Monday, April 25, 2011

Scaredy Cat

I've seen this little guy around many times in the alley just west of Clark, north of Saint-Joseph. I've seen him farther afield as well, in the alleys to the west. Here, the dog has freaked him out. He arches but doesn't turn tail and run. I imagine conserving energy is a priority for him as he is a thin, scraggly fellow, probably eating food scraps from the restaurants that face onto Laurier and whatever kind residents put out food for him.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Fermez le Berger Blanc!

I went to the protest in front of City Hall to demonstrate against the city rewarding the Berger Blanc with a renewal of their contract to be the official city pound. The Berger Blanc is a private operation that is the sole owner of the contract from the city to deal with stray dogs and cats. The place is a fucking nightmare and finally proper attention, at least by the media and the citizens, is being paid to it. The Mirror did a cover story on it a few weeks ago and Radio-Canada did a visit with a hidden camera that revealed how badly the animals are abused. Momentum is starting to build and somebody, maybe Society for the Protection of Animals Canada, organized a protest.

Turnout was quite good and lively for a rainy, grey saturday. There were maybe 300-500 people there, chanting and waving signs. Lots of dogs, of course. The majority of the people were on the City Hall side of the street, up on the steps with lots of signs, but there was a good crowd on the other side of the street as well. The police were there, handling the situation in a very professional and friendly manner. Every time a car would drive by with dogs in the back, everybody would cheer. Good media turnout too, with cameras from Rad-Can, Global and CTV. It was just a good scene all around. There is going to be another protest, same place (275 rue Notre-Dame est) on May 13. Be there! There is going to be on in Quebec City as well on that date. This campaign has real potential to make change.

The thing is, while the heart of this issue is an emotional one—the natural human reaction to cruelty to our animal companions—the relatonship between the Berger-Blanc and the city is a very clear example of fallout from the corruption that is endemic to the current administration. I'm not saying that there is any explicit corruption in the contract that the Berger-Blanc gets (though I wouldn't be surprised if there are some kickbacks going on there), but that the way the issue of stray animals and pets is handled (or rather not handled) is an indirect result of leaders whose priority is lining their pockets and maintaining their power. This isn't just about treating animals humanely. It's about how you manage city services, specifically animal control. We should have an infrastructure in place that actively works to limit stray animals through licensing, neutering and education. Rescue shelters should be the last stage in this overall plan, not the first and only, as is basically the case in the city right now.

The city deals with the animal issue by giving one company the sole contract to deal with stray animals. There is no oversight, just the money. And that organization basically runs those animals though like a slaughterhouse. They don't even check the animals for RFID tags. No effort is made to return them to their owners. There are several stories of people calling the Berger-Blanc looking for their dog and employees saying it wasn't there, only to find out later that their dog was there and was killed! You can read in more detail here the negligence and abuse that takes place at the Berger Blanc. It gets worse.

This issue is very similar to the shoddy municipal construction, the terrible road conditions, the shitty bus service, the bootleg domestic airport and all the other embarrassments that make Montreal seem second class when, in fact, she has the heart and soul of the greatest city in Canada. The difference here is that living creatures are suffering terribly and that can motivate people to take action. I've also heard that several organizations and veternarians are working on getting the funding to build a competing shelter to try and get the contract. I hope to hear more concrete information on such a project and would certainly support it.

In the meantime, let's keep fighting. Here is a very helpful web page from the Humane Society with links to all the people you can contact here in Montreal to put pressure on about this issue

Monday, April 11, 2011

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Projet Montreal, what the hell is going on?

A very disturbing announcement in LePlateau from Friday, concerning the borough's new resolution to close the terrasses at 1:00 am instead of 3:00 am (via the always helpful Montreal City Weblog)

Is Projet Montreal starting to reveal its true colours as a party that is more concerned about promoting gentrification than the environment? I voted for them in the Plateau and have been generally quite pleased with the work Luc Ferrandez and his team have done since they took office. Just their transparency and communication alone has been a huge improvement over Helen "help developers build condos" Fotopolous. They have put forth some aggressive (though not yet realized) traffic-calming projects and made a big effort to improve the cleanliness. But little by little, they have also started to get into disturbing law and order and public behaviour legislation that is reminding me of the co-opting of Vancouver's Green Party by NIMBY yuppies who equated the environment with property values.

The thing that is setting off my alarm bells big time is the resolution to close the terrasses 2 hours early on the Main during the summer street festivals. Currently, the terrasses close at 3 am. This summer, they will now close at 1. The ostensible reason is that the police have an excessive amount of work and trouble with the late night crowds during these festivals.

There are so many things wrong with this legislation, I don't even know where to start. In general, it attacks the very heart of everything that makes this neighbourhood so awesome. This is a place of culture, of society, of people hanging out. Montreal has proven for decades that people can stay up late, drink and have fun and it makes the city a better place. Closing the terrasses at 1 gets us one step closer to the hell that is Vancouver nightlife (though hell is the wrong word, because hell is at least exciting.)

I do believe the police when they say they have more trouble during these street festivals late at night. However, all the trouble is localized along the strip between Prince Arthur and Sherbrooke, at the trendy clubs that all the out-of-towners and suburbanites go to. During the festival that's where all the packs of prowling men and gangs of cops are to be found. Above des Pins, it's always mellow. And there are many great terrasses there (Frappé, Cabana, Le Divan Orange, Laika to name a few). So now they all have to suffer because a bunch of losers from Longeuil can't get into a club on the other end of the street?

Also, the cops have had a giant hard-on for those clubs for years. They are always harrassing them, closing them down, citing them for code violations. I don't know the politics behind it all, I suspect the club owners are probably associated with organized crime, but this look suspicously like another attempt to harrass these clubs. That's great, I really couldn't give a shit about those over-priced, mediocre establishments that are designed purely for people to see themselves being seen. But don't kill the whole vibe of the street festival to attack a small group of establishments.

The other thing that really worries me as well is the "diminishing the quality of life of the residents". I am a resident here. I am a property owner. I am a taxpayer. Rowdiness on St-Laurent improves my quality of life. I am not kidding. If I wanted to live in a neighbourhood where having fun is suppressed, I would move back to the west coast. My neighbours feel this way. We live one block away from St-Laurent and Mont-Royal and in the summer we get a lot of fallout from the clubs up here. Cars going up and down the street, drunken groups of guidos, garbage in the mornings. Yeah, it can be annoying, but one the flip side, we can go out and walk to a cool restaurant or bar ourselves. We can come home drunk at 4 in the morning. We can go over to the park with a foam sword or a bongo drum. These things all go hand in hand. You start cracking down on the bars and soon you start getting aggressive by-laws about unleashed dogs or dangerous foam swords. There is a lobby out there just waiting in the shadows to jump in and stop you from having fun. They will latch on to anything they can and start screaming about safety and the children the moment they see an opening. These are the same losers who bought condos on St-Dominique and then complained about noise from the Fringe festival.

And these words are not coming from some wildman with a pick-up truck on blocks in his front yard. Au contraire, I am very uptight about cleanliness and the appearance of the neighbourhood, as anyone who has followed this blog will know. I take civic responsibility very seriously and I believe that suppressing other people's fun generally is not good for a community.

What is going on here, Monsieur Ferrandez? Monsieur Alex Norris? Where is the motivation for this law really coming from? Unless you can provide me with some other information that I may be missing, then I strongly encourage you to re-think this resolution and find a compromise that will make the job of the police a little easier on Friday and Saturday nights without killing the fun for everyone who does enjoy simply sitting out on a terrasse and people watching and jasing until 3 in the morning.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Bye bye Winter!

It's been a pleasure. See you next year!

Here's the last picture of the alley ice rink in all its glory, just before the end

And here it is last week, just some sad broken bottles where the kids turned to alchohol now that they no longer have hockey.

Bring on the springtime! Yeah, I got a flat tire literally three days after bringing my bike out, but I'm still psyched.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Some evidence and a new outrage

Following up on yesterday's frustration with my street not getting properly cleaned, I was able to get a picture that demonstrates the results. You can see the line of dirt next to the cars and where it gets cut off at the point where the sweeper was able to turn in (because there weren't any cars parked there). I really don't understand why it is always my section that is missed, but there it is.

On the more positive front, reasonable reader Mare reminded me in the comments that the cleaning is weekly, not monthly. I confirmed that this is indeed correct, so thanks for talking me off the ledge! ;)

However, on my way to work, I noticed another injustice. This year, we all received small cards announcing the spring clean-up. The point of the cards, though, was to explain that they would be using orange signs to indicate where and when clean-ups were going to take place. These are just like the ones they use for the snow removal, but I guess they decided to get more focused about it or something.

Well I certainly haven't seen any of these on our block yet, but imagine my dismay, when exactly a block and a half north, on our very street I see this:

and a whole line of them going all the way up Clark street into the haughty upper Mile End regions. What because I don't spend my entire day with my stroller at Open Da Nite sipping cappucino and pretnding to work on a latop, I'm not entitled to get the orange signs! Why are we being ghettoized! Lower Clark represent!

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

I've become the nosy neighbour rat fink

I feel a bit like Irene Cara in Fame, caught up in a situation out of my control where I just wanted to do the right thing.

We live on a dirty block. Aside from east coast people being generally dirty and littery, we also have a lot of students on our block who seem to be moving out on a quarterly basis and throwing everything out on to the sidewalk. There is also a strong wind that blows up from Mont-Royal and most of the garbage makes it about halfway up the block.

I try to keep my sidewalk and gutter clean and that of the sixplexes on either side of me. But in the spring, the street is pretty filthy and a lot of it is the snow-melting gravel and bits of glass that really need the street sweeper to clean up. It comes on the first Tuesday of every month, starting in April.

The problem is that people don't move their cars. And what's even weirder, for some reason, on our southern half of the block, they rarely get tickets. I come home from work and the northern half of the block is swept entirely, while our half is only swept in sections where the machine could find enough empty spaces to turn into. Many times, the space outside our place is one where someone has parked.

I was very excited for the first passing of the sweeper this spring and quite disappointed to come home and find that they had completely missed our section once again. And no tickets to be seen. So I called 3-1-1 the city hotline and she passed me on to the parking bureau, where I ratted out my neighbours. I feel like a heel. The parking authorities used to be one of my biggest enemies back in the Bay Area. I'd much rather be able to just communicate with the people and warn them ahead of time. Instead, they are going to leave their car there next month and get a ticket.

The thing is, this is probably for the best. What with the litter, the parked cars and the people not picking up after their dog, I am turning into a dense ball of civic fury and at some point I am going to explode and beat someone to death with a shovel and then stick their head, smeared in their own dog's feces, on to the antenna of some Nautilus Gym dork's car as a message to others. While perfectly justified in my own mind, I fear that society and the law would frown on such behaviour and I would ultimately come out the loser. So for now, I skulk and inform.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Liberals, NDP, Bloc and Greens form new Canadian Coalition

Ottawa - April 1, 2011

All four major parties contesting Stephen Harper's minority government in a surprise press conference this morning announced they are forming a coalition, named The Canadian Coalitiion, to ensure a majority in the upcoming election.

"We finally realised," the joint statement said "that, despite our many differences, we are all much closer together on the political spectrum than our previous bickering would have led Canadians to believe. Furthermore, we see that the majority of Canadians also share these same values and that it is only a small, but powerful, minority who want to undermine our democracy and society to increase their own wealth and power."

"We would like to apologize to the Canadian people for our own arrogance and egotism that forced them to split up their votes allowing the Conservatives to make a run right up the middle. From here on in, we can promise you that if you vote with your heart and beliefs, we will bury our differences and find the compromise to form a government that will shepherd in a new era of fiscal responsibility married with social support for those who need it."

"Education, the environment, investment in technological R&D and green forms of energy will be the pillars of our shared platform, all wrapped in a tent of prudent spending with a priority on eliminating the deficit. By eliminating the excessive corporate tax cuts of the Conservatives, we should be able to get in the black by the end of 2012."

After the reading of the statement, each of the leaders spoke individually to reporters.

Jack Layton: "I finally realized that my dream of taking over the centrist position of the Liberals was simply unrealistic and based on a lot of suppressed resentment towards Iggy and his educational pedigree. Yeah, he is kind of an intellectual snob, but he's actually a pretty smart guy. Turns out we've got a lot to talk about."

Gilles Duceppe: "It was not easy for me to swallow, but I finally realized that by hanging on to my strict separatist platform, I only scare off the rest of Canada and allow the Conservatives to play the "destruction of Canada" card. I can't keep catering to a bunch of resentful losers stuck in the Sixties. We've won the revolution and Quebec is doing great. Now is the time to take our platform of social justice and support to the rest of the country."

Michael Ignatieff: "I'll tell you what did it for us, it was that CBC Vote Compass. When you see your political position laid out graphically like that, it just becomes so clear. I e-mailed Jack and it turned out he was e-mailing me at the same time. Crazy!"

Elizabeth May: "Kiss my ass, Consortium of Canadian Broadcasters! Good luck with your subsidies next year!"

Stephen Harper, in Churchill Falls, simply said "ah, fuck."

(with a tip of the hat to