Monday, July 27, 2009

Summer in the City of Stink

Summertime brings out the best festivals in Canada’s largest city of Toronto.
There are regular Ribfests, where “ribbers” (the guys cooking up the ribs) from all over North America come to win the ultimate prize – best ribs. It’s also where rib lovers like me can go to get sticky fingers, as we sample all the different ribs.

They even had a Ribfest at the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) – another popular summer festival, which opens in a handful of weeks. The CNE – or “the Ex” for us locals – is the largest fall fair in the country, with exhibitions, live stage and music shows, magic, and of course the rides of the Midway and all that food. Though if they have a Ribfest at the Ex again this year, I recommend staying away from all the overpriced greasy crap they sloth out at the Food Building, and go for some high quality, finger-licking ribs.

Typical Caribana paraders.Image via Wikipedia

But that’s not for a couple of weeks – the big show to hit TO is the annual Caribana Festival. This is the largest Caribbean cultural festival in North America, drawing millions of people from around the world to Toronto. From music and dance, to food and costumes, even the parade, it all adds a bit of excitement to a hot summer in Toronto.

My favourite summer treat happens middle of August – The Taste of the Danforth. Danforth Avenue in mid-town Toronto is known as Little Greece, for its large Greek population, restaurants, and cultural centres. During this festival celebrating Greek culture, they shut down most of the road, so you can have some of the best Greek food, while roaming the exhibits, shows, and other fun things to do.

Summer in Canada’s largest city isn’t dull – but this summer it sure may smell funky, thanks to the 24,000 City of Toronto employees walking the picket lines.
Both the city’s inside and outside workers walked off the job June 22, shutting down city run services. From daycare centres, community pools and recreation centers, to most noticeably garbage collection.

To ensure people have some place to dump their trash, the city opened up temporary trash sites across the city – where us residents must haul our own waste too. These temporary garbage dumps have been located in public

CNE midway in 2007.Image via Wikipedia

spaces owned by the city – community center parking lots, football fields, ice arenas, even children’s playgrounds.
Problem is, as the unions continue to refuse to negotiate – instead they demand the city give them what they want without any questions or compromises – the City of Toronto is slowly running out of these public spaces.

One possible site is the Canadian National Exhibition – the CNE grounds. This is a public space, and the city is well within its legal rights to use it as needed. However, it highlights an even larger problem for Canada’s largest city – image.

The CNE attracts visitors from across Canada, the States and around the world. It is one of the biggest summer tourist stops during its brief end of summer run.

Imagine the sounds of the midway, and the smells of the cotton candy interrupted by the ugly sight of thousands of stinky garbage bags, piled high, and growing every day.

The image of Toronto as one of the friendliest, cleanest and safest cities in North America would be shattered – if it hasn’t already been, thanks to a few bullies running an overpowering union.

The City of Toronto has made numerous attempts to end the strike using the collective bargaining process. They have made various offers, but the unio

City of Toronto and Exhibition Place from the ...Image via Wikipedia

ns – as many belligerent bullies do – refuse to accept anything but the whole enchilada.

One of the union leaders demonstrated his thug-like behaviour recently, by uttering an ultimatum – he said, either give us what we want by Sunday at midnight, or he (and presumably his colleagues) will storm out of the hotel where the negotiations are taking place, and join the picket lines indefinitely until we get what we want.

Nice – I didn’t know “Terrorism 101: How to Avoid Civil Discussions and Negotiations” was taught in union management school.

To be fair, I conducted my own informal survey to find out who locals blame for the continued strike. Using our social networks (Twitter and Facebook), we asked you: “Who do you blame for failing to end the five-week-old civic employees strike in Toronto?”

As of this writing, 73 percent put the blame exclusively on the union and its members. Only nine percent blamed the Mayor and his city’s negotiating team, though 18 percent blamed both the city and the union. You can vote on and see the on-going live poll here.

Regardless of who is and isn’t at fault for the continued labour dispute in Canada’s largest city, one thing is very clear – without the services you’d expect to find in such a large and modernized city, the image of it around the world – and even for its millions of residents – has changed forever.

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