#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.

 

195b: Finishing What I Started

I’ve already mentioned that I hate British Columbia, and I spent the whole of post 195 chasing one argument (that British Columbia’s connection to Canada was literally carved out by a crazy person and not an expression of a common will that a country called Canada ought to exist and look as it does) and ignoring the sloppy shitpool that is British Columbia today. You want madness? Here is madness – insane machine politics, an ecologically-sanctimonious ego belied by impossibly poor standards for ecological protections, a wildly irresponsible economy, and a polity whose horrendous rural conditions fit a typical caker pattern of neglect and abandonment.

As per usual, it took a real journalistic effort from an actual news source, in this case the New York Times, to reveal the depths of British Columbia’s political depravity. The current Premier of British Columbia, Christy Clark, receives an extra $50,000 stipend a year from her party, the money for which comes from donations. For $20,000 you can meet with Clark personally – and even better, there are no limits on yearly donations to political parties in BC. This effectively means that a wealthy person donating to the BC Liberal Party is directly paying a bonus to the Premier on top of being able to purchase access to her. Does this sound corrupt as shit to you? If you have any respect for the concept of transparency the prospect of people being able to limitlessly contribute to the perpetuation of a government – and even being able to pay the Premier a bonus! – should seem rather skeevy.

Unfortunately, British Columbia doesn’t care about such trifles as corruption and the purchase of political power, because the conflict-of-interest commissioner (whose son works for the Premier) says that there’s nothing wrong with buying political power. Hell, you don’t even have to be Canadian to purchase political clou-I mean to donate to the Liberal Party of BC. And golly, does being able to buy political power seem to work out nicely for donors to the Liberal Party. I bet investment firms in Beijing are donating to the party in power in BC because they just care so very much about the citizens of British Columbia. Totally not extracting favors. Right?

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(S) Trump looks on with sadness knowing that he will never be as corrupt as B.C.

The bounds of British Columbia’s corruption could take another post to fully express, and there’s so much more evil about that hateful province to shit on, so we’re going to move on and squat a deuce on BC’s ecological record. And boy – for a province that claims to love nature so much they sure suck eggs at actually protecting that environment. Here’s the Bella Bella diesel spill, the cleanup for which was of course utterly fucked up and ended up screwing over an Indigenous community’s clam harvest. There’s the dreadful Mount Polley disaster, which I have discussed before…and it’s open again! Yup, everything is totally okay according to the provincial government of BC. You know, the one that was bought and paid for. But it’s not like Imperial Metal, the company responsible for the failure at Mount Polley donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the government or anythin…oh. Oh, they did. Those “untouched” forests better get used to some slimy touches, and fast.

But these aren’t even the big dogs in terms of British Columbia’s absolute fuckery. The housing market in Vancouver is famously absolutely insane, to the point where the only people covering the problem honestly are in Hong Kong. The Hongcouver, as the South China Morning Post’s column is known as offers a fascinating look into the absolute fuckery of BC’s housing market that – shockingly – Pravda just doesn’t seem to have a grasp on. Need to ditch your poor reputation created from a life of crime and malice? Come to Vancouver, where there’s literally a firm designed to erase your sins. And then, if you take advantage of the myriad exceptions to BC’s attempt at stemming the tide of foreign wealth creating an insane housing bubble in Vancouver, you too can be living large and laughing easy while the working classes live in poverty as a result of ludicrous housing costs. Just ask this “student”, whose college dorm is a $31 million mansion. And when the bubble does burst, don’t expect any relief from housing insanity – the average housing unit still costs a princely $896,000, and that’s after the detached housing market started to slide. And this shit is BC’s largest revenue generator, by the way.

Vancouver skyline at Sunrise
(S) Hideous glass phalluses – truly the strongest of economic spines.

But what about those people who decided that a life of arrogance and working poverty wasn’t for them, the folks who tried to make a go outside of BC’s ludicrously overvalued urban spaces? Well, enjoy some fucking desperation, folks! Emergency services in rural British Columbia aren’t getting to people in time, unless your idea of “on time” is a 5-hour wait to get to a hospital. Even with an unhealthy fixation on extraction (the CBC’s idea of “good paying jobs” in rural BC are “coal, gas, and oil”, which sure are eco-friendly positions for Canada’s green-loving province to lean on) jobs are scarce. Hazelton, BC’s poorest community, suffers from a staggering 80% family poverty rate, with an estimated 85% unemployment rate. Half a million people in British Columbia were going fucking hungry in 2012 (before the huge price upticks, which were of course coupled with no meaningful pay increase), which is no surprise when you’re looking at a $1000 monthly food bill for a family of four in northern BC. Because of insane prices live in urban BC is also shit, which is why British Columbia is the only province in Canada without a poverty reduction plan.

There. Fuck British Columbia, fuck Vancouver, and fuck everyone who told me that I should move to Vancouver because “the east isn’t the real Canada”. Spoilers – Canada sucks no matter where you’re at in the country.

#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.

#190 -New Bumswick, the Fief

Imagine yourself a life. The city you live in, dominated by massive tanks with the company’s name slathered on them, suffers an disproportionate number of respiratory problems and cancers. But you’ll never know – every single newspaper in the city, indeed in the whole place, is owned by the company. Your work options are scarce. You could work in timber or paper-making for the company. You could work in the oil industry for the company. The government’s new initiative is call centers; you could always listen to cakers, day in and day out, as they bitch and moan about God-knows-what. The ultimate dream is a terrible administrative job with the government, desperately trying to make sense of byzantine regulation and severe understaffing.

Got a good mental image going?  Good, ’cause I’m going to pencil it in for you. Welcome to New Brunswick, a polluted hellhole clinging to life by accepting Ottawa’s sloppy seconds and licking the boots of some of the most loathsome, terrible caker businesspeople that cakers have to offer. New Brunswick is practically owned by the Irving family, a collection of lizard-people who own or dabble in basically every economic activity in New Brunswick. Their combined net worth is equivalent to the entire province’s revenue in 2014. Yeah, this is going to get ugly.

The Irvings are notorious for their hyper-aggressive oligarchic hold over the province of New Brunswick. Sound a bit like post-Soviet Russia? You’d not be the only one thinking that – people live in fucking fear of the choking control that the Irvings have over their lives. Here’s a story of the Irvings collaborating with both the provincial and federal government to bury a story about glyphosates (a common herbicide used in forestry) and their connection to declines in deer stock. The degenerate caker mafiosos are aided in their Chechnyesque stylings by the fact that they are the key players in what a 2006 Senate report called an “industrial-media complex“.

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(s) Irving “reporter” getting “the news”, circa 2013

Oh, and they like to use dodgy shell companies in Bermuda to avoid paying Canadian taxes. Because nothing says that a company is committed to and cares about the areas it exploits quite like them running away from fiscal responsibilities. That’s kind of shitty given that New Brunswick is wildly in debt and doesn’t seem likely to fix it anytime soon. Oh, and another small sign that the Irvings may not give a shit about the people of New Brunswick: the places that they’ve industrialized, like their massive operation at Saint John, are at greater risk of cancer than other New Brunswickers. Meanwhile, the Irvings keep growing and stowing their wealth, running their little Dagestan as it putters and shits like a Lada rolling to a junkyard. You know what’s even better? The Irvings aren’t even the only shitty oligarchic family operation in the province!

So the Irvings are massive wankers. And what they and the province have wrought is impossible misery. Between the ages of 15 and 24, there are only 36,900 workers, giving the province an incredible 17.1 percent youth unemployment rate. The general unemployment rate – the stated one, mind, with all its flaws and failures – hovers around 10%. Nearly one in seven was living in poverty in 2006. An astonishing 53% of adults in the province are functionally illiterate, meaning that they street signs are about as complex as it gets. This may have something to do with the government’s make-work programs there being critically understaffed. There’s something ironic here, given that New Brunswick is unusually bilingual, but I just can’t find it in me to kick down people who can’t fathom that there’s more to the written canon of man than words written on street signs.

Oh wait, yes I can. New Brunswick is basically Canada’s end-game. It’s a province almost singularly devoted to extraction for the benefit of a tiny minority of people while the majority suffer pollution, fear, poverty, and idiocy. It’s a dismal, miserable, appallingly-poor province in a country that seems more and more full of these sorts of bush-league failures the more we comb through province by province through the abomination that is the Canadian federal family.