#5 – The Macdonald-Cartier Parking Lot is Awesome (if you like waiting)

Ontario’s Highway 401, formally known at the Macdonald-Cartier Expressway, is an absolute shitshow from end to end. The 401 is Ontario’s, if not Canada’s, single most important roadway. It’s prone to closure as endless streams of 18-wheelers motor on despite drivers being exhausted or road conditions being terrible and terribly-addressed. Construction, confusion, and traffic snarls define this infamous roadway, but what few think about is the sheer mass of its largest segment, the part that balloons to become one of the largest freeways on Earth.

Spanning a disgusting 18 lanes at its greatest girth, this space-ruining clusterfuck turns into a parking lot basically whenever anything happens anywhere. One of the more substantial problems with the 401 is that it’s a crucial road for all traffic going from southwest to northeast in the province, meaning that it draws an absolutely astonishing number of cars – nearly 500,000 on its busiest segments drive it daily. Incumbent to a totally-unbalanced transit system are the inefficiencies – the legendary traffic snarls, the stress, the crashes, and the pollution are all the result of Toronto sprawling every possible direction into a suburban morass.

This of course doesn’t stop cakers from considering the consequences of mindlessly expanding sprawl and highways. Unfortunately they get the whole thing ass-wrong. To ask cakers the problem is that the 401 just isn’t wide enough yet. The whole thing is nigh-constantly being expanded, inducing more and more road traffic and thus more and more of the same problems as before. Normal people would step back and reconsider that just maybe crushing hundreds of millions of dollars of property value under an expensive-to-maintain highway system that doesn’t bring everyone into town very well wasn’t such a good idea. In fact, there are plenty of normal thinking people in AmeriKKKa, which is home to many cities trying different and innovative techniques to handle the growing problem associated with unbalanced transportation networks.

Not so in Toronto, which is more concerned about incredibly-expensive subways to nowhere because suburban English Canadians want it that way. Canadians don’t build the kinds of environments that encourage people to not drive and they don’t get the idea that the car should not perhaps be the automatic default commuting tool. As an example of this, Toronto finally hooked its airport up to its downtown by a method that isn’t tempting death with poor driving skills and obscene traffic problems, and they demostrated a keen lack of comprehension as to the purpose of mass transit while doing it. They did this by initially charging $50 for the privilege of using the new train. To the airport. In 2015. They have since lowered the price because shockingly charging a fortune to use a basic service when the alternative is a cheaper driving trip turned out not to work.

A bad idea’s a bad idea – anyone can get them and their consequences can be hard to deal with. Like the brutal cost of plowing the 401, maintaining it (which creates further traffic snarls), policing it, and supporting it where it’s falling over, sometimes a bad idea can have lasting and costly repercussions. But one expects that putting one’s hand on a stove would quickly encourage the person to try another form of amusement. Upon discovering that something doesn’t work effectively the attitude should probably be less “oh well” and more “oh shit”. But of course that means thinking and planning, so fuck that!

#4 – The Hudson’s Bay Credit Agency

The Hudson’s Bay Company was founded in 1680. You know how I know that? Because they tell you so.

For the blissfully ignorant, the Hudson’s Bay Company in its current iteration is a shitty department store, usually addended to a shopping mall surrounded by a parking lagoon. It specializes in selling Canadiana and credit cards, which would be fine if the Canadiana products weren’t overpriced made-in-China shit being used to shill for just about anything. Including such fantastic products as $200 toasters with temperature settings and chinawares named after really rich white people, the HBC is almost entirely dependent on its status as a piece of Canadian history.

You know what’s amazing? When brutalist shopping malls constitute part of your national identity. I’m sure that’s totally normal, right? Like the National Mal-oh, what’s that? It’s a mall in the old sense of the word and not a cemetary where the bones of excitement gather dust? Oh damn. If Canada were any good at being a country you would think that one of Canada’s many contextless history-baubles would look slightly less like compacted yak shit.

What’s even worse is that the history of this sad-sack department store wannabe is actually really important to Canada’s development. Moose Factory, the former headquarters of the Company, was an essential point in the fur trade. Canada was more or less claimed on the basis of furs, fish, and other extractive resources. The Company was a key part of setting Canada’s economy to a useless yoke of endless, mindless extraction for the benefit of others. Perhaps this point might be important in a country that is notoriously shitty at manufacturing? Nah – credit cars and parking lagoons please!

And it’s not like the Bay does well at being a department store, either. They shit on their workers with low wages and constant pushes to sign people up for credit cards (exactly what upscale shoppers love – credit card pitches!). They try to sell Canadiana tat that comes from China so as to increase their profit margins. It can’t make money even when it can boost sales. And it’s almost wholly reliant on sales and clearance events – anything that can convince people to cross the parking lagoon and enter their massive stores.

A city-deforming, poorly-run, tat-selling pile of Canadiana bullshit is a perfect example of Canadians ignoring the obvious problems in favor of history-baubles. The stores are shit and American options are generally vastly superior, but somehow the Bay manages to limp on. Canadians can be counted on to buy the crappy mittens “to support our atheletes” and then can be counted on to lose or forget about the tat they bought. They’ll wade through sketchy credit card pitches done by desperate low-wage workers because it’s the Canadian store and that’s the Canadian thing to do. Improving work conditions and corporate culture to make the store actually enjoyable to visit and worth shopping in, you say? Fuck that – we’ve gotta keep the Bay, but it doesn’t actually have to be useful or anything.

 

#3 – History? Who Needs That?

In other parts of the world, there seems to be a concept that you should actually know something about the historical significance of a place. Understanding the forces and mentalities that informed the current environment has crucial implications for improving on that environment. In the relatively short time that humans have been on Earth we have managed to learn a lot; when we study the remains of the departed we can glean valuable social, cultural, and environmental knowledge. The past is to be studied, to be considered, and to be used as a valuable way to hone the critical thinking skills of those particularly interested in the field. In essence, studying and knowing of the past improves the student and reduces the chance that bad ideas will filter through civic life.

Or, if you’re Canada, the past is to be ignored and covered up. Canadians have very little knowledge of their own history or of the history of North America. What pieces they do know are reduced to word-vomit: during the War of 1812 WE BURNED DOWN THE WHITE HOUSE WHOOOOOO!! Vimy Ridge, a strategically-irrelevant hillock that was quickly forgotten by the rest of the world? CANADA BECAME A NATION WHOOOOOOO!! And on it goes: words are known, context is actively suppressed. The Trans-Canada Railroad incited a genocide of the Plains Cree. Does that show up in the popular memory? Nope! Train means Canada got more biggerer and betterer! Thundering assclaps like Pierre Berton have contributed to this: his insanely-maudlin read of Canada is a catalog of the bullshit Canadians believe about themselves.

That’s fucked up, right? Scrubbing history until it looks good looks…well, not good. And without context revisionism takes hold. The genocidal Indian Act effectively enforces a corrupt system of governance on a population, actually contravening the UN Declaration on Indigenous Rights. But that’s no problem! Just apply some magical English Canadian Revisionism to it and “them drunking Injuns” are causing their own decay! Never mind the fact that it’s illegal to build on reserves without federal approval and many communities in fact have gone dry so as to combat the problem; in English Canada, make-believe removes all stains.

Perhaps the greatest example of this is the RCMP. The fact that they have thousands of unsolved cases to crack into and a culture that includes such amazing practices as driving people into the middle of nowhere in the winter before driving off and leaving them to die doesn’t matter because the RCMP are considered a point of national heritage. Thus, a bumbling collective of inchoate morons gets virtually unlimited leeway to be abusive shitheels. Keeping the gag going is as easy as wearing some doofy hats and riding ponies, because that’s exactly the kind of shit that Canadians would rather think about. Indeed, even when the RCMP do get nailed for being spectacularly idiotic they can rely on cheers and hoots for the hats and the serge.

That coat makes one hell of a closing metaphor. Forget that it represents a dangerously-inept police force and focus on the shiny buttons instead. Who needs historical knowledge when you can have shiny things! Hooray for Canada!

#2 – It’s Better Than Iraq!

If you’re a clever soul in Canada, you’ve heard this or some variation thereof:

You: “Man, [insert problem here] is really getting me down. It’s a bummer that we’re so far behind the rest of the developed world on this matter”

Caker: “What, are you complaining about [insert complaint here]? You should be grateful you don’t live in [insert poor place here]!”

You: “Why can’t we implement a system like this one, which has demonstrably worked in other places?”

Caker: “Yeah, well they probably have AIDS or something. Quit whining – this is as good as it gets, baby!”

These two are the first lines of defense that a caker will give you when you present them with something that sucks in Canada. It doesn’t matter what it is – always the same concept, and always either a comparison against a basketcase of a country or a ridiculous false equivalence against a developed one. Any problem in any country, regardless of whether work is being done to fix the problem is cause to declare that place shit. Canada can’t get train service in its densest area? Well, Spain had a terrorist attack on its high-speed lines once so Canada is more betterer you guys.

These two defenses have always confused me. The logic of jumping a low bar is lost on me – congrats for being better than a country partially occupied by a savage gang of Islamic murderers, I guess? And what of the parts of Canada that are truly hellscapes – the Chemical Valleys, desolate reserves, and decaying one-resource towns that regularly lack services and poison their people? Isn’t it a little awkward to make the claim that you’re better than a shithole only to not be wholly better than the shithole? Does that not bring shame? Of course not – cakers have no shame.

The notion of improvement in Canada is stifled using the second method. It is patently reasonable to expect some sort of accounting for the fact that Canadian food prices are rising in a global context of falling food prices. Why do the French get amazing produce and cheese at reasonable prices? Who cares – the French pay more for soda so ha-ha absurd false equivalence! It doesn’t matter that vege is a bit more fucking important to the human diet than carbonated corn syrup-mix. Clearly Canadians paying a fortune for basic foodstuffs is the same as the French not having access to discount fructose-water.

These two attitudes speak to a reflexive defensiveness in Canada. I can only assume that this is because cakers need to maintain their make-believe for their own sake. To admit that Canada is falling apart is to admit that we need to do things and to make basic changes to the way Canada works. And fuck that noise – that takes work and, even worse, honesty. So Canada keeps paying more and more for shittier and shittier product and it loves doing so. Laziness, whether it be practical or intellectual, is truly a Canadian value. It’s just a pity that said laziness leads predisposes this heap to being such a podunk, second-world hovel of a place.

#1 – Canadians

Canada is a place that most of the world doesn’t think about very much. This fact is probably the most terrifying reality that English Canada can imagine, so Anglo-Canadians try to overdo it with the yokel-but-not-really stereotypes so that they can pretend that the rest of the world cares about them. As can be expected in such a mediocre place, Canadians put on a performance about on par with an 8th-grade recorder concert at one of Canada’s many shitty public schools.

Speaking of schooling, here’s a part of Canadian history that few people remember. In the early days after World War Two, Canada was even more restrictive than it is now. Being white, rich, and a dude wasn’t sufficient to be considered a “respectable human” – you also couldn’t come from icky loser countries like Germany or Italy. The Italians, being a fiery sort who love food immediately took issue with the English-Canadian diet and indeed the Canadian way of life, which they saw as bland, unpalatable, and restrictive. They invented our Vorpal Word with which to cut down the Canadian Jabberwocky, and that word is mangiacake – “cake-eaters”, or cakers. And so the English Canadian was titled “caker”, to distinguish them from Indigenous or Francophone communities.

Cakers love deluding themselves into thinking that working a dull job and living in formless, debt-inducing tract housing tacked to formless, unwalkable cities constitutes “the good life”. In fact, as we’ll see, Canadians and their cities are lifeless and devoid of substance. Canada’s economic realities are oligarchic, her literacy skills frightfully low, and her grievous crimes against humanity unremembered. Canadians have no history and no interest in history – the whole country is a palimpsest, capable of being scratched and rewritten to suit any commercial or civic narrative. Noting real problems results in having concerns ignored, minimized, or reacted to with a profound venom from a people who claim to be decent, intelligent, and humane.

And that, my newfound friends, is reason number one for leaving Canada. There is a soft-repression here caused by the immense defensiveness of a country that considers being chill a national trait, and I won’t have it. In my travels through this collective of suburbs I’ve encoutered others who also hate it here. It’s a wonderful feeling to find a like mind, to let loose without fear of losing friends or opportunities, and I’d like to share that feeling with other Canadians who don’t toe the national line.

I’d also like to provide a counterpoint to the millions of dollars of Canadian propaganda distributed internationally. If even one person from abroad reads these screeds and decides to skip Cakertown the whole project will have been worth it many times over. In the year that this blog has been running I’ve had thousands of views from around the world and it is my fondest hope that people who are questioning this place find footing to base their thoughts on here.

The rules are simple – if it’s shit and it’s in Canada, it’ll end up here. There are no punches pulled, no holds barred, and no excuses accepted. It’s time to stomp some cakers!

Allons-y!