Two Rants

The last week’s been interesting, news-wise. Two issues in particular have poked at my rant gland and today seems like a good day for sharing.

(rant gland?? Is there such a thing?).

Rant #1: the G-20 summit. Or rather, the G-20 security budget.

For those of you not living in Toronto and/or obsessively checking news of any big summits, the G-8 and G-20 summits will be happening in Ontario, G-8 in Huntsville, G-20 in Toronto. The estimated security budget for these events was $100 million. Seems a bit of a steep price, but if you consider how many "important people" are going to be needing security, the two locations, etc., it can add up, I guess. So far, not much of a news story, but wait for it, because here comes the interesting thing.

In the past week it's come to light that the security bill for the G-20 summit is currently at $800 million. Yes, you heard that right (saw that right?). $800 million. Forecast to be $1.2 billion when all’s said and done, although of course it could go higher. I guess those sound cannons are a tad expensive...

One. Billion. Dollars.

And this is the point where I yet again started to wonder when the Harper government is going to collapse. They’ve run roughshod over existing legislation - this is a government that passed a Bill mandating fixed election dates every four years, then called an election in the middle of their first term. They have prorogued Parliament twice, the second time for no reason whatsoever except perhaps to delay uncomfortable questions into the Afghan detainees debacle, have essentially told aids groups to "shut up", have decimated funding to women's programs, cut the court challenges program and are messing with aids oversees. Yet are perfectly happy spending $1 billion of taxpayers’ money on security for an event that when it was held in London last year cost 20 million.

What else might $1 billion buy? And when are we going to kick him out?

Rant #2: woman's right to have nice view six months a year vs. property owners’ right to renovate.

A couple buys a home in an older area of Toronto with the intention of tearing it down and building a new home. They carefully check with the City to make sure that the 100-year-old house is not considered a heritage building, it isn't and they go ahead with the purchase. They start a blog to keep family and friends updated on their progress and this is where it gets sticky. Enter the neighbour across the street. This woman somehow finds out about the plans and starts throwing her weight around, because she doesn't want her view to change. During the seasons in which there are leaves on trees, she can't see the house, but the remaining six months of the year, she really enjoys the view with her morning coffee. She puts it somewhat differently, saying she is "trying to preserve a home that adds character and beauty to my neighbourhood for future generations to enjoy". She talks to her City Councillor, who has also been contacted by some other "concerned residents" from the neighbourhood and long story short, the Councillor asks Heritage Preservation Services for a report about whether the house should be considered a heritage building and the owner of the property is now in limbo, unable to start the project.

In general, this annoys me. Here's someone who's gone through all the entire process, carefully checking to make sure that the property they want to buy is not a heritage building and yet a neighbor who really likes the view half of the year can derail their plans completely. I live in the oldest neighbourhood in Toronto, one that has many historical buildings and it's an area t development has been careful to match the history all around. This means that buildings are generally low rise - since I moved here in 1996, the highest buildings developed have been no higher than 12 stories, which is still kind of tall for this area. Developers generally try to match the exterior of their buildings to flow with the older buildings, which gives the whole neighbourhood a cohesive look. Except despite this neighbourhood fighting tooth and nail, we have two (or is it three?) new developments of condos going in. Which are going to follow the new trend of being 40 stories. One of these developments will require tearing down a block of very old two- or three-story buildings that somehow narrowly escaped being historical, even though other buildings - attached to this block and looking much the same - are indeed historical and cannot be torn down. So that's part of the rant.

However, it gets even more interesting. The reason these people want to build a new home is because the wife is a paraplegic and needs an accessible home so she can live with her family again. Not surprisingly, I'm on their side, but it should be said that I am also on the side of a heritage buildings - after all, I fully understand the importance of preserving historical buildings, as my neighbourhood is currently being destroyed by insane development. However, this couple followed protocol, made sure the house was not designated a heritage building, are now the owner of that property and as such, I don't think it should be permitted for a group of "concerned residents" who don't want there to be a different looking house on their street to force the issue. Where’s the fairness? Or logic, even?

And here's where it gets beyond mere squabbling and into revealing depth of character (or lack thereof). Because although the neighbour across the street claims to appreciate the family's challenges, she believes that the husband has somehow “used” the wife's disability to win support. Considering that they were building an accessible home because she has a disability, I think perhaps it’s reasonable to include this fact as part of your argument, but maybe that's just me? And then, the neighbour, this paragon of human virtue says with a smile "I don't have a disability. Sorry. If I did, maybe I could use that, too."

And this is where my rant escalates to such a level that I no longer have words. Feel free to add yours in the comments.


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