G20: the morning(s) after

What the world saw as the face of Toronto this weekend.

Knowing the Harper Reformatories a little bit, as I do, I can tell you this: they don’t give a tinker’s damn if you are (a) a Toronto resident and (b) a Toronto resident who is angry and upset about what happened this past weekend in this city.

They don’t care because they don’t have any seats here, and aren’t likely to anytime soon. Moreover, they don’t care because they think the rest of Canada dislikes Toronto, and they believe that, when Toronto is unhappy about something, the rest of Canada is amused. Ipso facto, they don’t care about Toronto.

They may be right. But they are sadly mistaken if they think the communications disaster that was the G20 weekend won’t be a significant political problem for them in the coming weeks and months. Mainly, that is because Canada’s mainstream media establishment are all in Toronto. And – due to extraordinary events like this one, and this one (which – because I know the family who was terrorized – has left me livid about the truly fascistic quality of it) – the media establishment is seriously pissed off.

They’re also pissed off that an event like the G20 was held in the centre of a major city.  They’re pissed off about the obscene cost.  They’re pissed off that the police seemed much more interested in protecting a few politicians, and not at all interested in protecting taxpayers and taxpayers’ property.  They’re pissed off about the police doing little on Saturday, and then way too much on Sunday.  They’re pissed off that a few black-clad scumbags were able to shut down the centre of one of the world’s largest cities with total impunity. They’re pissed off that the scumbags seemed to get out of town, and won’t pay for the damage they did. They’re pissed off with the repeated violation of law-abiding citizen’s constitutional rights. They’re pissed off that what should have been an important discussion – about a world beset by recession, and terrorism and war – was completely overshadowed by “The Battle of Toronto.”

So, as Conservative staffers and ministers and MPs sit at their desks this morning, scanning for some news coverage that will convince them that it was worth all the trouble, I say: good luck to you.  With the coming onslaught of investigative reports, lawsuits, complaints and demands for inquiry, you’ll need luck aplenty, boys and girls.  Watch this little bit of footage, if you doubt my words: this what singing ‘O Canada’ got some people this weekend.

The Toronto Star’s publisher – someone not to be trifled with, and no bleeding-heart liberal, either – says it better than I ever could.  He speaks for many of us, in fact:

G20 EDITORIAL: BRUTAL SPECTACLE FAILED A CITY AND ITS PEOPLE

June 28, 2010

John Cruickshank

The G20 security strategy has been spectacularly successful at cocooning the world’s leading politicians and staggeringly ineffective at protecting the property and peace of mind of Torontonians. And the one, inevitably, led to the other.

By bringing in thousands of heavily armed strangers and throwing up barricades everywhere to regular traffic, frightening off good and decent citizens, Canadian authorities created a ghost town in the heart of our city.

Perfect for the political leaders. Protesters were kept blocks away from where the deliberations were going on.

And most protesters conducted themselves faultlessly as the global good and great met behind rings of gulag-like fencing and battalions of police beating Plexiglas shields with batons in a primitive show of might.

It was, however, less than perfect for the city, its businesses and its inhabitants. The only force that can prevent vandalism and mayhem in a city is the presence of its population. Surely that was the lesson every urban planner learned from looking south to the hollowed-out urban war zones of the United States in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.

No police force, no matter how large, how well armed, how empowered to limit the civil rights of citizens, can stop vandalism in the empty shell of a city. Canadian authorities have proved that two days and nights running.

The strategy that ensured G20 leaders would never have to see a Canadian who wasn’t a politician, a police officer or a waiter lacked even a glimmer of common sense when it came to the security of Toronto and Torontonians.

They took our city to hold a meeting and bullied us out of the core, damaging the commerce of thousands of merchants and inconveniencing the entire population. Then, they failed to protect our property. Along Yonge St., as self-described anarchists were smashing stores unopposed, terrified merchants and their staffs sought shelter behind counters and in basements. If these establishments had been set alight, all of the thousands of fearsomely equipped police would have been able to do little more to save our citizens than they did to save their burning cruisers.

For the last few days, the city has looked like a vast reality TV set, where heavily garbed gladiators in black, burdened under bullet-proof vests, guns, walkie-talkies, shields and batons, try to chase down a wild, quick-footed band of anti-gladiators in black sweat suits and bandanas. And it cost us $1.2-billion to stage and choreograph this grossly unequal contest.

Canadian authorities knew that this overweening show of paramilitary hubris would draw the violent dregs of nihilism from around the world. Previous summits offered stark and certain warnings. Given that, the attempt to provide security for the city and its inhabitants has been a sad and disturbing failure.

What is the critical lesson?

Don’t even try to hold international political conferences with this kind of explosive ideological charge in the heart of a major urban centre. You sacrifice either the safety of the politicians or the safety of the city.

The idea that this was an effective way to show off Toronto to foreign guests is bewilderingly stupid.

Canadian authorities created a city no citizen could recognize and no visitor could admire. Then, they allowed a pack of brutes to trash it.


From this morning’s Hill Times: coalitions and CSIS

KINSELLA: I always get nervous when Tim says nice things about me.

Look, I told CBC’s Wendy Mesley what no less than David Herle and Jean Lapierre also said: various important NDP and Liberal folks had been talking about cooperation/coalition/ merger. Some of these people included Jean Chrétien, Ed Broadbent, Roy Romanow and so on. You may have heard of them.

Personally—and I was speaking only for myself—I favour political realignment for five reasons. One, it reflects what is taking place internationally—most notably and recently (and rather smoothly, too) in Britain. Two, Stephen Harper did it, and it seemed to work out quite well for him. Three, this time—unlike last time—the separatists aren’t involved. Four, if you pursue a coalition/merger right after the next election, you might be giving Harper another golden opportunity to say you are attempting to overturn the election result (presuming the Reformatories win, of course). Five, there is a lot more that unites progressives than divides us.

Anyway, it took three election losses—in 1993, 1997 and 2000— before the Reformers/Alliancers/ Conservatives realized that they would benefit from cooperation/ coalition/merger. It’ll take three election cycles for reluctant Liberals and New Democrats to come to the same conclusion (by then, the election subsidy will be gone, however, but that’s a disaster we can discuss in another Wiseguys column).

Richard Fadden? The guy who said that “there are several municipal politicians in British Columbia and in at least two provinces there are ministers of the Crown who [CSIS thinks] are under at least the general influence of a foreign government.” That guy?

Fire him.

This genius identified China as the enemy nation. China! Days before Chinese President Hu Jintao was about to make an important visit to Canada, this seems epic dumb, no?

But that’s not all, of course. What about the “several municipal politicians in British Columbia” whom Mr. Fadden called traitors? Would not one or some of them now want to sue, to have their names cleared? The effect of Mr. Fadden’s words have been to smear all Chinese-Canadian municipal politicians in B.C. There is now a cloud over the reputations of all of them—until such time as we know who Fadden was talking about, and who he wasn’t, all are suspect.

Fire him. And, on the cooperation/coalition/merger thing, let’s talk after the next election. I suspect it won’t seem so unpalatable then.


Two G20 questions

Over the years, I’ve worked in politics and as a cops reporter, so I can confidently report this: precisely no one at the G20 summit gives a rat’s ass about what is being said this morning on blogs and web sites like this one. They just don’t.

That said, I have two questions, which I offer in my capacity as a Toronto taxpayer:

1. When they knew there was always going to be trouble (which they did, which is why they spent $1 billion on security), why did the Harper government continue to insist that the centre of Canada’s largest city would be the preferred location for the summit – when it clearly could’ve, and should’ve, been held somewhere else?

2. Out of that billion dollars, couldn’t a few bucks have been set aside to hire some police officers to prevent the violence and destruction taking place elsewhere in the city – as seen, to cite just one example, in this disturbing raw footage (click “Anarchist Tear Apart Yonge Street” in CTV News Video Player) showing not one cop (not one) intervening to stop mayhem on Canada’s biggest and busiest street?

Those are my two questions. Nobody, as I say, will be the least bit interested in them. But, as Sunday morning gets going, I suspect a few other folks may be looking for answers, too.


About a father and a son

Mine has been gone for more than six years – and, as I prayed for him last night with my youngest son, who was bursting with tales of his victory on the lacrosse field – I thought about what it was like before, and what it’s like now.  Now, everything is palpably sadder; there feels like there is less air to breathe, some days.  In the past year, in particular, I have picked the phone a dozen times to talk to him about what my family is going through, and then…I remembered.  Whatever is begotten.

A reader let me know that David Olive’s Dad has died.  Please send along your best wishes to David and his family, and make sure to hug your own Mom and Dad.


What can I say? I’m a big deal in China

Chinese press offer close coverage of G20, Hu visit

The visit of Chinese President Hu Jintao to Canada appears to be getting a lot of coverage in the Chinese press.

The China Daily website has several G20-related stories and there’s a lot of video and print coverage on the China Central Television website, too.

But there are always perils to reporting on tight deadlines at international summits like the G8 and G20 this weekend, as there is a lot of information to take in.

Case-in-point, check out the CCTV website photo of Hu alongside House of Commons Speaker Peter Milliken and Senate Speaker Noel Kinsella — though the caption says he is a guy named Warren Kinsella, the same name as a well-known Liberal strategist.

While both Kinsellas are known on the Hill, the guy in the photo is definitely not the latter Liberal.


Loose lips on steroids

Pardon me, but is the head of CSIS insane?

Here’s what Richard Fadden told CBC TV in an on-the-record, on-the-air interview:

“There are several municipal politicians in British Columbia and in at least two provinces there are ministers of the Crown who we think are under at least the general influence of a foreign government.”

I see.

A number of countries are involved, he said, but then went on to identify China as the prime culprit.  As Chinese President Hu Jintao is about to make an important visit to Canada, this does not seem like the most adroit of foreign policy moves.

But that’s not all, of course.  What about the “several municipal politicians in British Columbia” whom Fadden has now identified as spies, or traitors, or some combination of both?  Would not one or some of them now want to sue, to have their names cleared?  The effect of Fadden’s words have been to smear all Chinese-Canadian municipal politicians in B.C.   There is now a cloud over the reputations of all of them – until such time as we know who Fadden was talking about, and who he wasn’t, all are suspect.

This is a pretty extraordinary mistake for our supposed top spy to make. He should be dismissed.

UPDATE: The reaction begins:

Harper had ‘no knowledge’ of claim politicians under foreign influence (CSIS-Politicians-Recr)

OTTAWA – A spokesman in the Prime Minister’s Office says Stephen Harper was caught unaware by stunning allegations that several Canadian politicians are under the control of foreign governments.

The revelations from Richard Fadden, the director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, point to foreign infiltration of municipal and provincial political ranks, including cabinet-level politicians.

Harper spokesman Dimitri Soudas says the PMO has “no knowledge of these matters” and is directing all inquiries to CSIS.

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty says the spy agency owes Canadians more information.

McGuinty says Fadden promised to alert the federal government so it could tell the relevant provincial governments about ministers being controlled by foreign governments.

Fadden declined to name the two cabinet ministers or their provinces, but he said a number of public servants in British Columbia are also under suspicion.

McGuinty says the province hasn’t been contacted so, from Ontario’s perspective, “no news is good news.”

He says the CSIS chief needs to elaborate and provide more details so any concerns can be addressed.


Quotable quotes: Team George

But one adviser within the Smitherman camp, and several political observers without, say Smitherman’s lack of resonance with voters is real trouble that, left uncorrected, will doom his dream of succeeding Mayor David Miller.

“Of course you want to stay the front-runner,” said the adviser, speaking on background.

“It’s not ‘The sky is falling,’ but when you look at where (Smitherman) started and where is now, he’s bled a s—load of votes. It’s got to get fixed, and get fixed smartly. Should we all be slitting our wrists? No. Should we all be saying, ‘Why isn’t our message getting out?’ Yes.”

And:

“How much do I want it? I want it enough that I gave up one of the most powerful perches in the whole friggin’ country to take it on,” [Smitherman] says. “I want it enough that I’ve sacrificed . . . a $170,000 a year job. I want it so bad because I’m so motivated to end the mediocrity which has become the entrenched culture at the city of Toronto.

“I’m working my ass off here.”