Centre of the Continent

Thoughts from the middle of North America

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Drivers & Cyclists & Pedestrians! Oh My!

This is a post that has been brewing for a long time. I live in the downtown area of Winnipeg and have since I moved here from Kenora in 2005. Living that vacation hotspot, I had to deal with the influx of tourists from Manitoba every summer. Their driving was atrocious but we had the tendency to give them the benefit of the doubt. “They’re from out of town and lost or just not sure of things …”, we’d say. Then I moved here.

To my surprise, these same ‘Toban drivers aren’t any better on home turf. In fact they are as bad or worse. Why is this so, Winnipeg? Nothing got me more upset then seeing Tom Broadbeck’s stories of the “unfair” ticketing of drivers that he would call a “tax grab”. Seriously, Tom? I don’t care what you call it – if any driver is breaking the law then fine them. I don’t care if they were caught in person by an officer, by a traffic camera or by psychic link to a palm-reader in Osbourne Villiage – if they broke the law then they should pay.

Do as many blitzes as you want. Stop every speeder, every diamond-lane sneaker and every amber-means-go-faster driver on the road. Grab all the dollars you can. Ezra Levant calls this the “Nanny State”. He believes specifically that drivers should be able to do whatever they want while driving whether it be texting, doing their make-up, or watching porn and that they should only be penalized when this quantifiably endangers a life. The problem with this thinking is that it means waiting for the accident to happen. At that point the lives may be already ruined or lost. For him this is an issue of freedom. Somehow in North America, we have created in our car-centric society the belief that it is an innate right to drive a car. If you travel in Europe you actually find that in some countries some laws are not as strict as in North America — Germany and it’s Autobahn for example. It’s the attitude that is different. Driving is considered a privilege and treated as such. When such an attitude is prevalent, laws can actually be more lax. People respect their own place and more to the point, the place of others around them.

Respect. That’s what it really comes down to. Creating the right to drive mentality has made the drivers a unique upper-class in their own minds. Those that do not drive by choice or otherwise are looked down upon and so this feeds into the question of ultimate road ownership. Persons that ride the bus or walk to work are of a lesser social standing. This begins as early as age 16 when the young and well to do own or have access to vehicles. You can’t blame the individual drivers for this because they know that the streets and highways were designed around them and in most cases any other forms of traffic are afterthoughts or outright an nuisance. Go to Kenaston without a car — there are few sidewalks and it is clearly designed to get around by car – even within itself. So why wouldn’t a driver think that a system designed for him is owned by him? The cries ring out loud when any attempt to remedy this imbalance is suggested or, God forbid, gets approval.

I have my issues with cyclists and clueless pedestrians too. They need to follow the rules and behave safely as well. I’m sure Tom and Ezra cheered as news of the Winnipeg crack down on cyclists hit the wire a bit ago. As did I. Strange however, I did not see either of them speak about an over-bearing nanny-state or socialist tax grab when it came to those ticketed on bicycles. Guess it didn’t fit their agenda.

Everyone needs to just get along. The rules of the road are important as much as stand-alone protection of the public as they are a guideline for others’ expectations. For example, the law on amber lights is that the driver is expected to stop if it is safe to do so, not if he or she feels like it. Likewise, when you cannot safely get through an intersection because of congestion you are to stop before entering it. If you were to enter the downtown core any given morning, you would believe the opposite on both of these. And then there’s the speeding. Have we not learned by now that especially in an urban setting, it rarely pays to drive faster and weave in and out of traffic like some crazed Indy driver? I particularly remember one day because the car in question was exactly the same as ours. It weaved in and out and passed us a number of times and very nearly caused an accident at one point. Nevertheless, without fail, we would catch up to it every few intersections. Get it picture people? None of these things really get you to your destination faster. Again I say; as far as I’m concerned put a camera at every corner. Blitz drivers every morning and evening rush. Make it truly unprofitable to break the law and fill the coffers at the same time.

Pedestrian, cycle and transit corridors are met with the “but more people drive” argument time and time again. Well yes, more people do drive but that’s the issue. More people need not to drive. There is no solution that favours more cars – no matter what a city does it cannot ultimately keep up with the demand for parking and traffic volume. There is a finite amount of space and dollars. Pedestrian paths and bikeways cost infinitely less to build and maintain and a well designed transit system is infinitely more efficient.

Don’t hate me, Winnipeg drivers. More importantly – please don’t hit me with your car.

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Free Speech vs. Right Speech

warninglabelThe Sun News Network is asking the CRTC to step in on a pricing disagreement with Bell Media. This is one of the most hypocritical actions I have ever witnessed. On day one of Sun’s young life Ezra Levant went on a CRTC bashing rant and stated in no uncertain terms that the CRTC has no business interfering in the media. Furthermore, the business of the media should be a free marketplace with little or no government interference. As with most issues with the far right, I am finding that their opinions and principles are not as rigid as their tirades would make them appear.

OK. That was a bit of a rant of my own. I’ll continue with what really disturbs me when it comes to the right and free speech.

My real issue with the right is with the horrible dark side that comes out if there is something they disagree with. Ethan Baron published his feelings on the election results. I invite you to read it in it’s entirety here. In short, he is disappointed by the Harper majority and saddened as a newly anointed Canadian. Charles Adler posted a link to this story on his Facebook page. Here are some responses:

“As a 6th generation Canadian…I implore this “new” Canadian to please leave MY country if he cannot abide by the decision of the Canadian electorate…!”

“That is the most insulting garbage I have ever read. The guy should be fired. Are people not allowed to execise (sic) their democratic rights if they don’t agree with a nobody like him. What an arrogant human being.”

“Go back! Leave Canada. We don’t need people that haven’t put their time, sweat and blood into this country to have such high sense of entitlement. But i’m (sic) sure they want the social benefits and Canadian pensions… I’m disgusted that canadian (sic) citizenship is given so freely to people like that!”

Rather then debate or argue rationally, the right insults and taunts. I included the last quote because what the writer did not bother to research was that Ethan Baron has been working in Canada for 20 years. It’s just recently he got his citizenship.

Charles Adler likes to stir things up. Here’s another story he posted to his page: “American Indians object to ‘Geronimo’ as code for bin Laden raid”. This one drew out an even worse reaction — all out racism.

“and they wonder why we sent pails instead of toilets.”

“FN’s are just worried that the war on terror will become brown v red! Heya howa.”

For none of these will I post a name. While this isn’t about calling out any specific person I also acknowledge that thankfully these comments don’t represent the every Conservative or right-leaning thinker but as is often seen when the dark blue curtain is lifted, these ideas are just below the surface of the Conservative Party.

No Conservative MP or staffer would be able to make these comments without being reprimanded by the party. The problem is that these extreme views start to creep into policy. The Canadian Council on Social Development, the Native Women’s Association of Canada, the Office of the National Science Advisor, the Canadian Child Care Federation, the Office of Democratic Governance, The Law Reform Commission of Canada and the National Association for Women in Law are just a few organizations that have had their funding gutted or eliminated. These defenders of the disadvantaged in Canada were targets because their ideas too often contradicted the government’s will.

“Defunding” is the new catchphrase for discrimination. Most often what is defunded are the groups that support sectors of the population that are disadvantaged and less likely to be Conservative voters.

This is subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) oppression that must be fought against at all costs.


All comments quoted were responses to posts by Charles Adler on his Facebook page and were readable at the time of this post.

“New Canadian just can’t believe in a Harper majority” – Ethan Baron, The Province, May 4, 2011 – http://www.theprovince.com/mobile/iphone/story.html?id=4714587

“American Indians object to ‘Geronimo’ as code for bin Laden raid” – Neely Tucker, The Washington Post, May 3, 2011 – http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/american-indians-object-to-geronimo-as-code-name-for-bin-laden-raid/2011/05/03/AF2FZIjF_story.html