#197 – Rusted Dreams

The American Rust Belt is a maligned creature, deemed at once a trap of rancid poverty and a major supplier of the kind of reactionary stupidity that got Donald Trump elected. Certainly, times for the Rust Belt have been tough; a combination of limited investment in education, an over-reliance on untenable industrial patterns, and the destruction of major urban centers by way of suburbanization and car dependence will do that to anyone. It certainly did a number on Canada’s Rust Belt, also known as “the part of Ontario with a defunct manufacturing center”. It’s a big, angry, reactionary blob of underinvestment and cyclical poverty.

Some of the remains of the Rust Belt here attempted to go the Richard Florida route (fun fact: Florida recanted this nonsense, which bodes poorly for places that fell for it in the first place). Others have fallen victim to idiotic housing speculation. London has decided to continue sucking, a perhaps-unwise decision but fuck it. Some parts of the Rust Belt here are even recovering. But for most the area represents a Sophie’s Choice – overinvestment rendering your community a powder-keg that actively pushes natives away, or miring further in muck. It’s an unenviable position to be in.

Almost every city in the Canadian Rust Belt has similar problems. Public transit services are weak at best, and the feeling of despair and poverty crosses generations in every Rust Belt community. Which is why people don’t stick around and why trust in government and private industry is at an all-time low. The sense that “the good times” (read: working in a factory and living in a suburban box) will never come back is palpable. Canada’s Rust Belt, once the middling supplier of components par excellence has been tossed aside just like any other flash-in-the-pan Canadian economic generator that fell apart because of negligence and unaccounted-for global events.

Southern Ontario’s problems are pretty apparent when you look at the place. Canada’s piss-poor rail system is focused on Southern Ontario, and it’s entirely inadequate. The train station for the cities of Hamilton and Burlington (which shouldn’t be sharing a train station to begin with) are in neither city, instead being cordoned off next to a freeway and in the middle of nowhere. Transit is expensive and poorly organized, forcing people into the debt trap that is personal vehicle ownership. Even with strong economic tailwinds the Canadian Rust Belt can’t seem to make a go of it. And Dear Leader…well, Dear Leader can’t even fart an answer as to what Ottawa will do to help the disappointed, fretful peoples of the Rust Belt.

I can hear the counterpointing now. “But”, says the caker apologist, “what about places like Kitchener-Waterloo? Or Hamilton? Maybe tiny-town Rust Belt Ontario is doomed, but we’re making a fix of the big cities!” The problem with that argument is cost-related. Take Hamilton as an example. Hamilton has historically had a big poverty problem. It also used to be considered too distant to commute into Toronto to, at least until Toronto decided to shit its own housing bed and to allow the city to devolve into My Little Dubai. The upshot of both of these realities is that Hamilton was for a time a fairly affordable place to be mired in. But with the spectre of commuters (who don’t actually have a solid way of commuting save for rare train trips and buses that get stuck in traffic) coming to colonize the city, housing costs (and continued losses in full-time employment) quickly outpace the ability of native Hamiltonians to pay, meaning that those crushed out of their own homes by hipsters and trust fund babies continue to be shafted by governance that would rather pretend that they don’t exist. And you wonder why folks like these don’t trust government and would rather knock the whole thing down.

Hamilton’s looming conversion to hipsterdom, K-W’s insane fixation on the repudiated ideas of Richard Florida, London’s suicidal march into a suburban grave, Windsor’s confused stagnation, and the continued refusal to even acknowledge the gravity of the problems and poverty experienced in small-town Rust Belt Ontario speak to the problems of the Rust Belt. Despite Pravda’s best attempts to present these areas as “new frontiers” (and as someone who grew up in the Rust Belt, here’s a hearty fuck you to anyone who thinks that way), the reality is that these “frontiers” are poorly-governed, badly-planned, and breathe ever-new life into the reactionary hatred of the roiling masses being pressed out by foreign funds. You can invest in the newcomers all you’d like, but the people who were mired in these places when they were at their absolute worst are still mired, and they increasingly are running out of patience.

#196 – The Greyer Toronto Area

Back on track.

Fuck the GTA.

In the preliminary research for this post, I asked a friend of mine for examples of particularly atrocious development in the Greyer Toronto Area. The places he tossed my way – Sherway Gardens, Upper Canada Mall, and Erin Mills Town Center, among others – looked like my interpretation of purgatory. As we were chatting in dawned on me that the places he cited were often malls. Why malls, I thought?

Then it hit me – the names of the malls are literally the only distinguishing features of these formless hellscapes. The areas around these places are horrifying. Here’s a fun activity – go to Street View and go see the sights. Oh, and by fun I meant deadening. There’s a reason Toronto has been described as “Vienna surrounded by Phoenix”. Having actually visited Phoenix before I can confirm the sentiment, only in the GTA (which is unworthy of being written out properly) you also get to deal with the shittiness of Canada. Hoo-fucking-ray.

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(S) Above: the sum of available activity within walking distance at a given point in the GTA

I want to showcase some of the worst architecture and design in the GTA to highlight what I mean about the place sucking harder than a shop-vac. I’ve taken to calling these things CAD-fapping because they look like they were designed by someone trying to compensate for their perceived sexual inadequacies. There are also some charming (read: terrifying) piles of housing dreck, thrilling lands of neglect and inaccessibility, and large roadways. So many large roadways. So without further ado, time to look at some horror!

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(S)  Absolute World, Mississauga

First up on the mockery block is this piece of shit. 60 Absolute is called “Marilyn Monroe”, because apparently looking at random skewers of glass and metal plopped in the middle of fucking nowhere reminded someone of an iconic sex figure. Sexy this is not – just check out this website. Scroll down to the review section at the bottom of the page and have a laugh as people alternatively lament their idiotic purchase and attempt to puff the place up because they bought the condo as an “investment”.

Whoever bought into this quackery clearly doesn’t want to walk anywhere. Look at this garbage urban form – these towers literally loom over an entire shitty suburb! It’s a fitting metaphor, the image of the old shitty land use planning being cast into darkness by a new, even worse urban form. These things are a fucking blight. They inspire a sense of pity, not one of awe.

Oh, and a quick search reveals that this bizarre and wildly inappropriately-placed development was designed by the architectural firm MAD Studio. MAD indeed.

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(S) Rain & Senses, Oakville

What’s with that name? And for that matter, why does this look like a glassblowing titan just took a massive dump on a boring office building from the 70s which was itself the apparent result of a giant squatting on a couple of suburban houses?  These two glitchy-looking shits start at a mere $400,000! And look at what you get to live near! At least one side of the building literally faces a parking lot, which is not what I see in this mock-up sketch.

Now that I think of it, none of the surroundings look like this. Which makes the call to experience the “neighborhood” of Oakville (Oakville is not a neighborhood, it’s a town.  A suburban shithole town, sure. But it’s what passes for a town in Cakerstan) even funnier. Here’s the text: “The Oakville lifestyle is one without comparison, and residents can attest that there’s no neighbourhood quite like it.”

I wonder if these developers understand how stupid the phrase “Oakville lifestyle” sounds, unless they mean driving while scowling.

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(S) New York Towers, North York

Oh, do I fucking hate these things. When I’m forced to experience the extreme displease that is driving through Toronto these fucking abominations are always there to greet me. The sadsack attempt at the Empire State building and the fact that this piece of shit isn’t exactly in Manhattan reminds me of something that one of those Chinese ghost cities would do so as to attract “investment”. Let’s be perfectly clear – surrounded by sprawl and highways, these pitiful attempts at mimicry offer a living experience that has nothing in common with the image of Manhattan that this clump is trying so hard and failing to evoke. Unless your idea of Manhattan is a bunch of curvilinear road networks beside a bevy of highways. Really, the big thing I hate about these shitty fuckbeasts is that they look derivative and stupid.

Oh, and the architects behind that Potemkin squatling also wanted to build this. I would call it a victory, but that implies that any of this nonsense is even worth saving.

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(S) Malton, ON. The Whole Fucking Thing

The first result for this place on a Google image search is this picture:

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In case you don’t believe me

According to this map, Malton (postal code L4T, for anyone using the map I’m about to link to) is making less than the provincial average in terms of income. And with such productive land uses as this, who could possibly expect otherwise? This is a classic example of a community that was simply left to its own devices. Which in 2008 included murder. But seriously, this wasteland of untenable urban form is right by Pearson International Airport and is practically lassoed by highways. For those children unfortunate enough to grow up in this soulless wasteland there is a one-in-five chance that theirs is a life of poverty. Yikes.

And while we’re in the “neighborhood” (a term that ought only be used loosely in this context), let’s talk about the GTA’s single worst “urbanity” – the decrepit, car-dependent shithole that is Brampton.

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(S) Brampton, Ontario.

 

You know how I recently bought the domain name for this website? I did it because I’m pretty passionate about exposing Shit About Canada. But that’s a whole country – here’s a guy who bought a domain just to shit on Brampton. My hat goes off to you, author of Brampton Sucks. Brampton sucks on an almost-unthinkable scale. Look at the sprawl I linked to you up there, and then take a gander at Brampton’s automobile insurance rates, which are the highest in the province. Brampton is also largely non-white, though for a majority non-white city there is only one non-white city councillor (though the author of the cited piece here laughably suggests that walking places is a possibility in Brampton). The whole place is less-educated than the rest of the Peel Region and rocks a 9.5% unemployment rate.

You know what happens when a racial underclass is consigned to live in one place with failing prospects, poor transit connectivity, massive costs associated with living, a government that does not meaningfully represent them, and a pile of non-stop temp work in a city where decent jobs are quickly becoming an endangered species? The word that comes to mind first is ghetto – not a good label for a place of 500,000 people. Is Toronto simply hiding its poor in and among its prior tries at atrociously-failed suburban experimentation? I think we know the answer to that.

 

#194: The Boreal Failure – Northern Ontario

The time has come to start chipping away at Canada’s largest province, Ontario. A land of scholastic mystery, the engine room of this sadsack state hides too many malevolent folds to be covered in one go. Because of its sheer size and shittiness our tour of Onterrible begins up north, to a post-extractive hellscape that makes the Soviet Union’s old industrial yards look pleasant. How bad is Northern Ontario? How about we begin with a piece from the Toronto Star with the by-line “Survival in Ontario’s north requires ingenuity, endurance and a trace of subversion”, which includes stories of pitiable want and active avoidance of the stew of ineptitude that is Queen’s Park.

From the same piece:

Northern towns have one small food outlet if they’re lucky. If not, residents go to the next town. No matter where they shop, they won’t see cantaloupes, fresh pears, bunches of raw broccoli, inside round steak or 200 gram blocks of partially skim mozzarella cheese. At least half of the items on the province’s [nutritous food basket] checklist aren’t available in the north.

That’s fucked up. Northern Ontario is one of Canada’s most neglected regions. Governed from Toronto by people who consider Northern Ontario to be nifty map-filler, the area’s chronic neglect and desperation takes so many forms that this entire piece will consist of ringing them off and asking you, the reader, if this is the kind of stuff you expect in a “rich country”.

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(S) Soviet mining camp or Canadian town? You decide!

The first shit-shaped tee-ball to get smashed by yours truly is the staggering cost of transportation. Those people of Manitoulin Island who don’t own vehicles get to spend a staggering $35-60 on cab fare to get to the nearest grocery store. Imagine if every grocery trip you made involved you purchasing several t-bone steaks only to throw them into the street. Speaking of transportation, Northern Ontario is a classic case of “free”** Canadian healthcare. Take the town of Timiskaming, where nearly 1 in 5 men have diabetes. If a denizen of Northern Ontario dares to need specialized medical help that they can’t find locally they can expect a $100 grant from the government…but only for one-way travel. Better get ready to hitchhike home, sucker! People in Northern Ontario are, to be frank about it, unable to take care of themselves because of the sheer costs associated with transportation. And even assuming that you’re picked up by someone who isn’t going to rape you and chuck your corpse in the snow good luck traversing Northern Ontario’s roads in the winter. Come to town to get one health problem examined, go home with two. Now that’s some Canadian mathematics for you!

How about telehealth services, asks the hypothetical caker apologist? Treating Northern Ontarians as though they have a right to get around is expensive and icky, after all. Why see a doctor physically when you can go online?…Except the Internet access in Northern Ontario is fucking terrible. Are you surprised? And before you ask about Northern Ontario “getting a job”, why don’t you read some labor stats? Like these, which put Northern Ontario’s employment rates at 54.5% and 58%, respectively?

We certainly can’t forget the crown jewel of Northern Ontarian shittiness – atrocious housing. We’re talking fucking shacks here, folks.

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(S) Totally legit house! For a lawnmower, perhaps.

Living in such dire poverty, surounded by joblessness and want with nowhere to go and no way to get out, lead lives of stunning want. Appendix B of this report speaks to some of the difficulties associated with combatting homelessness and so-called “invisible homelessness” (which basically means couch-surfing and bumming at friends’ places). Words like “skeletal infrastructure”, “no infrastructure”, “using informal networks”, and “lack of data”. Lacking basic information and having no real means to handle the basic needs incumbent to capitalist civilization suggests to me that these areas are effectively without governance. And that’s not just me saying this, either.

That’s a good way to end our brief trip through Northern Ontario. The area lives with infrastructure deliberately designed to bypass inadequate and poorly thought-out governance from Toronto. People can basically afford to slowly become more ill, trapped by insane transit costs and a live of grinding dependence on piss-poor social security. And if there’s anything worse than being governed by cakers, it’s being forgotten by cakers.

#44 – Homeopathetic Legislation

Homeopathy is a self-serving, vacuous bastard child of marketing and scientific illiteracy. Being both prone to marketing and generally illiterate, cakers spend $2.4 billion a year on junk of all kinds. This is despite Health Canada openly admitting that it allows for “natural health products” to get to market claiming health benefits which cannot be substantiated, as CBC Marketplace discovered when they made their own “natural health product” for sick children, submitted old photocopied pages from a textbook as medical evidence to Health Canada, and had their “medicine”…approved. And the fix for this problem was to effectively level homeopathy with actual medicine, at least in Ontario.

For the record. If you come and chirp me about naturopathy, here is my official response:

“Bitch, I was born in the fucking Rust Belt. I breathed weird brown air and swam in mercury-laden lakes. I remember the smog days, the red flags on the beach, the water that tastes like algae and rust. I do not give a single, heavy-metal-laden shit about ‘natural’ anything. Fuck off and bring on any prescription that will keep my ass alive longer.”    

After that awkward time when the CBC was able to get a nonsense product aimed at children that does nothing of consequence approved for sale by Health Canada, the government took…action, I guess? The official fix for useless snake oil being sold as a substitute for vaccination (which is a public health hazard as far as I’m concerned) was to forbid the marketing of snake oil as having specific health benefits “unless those claims are supported by scientific evidence”…for children under 12 years old. And bullshit peddlers had an entire year to continue making obtuse claims and pillaging the wallets of the sick and needy like the filthy highwaymen they are.

Also, what the fuck? Why not protect the rest of us from this crap? Why does the need for scientific evidence proving the efficacy of so-called “medications” end at 12 years of age? More than 10,000 different varieties of placebo entered the market in 2015 with Health Canada’s approval, in a process derided as a joke and a massive loophole. I suppose Canada is allergic to facts generally, but this? It’s no surprise that this common-sense extension of protections has been recommended by people who aren’t just shitting on Canada for shits and giggles.

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(S) $49.99 for a month’s supply! Traditionally used to cure…everything!

Obviously, the federal government can’t be trusted to stop the peddling of bullshit. How about the provinces? Ontario’s try at making legal sense of nonsense involved creating the College of Homeopaths of Ontario. Which, you might notice gives them the same legitimacy as physicians and surgeons, two professions which you might recognize as being significantly more important than homeopathy. Whoops! And don’t you worry about Ontario slapping stricter requirements on this crap, because approval and regulation are Ottawa’s responsibility! And while Ontario’s regulations are at least an attempt to put some kind of control on a criminal trade, it’s also the only province to have even tried.

Our one attempt to control naturopathy at a provincial level ended up making pecuniary predation upon the scientifically illiterate easier for these bastards, and the federal legislation is currently slightly flawed (in that it requires no meaningful evidence that a “drug” does what it claims to) for people over 12 years old. So, junk and real medicine sit side-by-each on pharmacy shelves, the former ready to pounce on an unsuspecting caker. In a plaintive cry from the CBC, Alheli Picazo make the ultimate plea for the fed to take this lethal shit seriously, noting that even AmeriKKKa has started taking this shit seriously.

 

#34 – Sports and Weather, Part Three: Forecasted Obsolescence

For being a country that incessantly bitches about the stuff, Canada sure fucking sucks at predicting bad weather. This comes to be a small problem when dealing with extractive industry, which frequently involves doing shit outside and which therefore typically needs a bit of a heads-up when shit is about to hit the proverbial fan. It’s a right shame then that Canada not only is home to an obsolete patchwork of equipment for forecasting but also frequently ends up shitting the bed by either failing or being late about providing information about extreme weather. And as per usual for caker country the response is to shrug at a problem for decades before decrying how hard it is to do basic shit.

A good place to start with this is a piece that I found from 2003 which references chaos, underfunding, and “literal rust out” as a sampling of problems affecting Canada’s meteorological infrastructure. An amazing example of this method of forecasting-by-fuck-it-whatever can be found at Mould Bay weather station, a long-standing and strategic asset near the Northwest Passage that was simply left to rot in 1997. Even more fun facts about that one – of the $8 million budget to decommission the place (which was nearly-new when it was abandoned) as of 2008, only $700,000 can actually be traced.

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(S) Even the fucking sign looks mouldy.

And it’s not like things got any better. This is a charming little report from 2012 which features such reassurances as “obsolete” radar stations and notes that available systems aren’t life-cycle managed. That’s a fancy way of saying that nobody’s keeping track of when that shit should be replaced and the only way we know that shit’s fucked is when shit gets fucked. Enter West Sea Otter, a vital offshore weather forecasting system that was down for seven months in 2014. When the place being forecasted on experiences hurricane-force winds you’d think fixing it might be a priority. Oh, and for those counting at home this is at least 10 years of chronic government inability to perform basic meteorological tasks.

But don’t for a second think that the fun stops there! Remember those non life-cycle managed radar systems? Yeah, those have gone down for months too! Here’s the story of the radar system out of Bethune, Saskatchewan, which kept going down during major weather events in the summer of 2015 and even prompted the MP for the area to call for an investigation. Which was probably the right call, seeing as Environment Canada fucking forgot to report on a tornado. Also in 2015 the radar station at Strathmore, Alberta went down shortly before a hailstorm came through. Not like anybody needs to know about that, right? And we can’t leave out Canada’s glorious telecommunications system, which is apparently the cause of this radar station failing to transmit information before and during a tornado touchdown in Taber, Alberta.

Even when they do modernize bad infrastructure Environment Canada manages to fuck up, as happened when the newly-retrofitted station at Exeter, Ontario still couldn’t convince the government to warn people in a timely manner about a tornado in Southern Ontario. It seems that the country can’t maintain a coherent standard for forecasting, which is in line with the 2012 report I cited above. Before anyone blames human error, Canada’s automated weather forecasting stations apparently also suck. A CBC report from 2010, citing the unfindable report titled “Degradation in Environment Canada’s Network, Quality Control and Data Storage Practices: A Call to Repair the Damage” notes that in a single month there are hundreds of cases of missing data and false reports from automated stations.

We’re supposedly getting new radar systems now, years after we were warned that the system was obsolete and years again after said system has demonstrated how shitty it is over and over again. We’ll see if Canada can do a proper fucking forecast after this, but here I’m seeing a 90% chance of scattered bullshit turning into a wave of complacent laziness in a few more years. One key piece of evidence for my forecast? There was no announcement for the new systems.