Friday, February 11, 2011

Is Toronto Council Pro-Poverty?

        Shades of Harris Era OCAP Protests
There Will Be More to Come as long as Poverty is ignored

Haven't we seen this movie before? A few... no, dozens... no, hundreds of OCAP protesters, attack...City Hall. Protest stopped by, police... no, it's a 'riot'.

Ramping Up the Rhetoric is what takes the place of accurate media journalism reporting these days. Quite often with OCAP we see the 'Ignore the message and shoot the messenger' knee jerk reactions by much of the right wing press. Some just jump to demonizing the protestors and don't bother with the context.

What do OCAP and the Toronto Sun have in common? They both thrive on emotional overload drama, not always facts. They also love it when they get media attention from the public at large. Both employ questionable and sometimes offensive tactics to get their message across.

Yesterday, February 10, 2011, Protesters Put City Hall On Notice: There Willl Be More. "The dozens of protesters who derailed the city’s budget committee and turned City Hall’s normally staid second floor into a loud, near-violent scuffle with police have a message for Mayor Rob Ford’s administration: Get used to this, because there will be more."

Not to be believed Toronto Sun reports the incident this way: Revolution At City Hall Short Lived. Protest leader John Clarke said "Ford is just a front man for an “international version of austerity,”  “Behind his dull-witted intransigence stands an organized movement.”.

Interestingly but not surprisingly, right wing radio station CFRB 1010 talk show host Jerry Agar dismissed them as 'stupid' (John Clarke is far from stupid and could give lessons in public speaking), then later labelled them as 'terrorists'. Later, he dismisses OCAP anger as "typical wacko left winger idiocy". Doug Ford then says on CFRB about OCAP "They're all nuts".  Other talk shows had the scrambling to sound fair rookie City Councillor Josh Matlow walking a tightrope between not agreeing with their methods, to wishing they had waited in queue to make submissions to Council like everyone else, to trying to say that he is concerned with poverty, although not exactly how. (Josh doesn't get that hungry frustrated powerless people think they have no other avenue to be heard, based on their own past experience)

"Toronto St. Paul’s Ward 22 City Councillor Josh Matlow briefly spoke on the matter and questioned the methods protestors were using. “They’re attacking police, but some of the messages they’re saying have some merit. I think their voices would be heard better if they just came to us and spoke.”

The National Post take on the story was: Two Arrested as OCAP Shuts Down Budget Meeting "Thursday’s protesters raised concerns about this year’s plans to cut back evening and weekend bus service, and shelter bed reductions, and blasted the city government for failing to oppose federal cuts to immigrant settlement services"..."One city councillor sympathized with the message of the protesters, though not the approach. “I don’t agree with the tactics of disrupting council. I don’t agree with the methods that OCAP uses, but they have a message and that message is that there are families and vulnerable people in this city that are suffering, and that there are cuts in this budget that will affect them,” said Councillor Janet Davis (Beaches-East York)."

CTV news reports the fracas this way: Two Charged After an Anti-Poverty Protest at City Hall "About 50 members of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty were confronted by police and security guards after they forced the suspension of a budget committee meeting while demanding more support for the city's impoverished"

 Get a Job Doug Ford Tells OCAP Protester "The radio station 680 News captured Doug Ford’s comment on tape. Asked about it during the budget committee’s lunch break, Ford said, “I didn’t say ‘Get a job,’ not at all. Show me on tape when I said that.” Told that reporters had listened to the tape, he did not respond; a security guard then escorted him out of the committee room....When OCAP protesters stormed a council meeting in 2005, then-councillor Rob Ford said, “I’m working. Why don’t you get a job?”...In 2002, he told an OCAP protester, “Do you have a job, sir? I’ll give you a newspaper to find a job, like everyone else has to do between 9 and 5.”

So, what exactly were ther protesting about? Poverty. “Many of us work in communities where there's extreme poverty and we've seen nothing from this council or this budget committee that's going to address it,” said veteran OCAP activist Gaetan Heroux." Standing on a hallway desk, OCAP leader John Clarke denounced council’s proposed cuts to bus routes and Mayor Ford’s privatization plans, saying Ford was advocating a “re-run of the Mike Harris agenda....Other protesters criticized federal cuts to immigration settlement services — council voted not to write a letter to the federal government protesting those cuts — and an alleged shortage of beds in homeless shelters. City spokesperson Rob Andrusevich said no such shortage exists....“This year they’re only delivering the first blow,” Clarke said. “Much worse is to come. The vision that Ford has of this city is a police force and a few privatized services operated by non-unionized cheap labour. If we’re gonna stop that, we better fight . . . if you don’t fight back, they will crush you.”

I heard on another video to which I've lost a link that a protestor pointed out that "Not one bureaucrat at City Hall has spoken out or done anything for the poor'. Having watched Council debates closely, I would have to agree. It does seem that despite a cantankerous left-right ideolkogical split on council, the Ford brothers are having their way with the city, so far at least. It would be hard to point to any significant motion that has not been delayed, killed, referred to the Fords for final disposition. During last year's city elections, poverty was hardly mentioned as an issue in this city.

Only one thing is certain - more unrest in our city, and more media promotion of the emotional rhetoric, without facts.

*Update: Tweeted on Friday Feb11 - Joe Mihevc At the GTA summit session on Income Security: why is urban poverty still so persistent but not on any real political agenda?

Perhaps because City Councillors are not doing enough as a group?