Saturday, August 05, 2006

Toronto Politicians Suck up our Leisure Time

The big social news is how stressed we are as a society. Apparently, we are busier, have less leisure time than previous generations. We have less time for friends, less time for ourselves. Much of this stress and lack of time -- which has increased as time-saving devices have proliferated -- is attributed to work and the loads employers have dumped on us.

This week, I had one of those light-bulb moments. It isn't work requirements, bad bosses, a harried lifestyle. It's our politicians. They've sucked the living daylight out of our leisure time. They've balanced time-saving devices with more rules, more regulations, more work, all in the name of making our city livable, green, more socially conscious. In reality, their inability to make decisions, their stubborn adherence to ideology, their pandering to the envy of others, has skyrocketed our stress levels.

1. They have changed animal regulations so that nuisance animals can no longer be removed from the area that they are causing problems. In the old days, you had a raccoon problem, you called the wildlife animal guy, he came, he removed the entire family to ensure pups remained with mom, he barricaded the area they tore into, and he took them far enough away so that they would not return. It was stressful only in the hours between finding the raccoons and the animal guy coming to remove them all.

Now he is not allowed to remove them. And so he takes the family out of the shed/roof/soffit, but releases them close enough that they return to either invade another part of your house or your neighbour's property. Now people wake up to find raccoon legs on their patio tables, giant holes in roofs; people pay over and over for damaged property and cannot use their decks or let their dogs out safely into the back yard. The stress is not over when the animal guy comes. It's over when winter comes.

2. Transit. It used to be that fares were fair, transit was frequent, it wasn't crowded morning, noon, and night, and it was commensurate with the population. Now there is too little service, too few subway lines, too infrequent trains to meet the needs of the population, all of which costs us the users too much. As the population has grown, the TTC has shrunk. The politicians are actively trying to attract more people, yet refuse to sink the huge dollars necessary to bring the transit system back up to the proportional level it was 20 years ago. The commute has become more crowded and slower. How do you feel when you're more crowded and have to wait 5 minutes instead of 2 in an overheated Yonge-Bloor station, with sweat trickling down your back by the time the train comes? Stressed!

3. Roads. Back in the good old days, the city ensured roads and sidewalks were kept clean and in good repair. In summer, one regularly saw street cleaners sweeping the roads, closely followed by water trucks hosing down the roads. You saw city workers cleaning up the litter everywhere; the only smudge on sidewalks was gum. Construction season meant keeping all roads in good repair, not patch jobs hurriedly done before the frost upheaval season. In winter, snowplows quickly cleared roads, and in the 1970s, there was a lot of snow the entire season. Today, we bounce along the roads, trip along the sidewalks, dodge litter, avoid overflowing trash bins that with each new redesign seem to become more revolting, and hold our noses during the summer and wear cleats during the winter.

4. Garbage. What can I say? Politicians have known for about a century that good garbage collection means less disease. We had twice a week collection, efficiently done. Garbage that fell out of bins was swept up and tossed in the truck -- those brooms on the back of the trucks were once used, and weren't just Mayor Millers' decorative touch. People spent little time sorting garbage as it was easy to know what went in the recycling bin -- newspapers -- and what went in the garbage bags -- everything else.

Well I believe that this is where our leisure time has gone: dealing with our garbage. We are being forced to sort it in every room of the house; put it out in the morning because the overflow of raccoons and skunks in the city has made putting it out in the evening far more dangerous and far far more likely to be dumped all over the road; having to put it out earlier in the morning as they have moved up the must-by-time by a half hour from 7:30 to 7:00 am; being forced to store it for much longer, meaning one must set aside more space for the boxes and bags, one must find a safe place away from rats and raccoons, one must find a place that won't smell up the house.

How stressful has putting out the garbage become? So stressful that the disabled, seniors, acutely ill, and anyone who has strength or fatigue issues can no longer handle getting the garbage to the curb on their own. They need help, whether it's folding boxes into the required minute size, opening bins, moving bins, being reminded of which item goes where...For the rest of the population, there's no overt noticeable effect except that your mood isn't quite as chipper, you have less time for friends, you're more tired on garbage day, you bark at your kids and snap at your spouse when said spouse points out you put the wrong kind of cardboard in the bin. It's so bad that the only ones who are happy are the idealogues, Mayor Miller, and Toronto Councillors who haven't been forced quite to the wall yet, only a mm left to go, mind you, to make a decision that someone's going to hate, specifically party members, rabid environmentalists who only want zero trash, and the idealogues. The rest of us want a practical solution that will make garbage day easy, make our garbage useful, and make our city clean again.

"Garbage Bureacracy Turning us into Dumpster Divers." From FAPEL website.

"Torontonians already spend an inordinate amount of their leisure time sifting through their trash." John Geiger, National Post.

"Toronto, alone, dumps 1 million tons on the suffocating Michiganders....Toronto is not too happy, either, because it is costing the city $47 million U.S. dollars per year....So scoop up the poop, Canada, and be a good neighbor." Sidney Gendin, editor-in-chief, Watching Politics.

"It’s discouraging that it looks like it will take a vote by Michigan legislators to close the border to Canadian trash to force Toronto to finally consider alternatives. It’s even more discouraging that, so far, the alternatives being considered all amount to different landfills." James Bow

"Toronto has a very curious attitude about trash. It's harmless when it's piling up on people's porches or spilling out of public bins and blowing around the park. But once it's collected, it becomes so hazardous that we've got to take it far away" Margaret Wente, The Globe and Mail, quoted by Mark C.

"What are the major principles of the Miller/NDP vision?...Third, an aversion to modern incineration to dispose of Toronto's garbage." Tor Poli

"Other options are back in a big way in Ontario, and maybe some of us who work in the waste management and recycling business can nudge the opposition party (and perhaps future government) toward some practical solutions to our diversion and disposal challenges." Guy Crittenden,

"The Energy Minister has broached the controversial idea of burning instead of trucking away Toronto's garbage. Incineration would be able to power some 200,000 homes and would mean people in the city wouldn't be freaking out everytime politicians in Michigan get miffed about our trash." Ron Nurwisah, Torontoist

"The process of shipping our waste long distances to another country has resulted in many problems and complaints, such as security concerns with border crossings, opposition from Michigan residents, concerns about the pollution generated by thousands of diesel-powered trucks traveling to and from Michigan every day, to doubts about the cost-effectiveness of the practice....If this ban is approved by the US Federal Government, it would mean the end of Toronto’s easy disposal of our municipal solid waste." Steve, Reality or something like it...

"With a Michigan landfill set to refuse Toronto's sewage sludge tomorrow, city officials have signed contracts with two firms to handle about half of the annual waste." Vanessa Lu, The Toronto Star.

"Where incineration is not a dirty word
As Toronto battles to find a solution to its garbage crisis, Sweden offers a solution" Headline for an essay by MAGNUS SCH├ľNNING, first secretary at the Embassy of Sweden in Ottawa, The Toronto Star

"Waste will always be a part of our everyday life but in Sweden, we have recognized it as a valuable resource. It can be turned into compost to improve soil, biogas to fuel our cars, and heat and electricity to power our homes. Why just throw it away when so much good can come from it?" MAGNUS SCH├ľNNING, first secretary at the Embassy of Sweden in Ottawa, The Toronto Star

Yes, Mayor Miller why just throw it away? Why is landfill the only option? Why is ignorance driving our garbage solution? Do-gooders are hard enough to deal with. Stupid do-gooders, the ones who are driving our politicians on the garbage portfolio, have created a stressful, filthy, overcrowded, menacing city. I want my Toronto back.

3 comments:

Tor Poli said...

Positively brilliant post.
I'm gonna link to it.
The whole effin bunch of them should be fired (except Case Ootes and a couple of others). Include Pitfield in that group.
3 years ago we had a chance to bring in a spectacular outsider and the city electors chose not only the status quo but the status worst in David Miller.
To paraphrase Henry II, who will rid us of these pestilent priests (of politics).
Fire them all, declare bankruptcy, turn over management of the City to a trustee.

talk talk talk said...

Wow! Thank you so much!!!

It would be nice if voters cleared the decks. I really wonder what people think about -- or if they even do! -- when they vote. If they know the name, they pick that one? Is that the sum total of their thinking?

It doesn't help either that candidates seem to be canvassing less these days during an election.

CVGi said...

Great post! I read through some of the Brain and Mood article, and I
realized that my coffee consumption is probably contributing a lot to my
frame of mind. Looks like I need to cut down some more.
Toronto Junk Disposal