#203 – Shit City, Part Two: Halifax, Nova Scotia

A good friend of mine has the misfortune of having to live in and around the Halifax area. Outside of the natural environment, my friend has basically nothing good to say about the province of Nova Scotia or its people. It follows then that the only attempt at urbanity in the Maritimes is a total load of shit. When the most significant event that your city can point to in its history is the largest man-made explosion before the invention of atomic weaponry obliterating a major district of your city (not to mention the Mi’kmaq community that was washed from the earth by the subsequent tsunami and subsequently forgotten by Canada), you may not have a whole lot to work with.

Indeed, the city of Halifax is the closest and probably only thing resembling civilization in the Maritimes. Like the province it inhabits, Halifax is poor, overpriced, and devoid of meaningful civic space.

Let’s look at some numbers:

Median after-tax income/year: $31,759 (S)
Income for minimum wage earner, full-time work: $21408 (S) ($11.15/hour, 40hr/week)
Typical rent for 1-bedroom apartment: $1093/month (S)
Food cost per month, one person: ~$250/month (S)

Cost of rent + food as percent of minimum wage earner’s income: 75% (!!!!)

I hope you don’t like fun if you’re working a minimum wage gig in Halifax, because eating and living alone are gonna cost you 75% of your income. I know that people will often pick up roommates and the like, but if you’re, say, a single parent the notion of grabbing some drinking buddies and squatting in a shithole apartment with them and your kid doesn’t quite appeal. Considering that the minimum wage is currently an embarrassing $11.15/hour and that the average Nova Scotian needs to make $19/hour to stay afloat, Halifax is a case of fiscal bed bugs that would make Winnipeg blush – 59,000 people there live in extreme poverty (out of a population of 300,000), and one-in-five Haligonian children are impoverished. It doesn’t help that Halifax is also neck-deep in extreme housing cost increases. Because fuck it – not like you want to actually live anywhere, right?

If you’re not doing so hot in Halifax, chances are you’re living in Dartmouth North, where the average income is about half of what you’d be making in Halifax proper. Or you could be living in the ridiculously poorly-designed manufactured slum of Pinecrest-Highfield Park (side note: why can’t cakers come up with better names for their communities? I swear every fucking city in this shitheap has a dumpy-ass hellhole of a neighborhood called Pinecrest). And did you think a tiny speck offering the only vague prospect of civilization in the Maritimes could be without gun crime? Think again, says Uniacke Square, a pile of puke-tinged disappointment that was the scene of Halifax’s hip-hop scene back in the 80s. So many shitty neighborhoods to choose from! Do you want unaffordable hipster investor bullshit, or pitiable desolation bullshit, or long wait times for inferior public housing? Halifucks has it all!

(S) Looks like a great place to get shot

I hope you weren’t thinking that these shitty neighborhoods with boilerplate names are actually connected to one another by anything more than personal vehicle use, because Halifax Transit is completely useless at the best of times. It’s so bad that it costs people a chance at a job because it can’t be relied upon to actually show up. And God help you if you have a disability that forces you to use “Access-a-Bus”, whose name serves as a cruel joke. It is no surprise that Halifax Transit keeps losing ridership because of its inferior service and tickets that are the size of $5 bills. The solution to these problems, according to the brilliant brain trust that runs Halifax Transit, is to give supervisors Dodge Chargers that are stronger than the actual buses they’re supervising. Yeah, that’s totally a good use of public funds.

Alright. So you’ve decided to go to Halifax anyways. You’ve braved the shit transit, avoided the myriad rancid turds that pass as neighborhoods, and somehow found a way to make enough money to stay alive without selling your soul to the Navy or to the Irving Family. What can you do to relax without falling into the classic caker trope of drinking yourself into a stupor? Not a whole lot, it seems, beyond looking at hideous modern buildings and getting stuck in construction. The city’s current plan to avoid sucking is to…invest in the CFL? Dude, nobody cares about the CFL except Hamilton and Saskatchewan, and those two places are not votes of confidence for your plan.

In fairness, if you like the outdoors Halifax is a treat. But that’s mostly because you can get out of Halifax. I’m not here to judge Canada’s wilderness, so I know that I’m missing at least some of the appeal of the place. But as a city Halifax shouldn’t have to lean on its non-urbanity to justify its shit urbanity. And as a city Halifax is a boring, intractable, unusable mess of me-too mega-projects mired in the same morass of poverty and roiling disappointment that the rest of Canada’s urbanity is.

So, before I sign off on this I’m going to take one last dump on Halifax by way of taking its terrible hospitals to task. The IWK Healthcare Center had a CEO named Tracy Kitch, who decided that the public healthcare system was her personal piggy bank. She was joined in this endeavor by Stephen D’Arcy, whose name is a funnier insult than anything I could come up with. Now, sketchy shitbag executives ruining public infrastructure is hardly uncommon; Canada’s hospitals are choking on superfluous kleptocratic “executives” whose primary job seems to be having a job. But it took the police an entire year to figure this shit out. Halifax has serious problems with wait times, and the shoddiness of Halifax Hospital (including, as it turns out, its shoddy bullshit reporting system for expenses that allowed this latest scandal in the first place) is something I’ve written about before on this blog. But it’s in Halifax, so it’s going back on the board as something to make fun of. Shit hospital for a Shit City.

 

 

 

#202 – Folks

I feel like I’m announcing a monster truck rally here, friends. The leftist iteration of caker self-narrative has been replaced by the rightist iteration of caker self-narrative here in Onterrible, land of the wretched and home of the formless. The false self-narrative of Canada as a welcoming, upwardly-mobile utopia of magical diversity unicorns has been banished to the wilderness. Quite literally – 1/7th of the Liberal caucus is from a wasteland. And returning to power from the political cold is the false self-narrative of truck balls, Don Cherry, and buck-a-beer Canadiana. Meanwhile, absolutely nothing changes in the underlying rot of the province except that I’ll be able to buy overpriced beers at convenience stores, which is an improvement in my immediate living conditions that government has failed to give me for many years. I’ll take it.

The whole campaign was a disgusting election with cringeworthy moments galore, but pants-on-head retardation on the campaign trail is hardly unique to Canada. I mean, don’t those links tell you everything? Antiquated memes, massive accounting errors, Hot Topic-esque edge. Fuck, man. That post isn’t even worth writing. Nah, what we’re going to do now is simple – we’re going to celebrate the fall of the technocracy and its replacement by a retarded form of the same thing, because there is absolutely nothing on this earth that I celebrate more than the Liberal Party failing except for Canada failing. So without further a-fucking-do, it’s time to introduce the star of our show, the guy who toppled Ontario’s weaselly aristocrats and left them quite literally without Party status in the 42nd Parliament of Ontario.

(S) FOLKS

Welcome, motherfuckers, to Ford Nation.

Yes, with a blistering 58% of the population deigning to give enough of a fuck to go to one of Canada’s myriad decrepit, fading pieces of civic infrastructure and draw an X in a circle we have decided that the man smiling at you will be the new government. What does this entail? Beyond the ability to buy booze without going to a government agency, auditing the shit out of the Wynne government’s books, the embarrassingly useless stylings of caker business nakedly shitting on this province, and providing an unending source for the hand-wringing shit-peddling that passes for journalism in this country, I don’t really know what Folks will specifically do to make Ontario even worse than it already is. But I can tell you that I’m fucking stoked for it.

Why?

Because that gearning slickback iceberg of a man just kicked Canada in the goddamn teeth. Prince Selfie just went from having a pliant lapdog to a guy who is going to take Ottawa to Hell in a Cell over carbon emissions taxation, and there are two more friends of the federal Liberals on the chopping block before the 2019 federal elections. In Quebec, a scandal-ridden Liberal government with a Wynne-like approval rating among the Francophones of Quebec got fucking steamrolled by the CAQ, and Alberta’s anomalous Notley government is also slated for the ash-heap. The incoming governments all spell bad things for #RealChange: Ford’s populist appeal, Legault’s deployment of Quebecois nationalism, and Kenney’s…well, Kenny’s everything each offer Justin challenges that he frankly has no clue how to face.

In other words, Canada is looking mighty bloody frail internally at a time when it desperately needs to be able to present a unified front against Donald Trump, who has clearly seen through Canada’s bullshit and wants to rough this place up something fierce. Has anyone else watched Aggretsuko? The Don reminds me of Ton, the chauvinistic boss character from that show. Actually, this entire event reminds me of Ton’s callout of Retsuko, which is probably helped by Ford looking more than a little like Director Ton. Between a fraying provincial fabric and international pressure, Canada’s going to be sweating at precisely a time when it can’t afford to.

For someone who hates this fucking shitheap, this is the best show I have seen in years. Already we’ve seen Folks’ unique brand of caker politicking: friends getting promotions they aren’t qualified for, lunatics in high places, an obscene and frankly bizarre obsession with alcohol, and an overabundant interest in Toronto that overrides the pitiable state of the rest of the province and that, of course, entrenches retarded ideas by megaproject into the urban fabric. And he apparently wants to gut the already-dysfunctional healthcare system.

At the same time as all this, though, there’s a dirty truth that needs to be set out into the world. Folks is what Ontarians expect. And he’s what Ontarians deserve. But most of all, he’s really nothing more than a grosser, fatter, more retarded version of the same idiocy that has governed Canada’s “best” province for as long as I have been alive. He is the rightist version of Kathleen Wynne, who was guilty of the same styling but with a bizarre obsession over green energy instead of booze. At least getting wasted is familiar to these worthless cretins.

To wrap up a post that I should have fired off a long time ago: Folks is a wrecking ball that will govern Ontario like a sixth-grader’s idea of a Mafia outfit. He’ll rip out idiotic leftist virtue-signalling and replace it with idiotic rightist virtue-signalling. He’ll continue to see the Premiership as a “Turbo-Mayorality of the Greater Toronto Area” as the rest of the province sinks like a Lada on a Siberian “highway”. And for all of that meddling in Toronto that miserable stinkhole of a city won’t get any better.

But at least he’s scaring Socks, and anything that makes the shittiness of this wretched hive of a country more apparent is something I can get behind. Swing on, Folks. Not like I’ll be living in this miserable province for much longer anyways. Fuck it – at least failure can finally be entertaining instead of merely being an inducement to drink.

 

#201 – Shit City, Part One: Introduction + Winnipeg, Manitoba

It’s time to introduce a new series to the blog! Canadian cities are banal, awful places full of boredom and misery. Residents of cities having a rough go of unaffordability, poor transit, and limited opportunities have all been addressed generally by this blog before. Shit City is my chance to highlight the specific failures afflicted on the residents of each and every major Canadian center. We’re going to get into transit timing using Google Maps, discuss a lot of ratios of income to pricing of all sorts of local goods, and read some opinions and reviews from tourists and locals alike about the local “attractions”. Shit City will follow a framework, which is going to work thus for the moment:

  1. Introduction
  2. Ratios and numbers:
    Income to housing prices
    Income to food prices
    Poverty rates/food bank use/homelessness (whatever I can find)
    Criminality
  3. Access to transit
  4. Reviews of local “attractions”

Right, let’s get started then with our first Shit City, and what a Shit City it is. We’re talking about Winnipeg, the discarded rail-town that was left to rot on the banks of the Red River. The legendary tragedy of Winnipeg, home to Indigenous gangs and a group that fishes bodies out of the Red River is well-established. On top of being the home of one of Canada’s most brutal police actions, Winnipeg’s role in Canadian city lore is to serve as the Oakland of Canada – scrappy, mean, poor, and influential in pop culture. Winnipeg got all but the last one right, which is a shame because the combination of Indigenous heritage and urban cataclysm produces some dope raps.

Instead of dope raps, Winnipeg is epitomized by the Weakerthans’ “One Great City“. When Can-Con is mocking a place in Canada you know it sucks. The first two lines of the song might as well be my entire post. “Late afternoon, another day is nearly done/a darker gray is breaking through a lighter one”. This is truly a remarkable song, by the way. It takes some kind of balls to be this honest. See? Canada can’t suck the life out of every artistic endeavor taking place within its wretched walls – only most of them!

Here’s how Winnipeg stacks up by the numbers:

Median total monthly income, family: $81,880/year (2015 figure) / 12 = $6823/month
Monthly income for two full-time minimum-wage earners: $3675 (2017 figure)
Cost of property: $288,500 (2016 figure)
Average rent for 2-bedroom apartment: $1068/month
Average food costs: $819.95 (2011 figure)

This means that the food costs about 12% of median monthly income and that rent will set you back 15.6% of your median family income. That’s actually not all that terrible…but when you’re working minimum wage, it gets ugly. In that case rent is 29% of your monthly income and food is 22%. That means you get $1837.50 to spend on utilities, transportation, debt repayments – everything else.

Criminality and poverty in Winnipeg are concentrated in the city’s notorious North End, which looks like this:

The unemployment rate in the neighborhood of Point Douglas is 9.5% in 2011, and male life expectancy in Point Douglas South was 66.7 years. Which is roughly on par with West Timor, a country that was ravaged by military occupation until 1999. Did you not see the part above where I talked about people fundraising to drag nets along the Red River to look for corpses? Yeah, this place is a total shitheap.

Did I mention that Winnipeg is infamous for gang-related violence? Because we got all kinds of gang violence to talk about, friends! It’s enough of a problem that gangs are pulling the kids of recent migrants into their groups, with upstart gangs forming constantly even as the city pretends to have “resolved” the problem over and over again. Street gangs like the Manitoba Warriors have grown increasingly sophisticated; even worse, police are failing to keep up with their crime sprees. Rivalries between Indigenous gangs and classic Canadian criminal offerings like the Hell’s Angels present all kinds of thrilling chances to see the roiling poverty of Canada’s cities (and imagination) on overdrive.

Winnipeg features classic elements of poor transit planning. An overfixation on suburban routes, cutting services while raising fares, and failure to properly operate critical lines on the route has seen Winnipeg’s transit system hobbled. The city failed at the implementation of electronic fares so badly that the bus drivers’ union demanded that the system be scrapped. During critically important times for transit like New Years’ Eve the Winnipeg transit system simply shits the bed. The impoverished North End features pathetic bus infrastructure, including a pitiful 22% incidence of bus stops with shelters and few routes going anywhere important. Having never taken this transit system the best I can do is to say that the hallmarks of mediocre North American transit are alive and well in Winnipeg.

And you’ll be leaning on that transit something fierce if you don’t have a car, because Christ on a unicycle does the weather in Winnipeg suck. My greatest annoyance with “Peggers” (as nobody should call them) was how, during the hellish depths of the Ottawa winter they would pull that caker conversational classic: “you think this is cold?” Hey, numbnuts – living in a place where the average low temperature in January is -20C isn’t something to be proud of. And don’t forget the muggy, sweaty summers complete with a Biblical plague of random bugs and shit! Even Mother Nature is trying to tell you to clear the fuck out of Winterpeg.

But what of Winnipeg’s tourist attractions, such as they are? Certainly among the more…ostentatious? Hypocritical? Whatever. Canada’s Human Rights Museum is a $300 million testament to vague concepts of human rights in a neighborhood where $300 million could have fixed a whole whack of societal problems. And the reviews are in!

Human Rights Museum Review 1Human Rights Museum Review 2

Unfinished, sloppy exhibits? Fucking sold! The San Jose Sharks declared Winnipeg the most awful place that they have to visit, which is stupid-sad considering that the Sharks also have to visit the ass-end of Fort Lauderdale, Edmonton, and Buffalo. Speaking of hockey, here are some hot takes on the recently-constructed MTS Place, home of the Winnipeg Jets:

Hockey Arena Review 1Hockey Arena Review 2

Poor signage, inadequate transit integration, and a lack of washrooms? That almost sounds like a lack of planning! How could this be? Beyond this, I have found…not much. A shopping mall full of drunks? Some boring outdoor skating? Museums in the middle of nowhere that cost a fortune? Oh…boy?

#46 – Tim Horton’s Brown Sludge Water™, Part Four: the Timitentiary

One of the least pleasant places in the world to be is at a Tim Hortons “café”. Who wouldn’t want to sit staring into a void of parking, listening to underpaid workers attempting to negotiate temporary peace with knuckle-dragging shitbiscuit customers who don’t seem to understand that the milk and cream are poured automatically and pre-portioned (which means that no, the workers weren’t “trying to cheat me” out of milk, which is a refrain I hear far too often). The scope of the unpleasantness is vast and has myriad entrepots for blame. Some blame certainly goes to Tim’s stubborn adhesion to Canada’s equally-uncritical relationship with personal motorcars, which ensures that the outside world looks hideous and uninviting. Metal furnishings tinted with varying shades of shit-brown provide an uncomfortable allusion to shit, which when considering the quality of Tim’s products is not an association that they should be wanting to make. Uncomfortable chairs, ugly designs, bad urban form, and cakers as far as the eye can see. This sounds like my version of hell.

The horror of the physical experience of a Tim Horton’s begins before you even get inside. Cakers and their insane reliance on both driving and drinking a substance that needs to be plied with an unyielding quantity of fat and sugar in order to be palatable combine to create legendarily-stupid traffic snarls. Of course, the lack of planning and foresight incumbent to Canada don’t help in this regard, as moronic cakers are inclined to simply queue in their cars like cud-chewing morons when confronted with delay rather than considering whether they could go, y’know, literally anywhere else. Cakers are so in love with bad coffee and driving metal boxes that they regularly break traffic laws across Canada. Here’s Terrace, B.C. being retarded. The oilheaded buffoons of Fort McMurray are apparently of the opinion that roadways are akin to drive-through lineups. The mysteries of getting out of your car and walking into the Timitentiary are too much for cakers – from coast to coast, these morons can’t manage to grasp the incredible power that is fucking getting out of the car and walking. And we wonder why Canada is obese as fuck?

After crossing the vehicular Rubicon and daring to go inside the Tim’s you could almost be excused for huddling in your car and causing traffic snarls rather than going inside. When even the head office operates like a prison you just know that the front-facing experience is going to suck. Indeed, the average Tim Hortons has the aesthetic and feel of a waiting room in a substandard caker prison. A fixation on price-cutting and skeleton-staffing throughout the factory caker-feed industry means that the place is likely utterly disgusting. And check out these incredibly-comfortable looking chairs:

(S) Void within, void without.

And just to show how ubiquitous this horror is, here’s another picture of the inside of a Tim Horton’s:

(S) Yup, that sure is some boring shit. Note the “view”.

People congregate in these places not because they are desirable places to be but because they are in many situations the only places remaining for cakers and their victims to sit and converse. Somewhere in these ugly-ass, one-size-fits-all walls there is a tragic sentiment – that somehow, Canadians gradually permitted the degradation of space to such a degree that sterile veneers and dirty floors supported by plastic donuts and wretched coffee have become the most common gathering places.

But at least those people who do go inside as opposed to wasting even more space in their vehicles than they would simply as people. Where cakers take to declaring the cultural force of Tim Hortons as a national marker of identity I take it as a sad testament to the fact that cakers claim to love places that are so abhorrent that so many of them avoid the entire place by sitting in their fucking cars. In either case the logic of the prison wins out – utilitarian slop and generic places for those who come in, and isolation for those who opt for the drive-through. Outside or in, there are few places as rotten by design as the average Tim Hortons.

 

#45 – Canada’s House of Cards

…Where to even begin with Canada’s disgraceful relationship with housing? We kind of fail from the word go here – this country is home to some incredibly shit housing. Starting with a fundamental lack of the stuff, a consequence of mindless suburbanization (of which Canada was a pioneer) and horrendous social housing policy (where any even exists). Probably somehow even worse than no home within the confines of caker urbanism are the absymal shacks that far too many Indigenous peoples live in. This is of course in the same country that seems to have an incredible fascination with speculating on housing markets. There’s something particularly cruel about the way that Canada effectively permits gambling with housing costs while so many of its people suffer for want of tolerable housing, and this vein of critique into Canada is basically endless. I could make this entire blog about shitty housing policy and probably still make to 200.

The best way to use this post, I suppose, is to introduce the scope of the problem. Canada has (unbelievably) developed a national housing strategy, apparently. I say “apparently” because I can’t find the actual document to review. What I’ve seen looks like a lot of handouts to developers and buzzwords, but without the actual document there’s not a whole lot of judgement that I can actually throw down. So let’s instead briefly glance at the scope of the problem that our valiant new housing strategy (which is about 50 years late) is attempting to conquer.

Before we speak of the particularly-unfathomable housing problems of Canada’s perpetual racial underclass, let’s talk about the disgrace that is Canada’s urban housing policy. As in the United States, suburbanization was practically subsidized in Canada, by both provincial and municipal machinations. Indeed, Canada was among the first places to seriously embrace this disasterous idea – as early as 1953 Toronto was getting ready to be choked by shit tract-development which was so rigidly-engineered (in exactly the kind of way Jane Jacobs tells us is a shit idea) that there were no sidewalks. As for the dreadful urban renewal which led to heartache and urban failure in so many American cities, well…yeah, we’ve got that too. And yeah, it’s pretty fucking shit here too.

(S) Regent Park as initially constructed. Yup, sure looks like towers of bullshit!

Canada’s low-income housing programs are almost hilariously underfunded and are in fact total shit. Toronto’s affordable housing, run by the Toronto Community Housing Corporation, is literally crumbling due to age and lack of attention. With an overfixation on building more as opposed to repairing current stock, this problem doesn’t seem likely to go away any time soon. A fixation on maximizing profits leads to poor policy decisions which in fact encourage price speculation on housing markets. And that’s not to even mention the chronic mismatch between the building of rental units in Canadian cities and the need for said. And the scope of the problem is substantial – nearly 20% of Canadians pay more than 50% of their income towards rent costs, with small towns and suburbs playing a disproportionate role in that total.

And that, my friends, is where the good times end for Canada’s housing stock.

From here, we go to one of Canada’s most truly abhorrent sins. Indigenous housing stock, particularly on reserves is frankly third-world. In 2001 nearly half of the total reserve housing stock was in need of overhaul or replacement. More than half of Indigenous housing stock is reported to contain mold or mildew. Almost a third of reserve water supplies are unsafe; nearly 2000 housing units are without adequate sewage or water services. Shitty housing was the cause of a fire that killed four children and their father near London, Ontario in 2016; the home, which was effectively kindling was denied funding for housing improvements from Ottawa.

(S) “Oh, yeah. That looks about fine for dem Injins!” – Ottawa, probably

So that’s what we’re going to be picking at with this topic – how cakers entrenched an untenable housing system of boring, rolling suburbs, how urban centers have utterly failed their residents, how brutal the consequences of shitty policy are for Canada’s poorest, and of course the unbelieveable savagery that is Indigenous housing policy. It’s a whole seething ball of bullshit worth several posts, and you’d better believe that I intend to assail Canada’s shit housing from every angle.