Tuesday, June 29, 2010

What I Learned in the Last Days

As I understand it, schools across Ontario will shortly be shuttering for the summer if they haven't already. Back when I still had to worry about report cards, this was always a time of synthesis - figuring out what I needed to keep aware of until September, and what neurons I could afford to let rust. After the events of last weekend, I think it's appropriate now to stand back and take stock of what Toronto learned from hosting the G20, and how we can use our new knowledge for future benefit.

Because despite the chaos, I think the people of Toronto should take one major lesson from how the G20 was conducted - that our government holds us, the people, in utter and absolute contempt. Granted, I'd be surprised if anyone didn't know this already, but the sheer brazenness with which this truth was demonstrated recently was rather unnerving. I'd never expected the government of Ontario to demonstrate so forcefully that it doesn't give a fuck about the people.

By now, you may have heard of an addendum to the law called Ontario regulation 233/10, attached to the Public Works Protection Act for the duration of the G20 summit and which, thankfully, was written to expire yesterday. It was passed through the legislature without debate on June 2, went into force on June 21, and designated a vast swath of downtown Toronto wherein people approaching the security fence are required to produce identification or face arrest, two months in jail or a $500 fine. The problem with secret laws is that people don't tend to be aware of them, and so the first the general public heard of it was when a man was arrested near the security fence for refusing to produce his papers.

A section of the G20 security fence on Wellington Street West, photographed on June 20, 2010. Had I waited a day I could theoretically have been arrested for taking this photo, thanks to Ontario regulation 233/10.

Once this became general knowledge, there was quite understandably a furor - to which Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty responded with perhaps one of the most asinine statements he could have chosen. On the subject of a law passed as quietly as possible, with absolutely no legislative debate whatsoever, the Evil Reptilian Kitten-Eater from Another Planet said "I just think it's in keeping with the values and standards of Ontarians."

As a lifelong Ontarian with values and standards, I think that Dalton McGuinty is completely fucking delusional if he honestly believes this. Queen's Park is one of the single largest noise machines in the province. There is absolutely no reason why this regulation could not have been announced when it was passed, rather than allowed to wait viper-like in the bushes. Except, of course, for the whole "constitutional challenge" thing. But after all, what's the Constitution worth when security (for foreign dignitaries who nobody but Stevie fucking wanted here anyway) is at stake?

Granted, these powers weren't McGuinty's idea. They were requested by Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair, who is likely answering furious questions of his own from Mayor Miller, who appears to be no greater a fan of this news than I am. But the fact that McGuinty was complicit in pushing them through, with the only notification an obscure post on a government website, puts the responsibility squarely on his shoulders. I believe the government has, yet again, violated the spirit of the law while remaining true to the absolute letter.

We can't afford to forget about what the government of Ontario has done. We can't afford to let them forget, either. In the final analysis, they are responsible to us, and perhaps it's time that the suits in Queen's Park were reminded of that fact. With the Harmonized Sales Tax due to hit two days from now, they're already on thin ice. They'd better start skating more carefully, and remember who it is they work for, or they might as well hand Tim Who-Dat the keys to the province in 2011.

As a final note, when I tried to load the e-Laws website while putting this post together, Firefox at first returned a "server not found" error. That's gotta be meaningful.

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