February 2nd, 2010

[BRIEF NOTE] On the prickishness of the Canadian government re: the seal hunt

Can the Canadian government possibly be more juvenile?

(Wait, bad question.)

A federal official says Canada's decision to hold the meeting of G7 finance ministers and central bankers in Iqaluit later this week is not intended to prove a point about the cultural and economic importance of seals in the North.

The unusual location for the meeting, especially in the middle of winter, has raised some eyebrows abroad and resulted in shortages in both accommodation and flight availability.

But a senior finance official, speaking on background in advance of the meetings on Friday and Saturday, insisted that Canada is not trying to gain support for the seal hunt.

Europe is in the process of placing a ban on seal products, but G7 officials from the United Kingdom, Germany, France and Italy, will be confronted with the fruits of the controversial seal hunt at every turn.

The official said Saturday night's community feast will include seal meat, some of it served raw in the traditional manner, along with Arctic char and other local and imported foods.

The ministers and bankers will also be sitting on seal-skin upholstered chairs at their meetings in the Nunavut assembly and they will be given seal-skin mittens and vests as parting gifts.

I don't think I'm the first person to note that the Conservative government is using the seal hunt as a rabble-rousing tactic aimed at enhancing its popularity among Canadians at large and in an Atlantic Canada where the Conservatives were weak in the 2008 election, especially in Newfoundland and Labrador where the Conservatives won less than a fifth of the votes cast. It's cynical, especially since recent polls do seem to indicate that a majority of Canadians not only oppose the seal hunt but think that it's a dying industry.

[URBAN NOTE] You know that a business isn't doing well when ...

A few months ago, a spa/manicure place opened up in the mall, located on my way to work. I've very rarely seen clients there. This weekend, the spa had a huge sail, offering what seemed to be most of its inventory of hair curlers and skin lotions and combs and whatnot for sale, advertising it with Michael Jackson songs played at a volume I'd think the mall operators would find objectionable.

They haven't closed down. Yet.

[LINK] "Adam Giambrone, Guardian of David Miller's Vision?"

Torontoist's Hamutal Dotan has an extended consideration of Adam Giambrone as heir to incumbent mayor David Miller's policies. Topping things that he has the vision necessary, but Giambrone's management of the TTC and his youth could count against him.

While Giambrone taking up Miller's mantle will almost certainly lead to a great deal of knee-jerk criticism, it is also a very reasonable basis on which to run. Miller has detractors aplenty, and his administration has been far from perfect. That said, Miller has been responsible, in the aftermath of amalgamation and of Mel Lastman, for giving us back our optimism, our faith that municipal government can go beyond small-minded parochialism, that it can have aspirations and ambitions on a grand scale. (This is why we remain convinced that history will be much kinder to Miller than recent polling numbers are.)

There are many people who disagree with David Miller's priorities, and many more who take issue with his track record at implementing them, but almost nobody doubts that he has been a mayor worth taking seriously. The policies and projects for which Miller is most known and most responsible, and which Giambrone supports—Transit City, Mayor's Tower Renewal, TAVIS (the Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy), working on priority neighbourhoods—befit a city trying to better itself. Whether they are the best tools for the job or not, Miller's administration has most of all been characterized by a fundamental shift in our public discourse, toward city-building and away from the idea that government necessarily and inevitably gets in the way of accomplishment.

[. . .]

If Giambrone is to succeed in his bid for mayor he will need (among other things): union backing, some quick turnaround at the TTC (where he is staying on as chair for the moment), and Rocco Rossi to bleed support away from Smitherman. That's campaign strategy 101. But if Giambrone is to persuade more than his natural baseline of 15-18% of voters to support him, he will also need to make us believe that he can be...mayoral.

Giambrone has the heart, and he has the right intentions. Now he needs to convince us that he can channel them effectively.