely nothing to resolve this ongoing crisis,” Regehr said, adding that the government’s policies may be at odds with the Supreme Court’s decision in R. v. Gladue.

It requires judges to give special consideration to the unique circumstances and challenges facing aboriginal people in the justice system.

“My fear and the likelihood is that these changes will impact aboriginal people the hardest and most disproportionately and simply add to a problem which stains Canada’s international reputation.”

But Nicholson said it would be hard to predict the effect of the legislation on rates of aboriginal incarceration ahead of time. “Mandatory minimums apply to everyone,” he said.

In addition, Nicholson touted the success of his department’s aboriginal justice strategy. “It does reduce the recidivism rate when people get involved with the strategy,” he said. “I wouldn’t support the aboriginal justice strategy if I didn’t think it was making a positive difference.”

Another avenue of CBA attack came from the projected cost of tougher sentences.

Backing a resolution that called on the federal government to reveal the cost of its crime bills, Saskatchewan prosecutor Loreley Berra told the CBA council she had “no doubt that the public supports the stance of tough on crime” but called it “uninformed support and uninformed consent on the issue.”

She pointed to a report by the parliamentary budget officer estimating the cost of Nicholson’s truth-in-sentencing bill at around $5 billion over five years. That’s roughly twice the official government estimate.

“Where are these funds coming from? Is it coming from health care, the environment or other resources?” Berra asked.

Nicholson reiterated the government estimates and said some other measures, including his megatrials bill to streamline large-scale prosecutions, would actually save money.

“Canadians are very clear that they are prepared to pay the cost of keeping individuals that shouldn’t be on the street off the street,” he said.

For more on the CBA conference, see "Bar drops ball in national class actions."



Sunday, 8 May 2011

Table of Contents

1. Random Quotes

2. "Ochocinco, Classy in Cincinnati", by Baiden McCallum

3. "Seedfolks, Guy Levesque", a vignette by Baiden

4. Regarding an unpublished novel by Robin Wood

5. An unpublished story, "Of Snakes & Turtles"

6. Softball player, two photos

7. Animal Farm and Flowers for Algernon: A Comparison

Random Quotes

"[...] when a reporter in Milan addressed him as 'the recognized leader in modern music', he responded, 'Perhaps, but here are good and bad musicians. I am Stravinsky and that is enough.' "

Robert Craft on Igor Stravinsky in The Company They Kept: Writers on Unforgttable Friendships (2006)

"A: According to [Julien Benda author of La trahison des clercs, 1927], this delicate balance of force and thought shifted in the first part of the twentieth century. Intellectuals gave up on serving philosophical ideals and became masters of justifying the status quo.
"Q: Still true?"
"A: Certainly still relevant. I would say that the problem today is less intellectuals abandoning the Enlightenment in favour of nationalism, though that still happens, and more the embrace of capitalism as the only framework of meaning. The most successful are the ones who parrot sociological evidence in smooth deployment of 'ideas' that sound kind of neat, a little obvious, but are given catcthy new labels, and so manage to challenge nothing and nobody even while creating the illusion of being 'smart.' Never mind if there are jaw-dropping errors here and there.
"Q: Malcolm Gladwell?"
"A: Malcolm Gladwell."

Mark Kingwell, "What Are Intellectuals For?: A Modest Proposal in Dialogue Form", Queen's Quarterly, Spring 2011, p.58.

Malcolm Gladwell obvious? One of the main themes of Outliers, presented with the astonished tone of one having just uncovered a long-buried secret, is that people are formed largely by their history -- their experiences, their upbringing, their opportunities, their culture. Obvious?  I mean, what kind of drug is Mark Kingwell on? That's heady stuff, that proposition that people, for better or worse, are the sum total of their life experiences (leaving aside heredity). Deep.

"While incarcerated, [Conrad Black] became an English tutor four days a week, expanded that to include teaching inmates U.S. history and social economics on a volunteer basis and he served as the keynote speaker for African American History Day. His efforts contributed to a 67% increase in the high-school graduation rate of the prison’s inmates and that impact, according to his court filing, 'was nothing less than astounding'."

National Post, Saturday 14 May 2011 p. A5.

I know the National Post is his newspaper and I know the information likely came from his lawyers, but still ... if true, he deserves commendation.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Ochocinco, Classy in Cincinnati

by Baiden McCallum, North Toronto Collegiate Institute (02WIL)

Michael Vick, Tiger Woods, Lebron James. These are some of the people Chad Ochocinco keeps company with – at least on the list of America’s most hated athletes.

The Q Scores Co., which conducts popularity polls, has Chad Ochocinco, star wide receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals of the NFL, ranked as the fourth most disliked figure in all of sports today, behind the likes of Michael Vick, Tiger Woods and Terrell Owens, and in front of Kobe Bryant and Lebron James.

Most of the six names on the list deserve to be there, but does the fourth really belong?

It’s understandable that Michael Vick, a felon who was imprisoned for funding a dog-fighting operation, is there. Also deserving their spots are Tiger Woods, the face of his sport and one of the many faces of sporting-goods company Nike, who cheated on his wife with what seemed to be two floozies for every day of the week; Kobe Bryant, a notoriously arrogant person in his youth, who feuded with Shaquille O’Neal publically and also supposedly raped a woman about a decade ago; Lebron James, the reigning NBA MVP, who paraded his arrogance with his nationally televised heart-stomping of Cleveland, infamously dubbed “The Decision”.

The only other person in the top six who doesn’t seem to belong is Terrell Owens. Granted, Owens is a diva and a seemingly clinical narcissist who had constant fights and feuds within his organizations, prompting him to be shipped from team to team. This behaviour is scarcely worthy of being one of the top five hated athletes, but it’s understandable why he would be disliked by many. Ochocinco on the other hand has been with the Cincinnati Bengals his entire career and, while somewhat of a diva himself, still is an upstanding guy to everyone, everywhere he goes.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

"Seedfolks - Guy Levesque", a story

Grade 8 classroom assignment
Baiden McCallum, Island Public and Natural Science School

Until a few years ago, I lived in the beautiful suburbs of Paris, France. My father was the owner of a humble restaurant named “The Lady of the Camellias”. He became quite wealthy by playing the stock market smartly. I didn’t have a mother, never really did. She died when I was four months old. I didn’t feel bad or empty not having a mother, for my father was always very kind and supportive. My father and I would invest in a promising company, or take a chance and invest in a fairly unknown one, and see what the result was. We became fairly rich and well-off.

We lived in a nice neighbourhood, with big houses, big cars, big trees, you know, the usual rich-person neighbourhood. It was a nice quiet place to live. Very peaceful. I was never one of those snooty rich people, though. Didn’t like them, never did.

About two years ago, we invested in a very promising company called Enron. The stocks kept going up, and the CEO kept saying they would continue climbing in value. My father believed him and bought a large number of Enron stocks when they were at $90. We were horribly mistaken. We lost almost everything. We became bankrupt and had to sell our house and just about all of our luxurious belongings.

My father had enough income from the restaurant to support us, but he decided to sell it and use the money to start a new life in America. I always liked baseball, and my favourite Major League Baseball team was the Cleveland Indians, so we decided to move there.

Regarding an unpublished novel by Robin Wood

For more information see: http://friendsofrobinwood.blogspot.com/

An unpublished story, "Of Snakes and Turtles"

Of Snakes and Turtles 

When I was growing up our family lived in the suburbs. Our particular suburb was located on the westerly edge of town. It was an early post-war suburb, new and handsome for its day but not affluent in the manner of later suburbs. I remember that the roads, for example, were never surfaced with anything more extravagant than crushed stone spread over hot tar. And it took a long while before sidewalks were laid down. When eventually they were, a no-man’s land immediately sprang up – the grassy verge between the sidewalk and the roadway. Although the verge was city property, it was the homeowners’ responsibility to keep the grass mowed; because it was city property, the homeowners never bothered. As a result the grass grew unchecked the summer long, the weeds flourished, and we kids had a jungle to play in.

When after a time that jungle became too small for us, we turned our attention to a larger one nearby: the woods that lay behind my house, a stone’s throw the other side of the creek. Our attention, however, was not unambivalent. On the one hand these woods excited our imaginations, our youthful lust for adventure. On the other hand they were a dark and scary place, filled with black flying things, staccato cries, lugubrious moans. Once little Jamie Jones, who later entered the priesthood, was lost in the woods overnight. He swore on the bible that he had been held captive by demons and evil spirits. Naturally no one believed him.  But if we were timid about venturing near the woods before, we were even more timid afterwards.

Consequently, when one afternoon during religion period, Eddie, the oldest and hence biggest boy in our class, handed me a note proposing we go snake-hunting in the woods Saturday, I was of mixed feelings. The allure of adventure contended with the fear of the woods. In the end I assented: adventure won. The note was duly passed around until, despite one mishap, we mustered a contingent of about eleven volunteers. The mishap was that Russ Connelly was caught with the note and ordered to recite five “Our Father”s as punishment.

Softball player, 2 photos

Animal Farm and Flowers for Algernon, by Baiden McCallum

Animal Farm and Flowers for Algernon
by Baiden McCallum 01POM

[written as a Grade 9 assignment for North Toronto Collegiate Institute in Spring 2010]


Our oral presentation is supposed to be around five minutes in length. The research I did for the presentation turned out to be much too much for five minutes (for better or worse, the research follows). In preparing the presentation I wanted to set out my ideas as fully as I could (I suppose to see where they led) and that meant taking a different approach from preparing just a five-minute presentation. I prepared the five-minute presentation but I also prepared this, which is what I based my five minutes on.

Animal Farm and Flowers for Algernon

This paper discusses two novels – George Orwell’s Animal Farm and Daniel Keyes’s Flowers for Algernon – in order to determine which book would make the better subject for study in Grade 9.