How Ontario Legitimately Supports the Upper Class Having Better Education
With the recent call from parents who hold their faith tightly and their children tighter for warning of lesson plans that may contradict with their religious beliefs, the topic of private school and public school funding begs the question ‘why can’t these people go to private schools?’ which leads one to look for answers on the internet, which leads ones to writing about their answers, which leads one to posting things on Tumblr.
Private school is actually shockingly affordable in Ontario when you compare it to other provinces. We have an entire catholic school board funded by the province alone, but we also give grants and reimbursements to families who send their kids to private schools.
Most parents choose private schools for religious reasons. The average earner of a family who sends their kids to private school is $120,000 annually. Not only do families who send their kids to private schools tend to be better educated and employed in higher positions, but are more likely to vote in elections and have the three times the rate of participation in political parties (9% private school parents. 3% public school system) then parents in the public school system.
During the years of the Harris government, $2.6 Billion dollars was cut from public schools but $300 million was added in grants for private schools. In 1991, the Ontario government introduced a tax credit that would allow up to $3,500 reimbursement per student in the public school system. That bursary is still in place but was made unnecessary by a clause in the 2007 budget that would cut a break for scholarships to private elementary and secondary schools. For example, if you had a $30,000 scholarship you used to pay $3,100 in tax to the government; in 2007 that bill was erased as public school scholarships became non-tax deductible.
There are also tax credits that are not designed for private schools that people still use to get deductions on private schools. Parents can use the child care credit, IC75-23 Tuition Fees and Charitable Donations Paid to Privately Supported Secular and Religious Schools.
If you want to talk about people misusing public money, lets talk about this. In public school you have to pay a $70 activity fee at the beginning of every year. My parents pay taxes and that $70, however small, is still non-tax deductible, but these parents who pay money for partial education for their kids, get full or partial deduction on the public dime. I’m not even talking about how tax credits for people in colleges and universities are lumped in with private non-post secondary schools. That means, if you’re in university or college and you are receiving a tax break for going to school because your family couldn’t afford it otherwise, a family who sends their kid to a private school will be getting the same tax credit and will continue to receive that credit when they reach post-secondary.
Lets talk about post secondary. No really. Lets talk about post secondary, because while there’s now a tax credit to reduce OSAP fees by 30% there were cuts to scholarships and post secondary funding.
And lets talk about how you’re going to pay off your OSAP debt. There are new recommendations which suggest year round courses to “make use of facilities year round”. The government also wants more online learning, and no it won’t be free, you just won’t get the experience of being able to ask your professor for help or ask questions in real time. There is certain things about learning in an environment where your face to face with your instructor that gets lost online.
That 30% tax deduction won’t reach those who need it most. You’ve been out of school for 4 years? sorry no deduction for you. Are you a graduate student? a part-time students? a students pursuing second degree because you can’t find a job with your first one. An international student? Do you come from a low income family? Have a learning disability? Do you want to go to College instead of university? Sorry no tax credit for you.
But maybe you do go to university/college. You struggled to get there, but you did it. You worked your ass off for scholarships and you deserve a future written by you and not written by legislators. But can you afford the textbooks? With that 30% tuition cut, 6 programs to help you pay for your textbooks were cut. In fact for every dollar that program saves, $1.20 are cut back from programs which would save more. Oops. The government forgot to tell you that didn’t they.
Did you qualify for a scholarship, only to find yourself turning to OSAP to cover the rest? If you apply for OSAP you become ineligible for any Ontario Tuition Grant. Your grant will be lost if you apply to OSAP. Oops, they forgot to tell you didn’t they.
Bursaries to students living in public housing and small rural community was eliminated this year as well. Oops, guess even if you did apply to OSAP any grant that would be canceled out by it may not have existed anyway.
In Quebec there were riots, when the mere proposal was made to take away funding. Here in Ontario, we have the highest tuition rates and we don’t make a sound when a measure that would make it impossible to have a summer job or measures which make it impossible to go to school if you’re already employed are proposed or even implemented.
We stay silent while too many students rack up debt they’ll never be able to pay back or are denied entrance to post secondary because they have to choose between well earned scholarships or OSAP debt, because they can’t use both. We are told from day one of high school that post-secondary is the end all be all, but once we get there we are trapped in debt and never allowed to take a break.
While kids in private schools have funding their whole lives, we’re told everything will be OK, but the standard of “OK” in the Ontario education system isn’t as high as it is in other provinces. No one threatens your scholarship if you can afford to go to university. No one denies you OSAP even though you’ll never pay off your debt. No one tells you about abusing the system; that’s something you learn over time, and you need the system most then you haven’t figured out how to abuse it, because the people who know how to abuse it are the people who complain about it most.
The people who complain about affirmative action are the people who have had affirmative action their whole lives. Their mommies and daddies made sure the principles knew to handle their children like angels while wearing kid gloves and walking on egg shells. Mommy and daddy drove them to school and never worried about affording bus tickets that month. Mommy and daddy had time to be to be involved, because they could afford days off and vacations.
When mommy and daddy sat down at the kitchen table and talked about big bad taxes, they were applying for tax credits that were intended for single mothers and people who’s kitchen table was stacked end to end with bills they were trying to figure how to pay.
You want to know why scholarships for those who live under the poverty line exists? It exists because people who make more money then the average person, abuse the system. It exits as an excuse for our underfunded public system so private school kids have something to bring up everytime you talk about your student debt. And those same private school kids who were using your tax refund before you even got a chance to apply.
Capitalism and the Media
If you watch a verity of news sources, and you go to rallies or you watch a rally, you’ve probably noticed that there’s a certain way the media covers rallies and activists events. The media likes to spoon feed audiences, no doubt. When I job shadowed at the Globe and Mail I learnt that one of the hardest things about medical journalism is putting medical language into terms that the public can read without looking into a medical dictionary every other word.
The way the Occupy Movement, the Arab Spring, the Million Hoodie March, the Pipeline Protests, G20; any rally in recent memory really, has had such misleading or miniscule coverage. Anyone who goes to rallies and talks to people who are only watching on major networks like CNN, FOX or CBC, from the comfort of their own couch, will have to explain what’s really happening because there’s a formula:
“Today, in this place, this rally happened and all they did was march/sit/block traffic/set up tents”
And if you’re lucky:
“They are fighting for generalized summery of the main cause often a single word that categorizes the main themes”
How many people knew from media coverage why the protests in Chicago happened this weekend other then the one word answer “NATO”? What about NATO? NATO does a lot, there’s a whole world of possibilities as to what NATO is doing that people want a rally about it; but if you ask most people “What was the rally in Chicago about this weekend?” They’ll just answer “NATO” if they know at all.
No one seems to know that Scott Olsen, the Iraq war veteran who took tear gas canister to the head in Occupy Oakland a few months ago, showed up at the NATO protests this weekend. Anyone who didn’t watch the livestream, is unaware that he was one of several vets to give back their medals.
People know tear gas happened and riots erupted, but do they know why? Do they know how the riots start? The media knows. Every major rally always has choppers and camera men on the ground in front of the march, taking pictures, getting quotes. These pictures and quotes rarely make it.
When people talk about G20 and they say “everyone at G20 was a hooligan looking to smash the city”. They’re completely unaware of the thousands of everyday people, the old ladies, pre-teens and people who just mind their own business, who were kettled and rushed by riot police because they were walking down the wrong street on the wrong day. They don’t know about the racial profiling of innocent people, that allowed for thousands of fingerprints and contact cards to be entered into the police database for no particular reason. If you ask them “What was worth protesting about the G20?” they’ll shrug their shoulders. They didn’t see the days leading up to the riots, the peaceful protests that happened before they sent in cops from other countries and provinces. They just know there was a cop car on fire and a bunch of windows got smashed. They don’t know why or who or even that everywhere the G20 goes there’s always outrage because it’s such a waste of taxes.
The Arab spring is only shown for about a week but it continues for months. Only when Gaddafi was killed did they show coverage again. No one who watches a TV saw the struggle, the murders, the kidnappings, the bombings, the torture of the Libyan people past the first week. They just know people in Libya wanted to kill Gaddafi, they did it, now lets watch the Queens Jubilee Ball. If you ask them “What did Gaddafi do that made Libyans so angry?” they’ll say he tortured people during the Arab Spring” If you ask them “Why was there an Arab Spring?” They won’t reply with “Gaddafi was a dictator who jailed and killed people for no reason” or “Gaddafi committed war crimes against his own people”, they’ll shrug.
If you ask someone “Who made your I-Pod?” They won’t respond “Someone in China” They’ll respond with “Apple”. When you ask someone “How much of the purchase of your I-Pod went to the FoxCon workers who made it?” They’ll have no idea what you’re talking about.
People don’t know. They don’t want to know. People are content with apathy, they’ve been convinced that they’re too busy to care about something other then school or work or family dinners or what to do with they’re paycheck. Researching what goes into the shirt that Urban Outfitters markets as “Navajo”, is too much work. You’re not even going to bother looking into weather or not that money goes to actual people who’s name they’re using in vain or seeing how much the Chinese workers who actually physically made it got paid, instead you’re going to drop 20$ here a few bucks there, and never think about how convenient it is that concrete you drive your car on, just grew out of the forest/field that used to be there.
We’re all stupid if we continue to believe that the capitalist stores who sell us food and clothes, sell us food and clothes because they care about our health or that our backs aren’t cold. You’re an idiot to believe that stores like Abcrombie and Finch (who burn clothes they can’t sell because they don’t want to give it to charity, because then homeless people would wear it and that would ruin the brand) are priced so high because the quality isn’t of that made in a sweat shop or that Abcrombie is somehow different from American Eagle.
All major retailers get their merchandise from the same factories. It’s all the same.
Having everything the same gives the illusion that everything’s just fine. That’s why the media spoon feeds us stories to sound the same. If it all looks the same, you won’t care, you won’t go and look into it. Capitalism breed generic and generic breeds mediocrity. We have been tricked into a state of constant mediocrity, and we are never the wiser to realize that doing something better to sustain ourselves is possible.
But what do I know? This rant was sponsored by early morning boredom
More Occupy Critisms From An Occupier
All right. So, like my previous post about Occupy, I can’t stress enough how empowered it has made me, how many amazing people I’ve met and how much it has taught me.
Like everything else I love, Occupy is not immune to criticisms. In fact if anything, Occupy is where I spend a vast majority of my time criticizing in my mind and trying to figure out how to phrase my criticisms. I love the Occupy movement because it gives us the chance to contribute and build upon so much, however we have failed to contribute to others in positive way.
There is no doubt that for the most part the police violence we have faced has been unprovoked, but there are several occasions you can point to and say “look they provoking cops”. When your holding up large banners that say “fuck the police” and holding rallies called “day against police”, what the fuck do you expect to happen? Do you expect the cops to look at us and say “Look how respectful they are of us”. I’m not saying we should stop protesting and accept police brutality, I’m saying we should leave the police out of our rallies and out of our conversations, unless it is a rally where you are protesting police brutality; which brings me to my next criticism.
Can we not hi-jack other peoples rallies? I’ve seen happen here in Toronto, and I heard it happened yesterday at the Trayvon Martin rally in NYC. Organizers, when you get people together for a rally, it is because an organization has come to you for support, they have invited you, you are a GUEST. If a rally is a formal dinner and you are a guest who’s cooking dinner? Is it you or is it the person who’s cause it is to invite you in the first place. You don’t have the authority to change the route, stick to the plan that has been drawn out, don’t make your own plan. Other groups won’t want us to be allies if we hi-jack their rallies.
Conduct is crucial. As big as we are, we haven’t been around very long, we don’t have the credibility that groups like United Way or Millions Against Monsanto or any other large group that unites people.
I love occupy, and I don’t want to loose it, but when ever I hear or see us doing wrong, I cringe. We need to learn. We need to grow and if we want to survive in a sustainable way, we need to work our way up, not get good all at once.
But what do I know? I wanted to get that off my chest.
Occupy Criticisms From an Occupier
I remember life before Occupy. I would never want to go back to it. Life before Occupy was rife with self-pity and a feeling of helplessness. Since the movement, my life has been one of action in the lives of others, being inspired and passing that inspiration on; finding confidence and filling a void in my life by speaking out about the injustices faced by myself and others.
I’ve kept a lot of my criticisms about the Occupy movement to myself for a long time. As an Occupier, I consider occupiers across the world to be my family. In fact, I am closer to my Occufamily then I am to my actual family. Knowing that there are people who share my life experiences has made me confident in my actions, both inside and outside movement. The Occupy movement is truly life changing and whether or not you agree with the message, at least we’re not sitting on our asses not giving a damn about anything other then money.
My reluctance to criticize the movement also comes from knowing how people like to twist and distort the Occupy message. It makes me fear that anything negative I say about the movement, regardless of how small or constructive, will be taken from people outside the movement who haven’t opened their mind and are willfully ignorant to the problems we try to address, and changed into more one sided, biased criticisms.
Being the only Occupier at my school, a friend of mine was asked to help him on a presentation about OWS. The PowerPoint, that was presented before I was supposed to go up and talk, contained more falsities then I could even address. Notably, “Occupiers demanded billions of dollars” and “Occupy Toronto still is occupying St. James Park” among others.
The introduction to the class before I talked, that was given by my friend, literally went like this: “I hate occupy, so here is an occupier to talk about it”.
I got up to talk about my experiences to this class. Originally, I had a whole thing planned explaining the various committees I had been on, the people I had met, etc. but I was told I wouldn’t have time to talk about all of those things and that I should keep myself to about 2-4 minutes so I did. Unfortunately I had more then 2-4 minutes to talk and less questions then was expected.
The experience I choose to talk is one I feel summarizes the motivation of the movement as a whole. It is the story of a man I met in St. James park, a homeless man who was dying. When I asked him why he didn’t seek treatment for what was killing him, he looked me in the eyes and said “I know I’m going to die, but if I can do even one good thing before I go, I want to do it”. For him, the occupy movement was a last chance to do something good and for most (if not all) the people in the movement its the one chance we have to make the world a better place.
When I told this story to the class (the whole story, not the short 1 paragraph summery I provided above), I saw a lot of people in that room go from thinking negatively to thinking positively.
When asked what the movement has accomplished here in Toronto, the answer I gave was a list of things others and myself had done, including sharing apartments after eviction.
One criticism that was brought up during this presentation is actually one of my biggest criticisms of the movement. “You claim to represent the 99% but I never voted for you guys to represent me”.
The label “We are the 99%” is misleading. The 99% is a diverse concept that can’t be summed up in a four word phrase. When people hear “we are the 99%”, it gives a broad generalization to the movement, it doesn’t give any idea as to what we plan to accomplish and hearing this broad generalization combined with the skewed media coverage has allowed for people to think they understand Occupy, when they haven’t talked to anyone within the movement. Most people know the points and goals of OWS, but in their own city, they can’t be bothered to go down and hear what their fellow citizens have to say. While OWS was the original, it does not speak for occupy movement as a whole, each local movement should speak for themselves. At least in my eyes.
I also think calling corporations and CEOs the “1%” is not very effective. We are alienating people by doing this. We shouldn’t be hostile to anyone. At the end of the day whether or not the “1%” recognizes it, they have hurt us, but we can’t have an open dialogue with them if we are yelling in their faces and telling them to fuck off. For every CEO who steps down, there will be another money driven business person waiting to take their place and I doubt they will be any better. We need to talk to the one percent and change the way they think.
For example, how many condo developers design green roofs on their condos? Not many. If we talk to them about having green roofs becuase their good for the environment, and we tell them green roofs are attractive and you could get more money for your condo; it becomes a trend to build green roofs on your condos. Then we’d be one step closer to changing the way people think about living, because now there is a green roof where you have the opportunity to grow crops.
We’re better off benefiting the 100% rather then the 99%. The 100% being everyone who is human.
Society is not going to change overnight. We have to put devices in place to allow people to change, this happens locally. In the past, I didn’t think OccupyTO talked about localized issues enough, but in the past few months, I am happy to say that has changed. Occupy the budget and other efforts to raise awareness on the budget cuts, have helped make an impact. Makes me proud. The march to show we didn’t agree with Harper on pulling out from Kyoto, while didn’t receive much media attention, did keep the topic relevant. More Occupy workshops have started to pop up in various places, Free Skool had its first successful teach in this month. Nothing is more effective then making the movement more local based and education oriented. We can not change the world until we change ourselves.
The movement has come a long way since the park. It has evolved. New people are still joining and events are still being held. Mainstream interest in the movement may be dwindling, but people who want to make a difference and really care about the issues, are still there, the movement is still growing.
One thing I’ve been told repeatedly, is that “There is always a protest in your heart”. As long as there is unrest and injustice that will always be the truth.
I like the direction the OccupyTO is going in; more local, more small changes, more clear focus.
Yes, the problem is capitalism and greed, but those things aren’t going to go away unless we make them go away. It begins here and it begins with you. The fact is we aren’t powerless.
Occupy is one huge family. Yes, we fight. Yes, we argue. Yes, we disagree with each other sometimes.Yes, we make mistakes. But at the end of the day Occupy is a group of people who have set aside their differences in an effort to make the world a better place.
When we’re having drum circles its to celebrate. When we glitter riot cops its to replace violence with something shiny. I really hope we can sit down with our politicians and come to an agreement where we don’t feel like throwing flaming bottles and setting shit on fire is a valid option.
On the first day of Occupy, I showed up with a sign that said “Solar is forever, oil is temporary” on one side and “Wind is forever, oil is temporary” on the other. On that day, for the first time in my life, I got up and spoke on an open mic. I yelled my fears at the sky; my fear of OSAP debt, not having sustainable energy, poverty, large corporations, corruption and irresponsible government. At the end of it all, everyone clapped and told me I had the right thoughts. I had never felt like I had belonged anywhere other then there and I still feel that.
Back at school, everyone was talking about occupy. I was constantly overhearing “Occupy is stupid” and “There are no issues”. You can’t spell “Apathetic” without “Pathetic”, jus’ sayin’.
You don’t have to be an occupier to do help people, if you want to make a difference, do it. Occupy is about making the world a better place and a society free of apathy.
Occupy is hope for all who seek it and if you can’t see that then you should take off your blindfold, becuase there is a whole world of beauty waiting to be dug out from under the issues, and its right in front of you.
But what do I know? I’m an occupier
ACTA is Still a Thing and How You And I And Everyone Else Can Stop It
How SOPA/PIPA and ACTA are connected is summarized easily in this comment, found on the Youtube video Anonymous: A Statement on ACTA
SOPA/PIPA was just a smokescreen to keep ACTA secret for as long as possible until it’s signed. Do you see how everyone knows about SOPA/PIPA, but nobody knows about ACTA? Did you see how the White House so readily denied support to SOPA/PIPA because of internet censorship, yet they so readily sign ACTA’s treaty? Open your eyes people, SOPA/PIPA aren’t the problem. I urge you to pass along this message to other people, let everyone know. Fuck ACTA!
However, ACTA has existed far longer then SOPA/PIPA. As I discussed in a previous article, ACTA has been in the making since 2008. Its been heavily guarded all this time and its more potent then SOPA and PIPA could have ever been.
Yesterday in the Poland, thousands took to the street to protest ACTA and Polish politicians donned Guy Fawks masks.
I’m sorry that I’m simply posting links and not going in depth about the issues, but I want to focus on in this article is action. What must be done now, and what must be done if ACTA does pass.
What must be done now to stop ACTA
Spread the word: Reblog anything and everything about ACTA. Share on every social networking site, do everything you can to spread the word.
Educate Yo’self: Google’s your best friend. Use it before ACTA takes it from you.
Prepare Yourself For the Next Round of Censorship: I hate to say this, but as long as the internet is free the governments will try to censor it. Once ACTA is destroyed we’re going to have to deal with Trans-Pacific Partnership
What Happens if They Censor Us?
To quote my previous article, as mentioned above:
And if the internet gets censored, I hope ever single person with a computer and every single person who values free speech, takes to the streets. I hope everyone comes out wearing knock off Nikes, listening to a bootleg iPods before joining hands with total strangers and singing “Happy Birthday”. And when Warner executives come with their “Cease and Desist” letters to get us to stop singing (because Warner owns the copyright for “Happy Birthday”) we look them dead and in the eye and tell them to arrest us all.
I’d like to see them try.
Demand your rights. Demand your freedom. Demand an end to attempts at internet censorship.
But what do I know? I just want to see the government stop trying to censor the internet
York U Protests Over Tutition
Today, students at York University, Toronto, begin a “10-Day campus camp out”. In a press release from York Federation of Students, the organization stated
“The “Freezing to Drop Tuition Fees” camp-out is designed to draw attention to the chronic underfunding of post-secondary education that has left Ontario students out in the cold.”
The protests come on the back of a Liberal tuition grant that cuts tuition by 30% and can only be obtained by one third of all students. But lets be real here, this is a government funded program, so the reality is, there is probably so much red tape that its more like one fourth of all students can apply or receive the grant, and everyone else is still left with thousands of dollars in OSAP debt and no job to pay it off. Of the 45 new pledges written by the Liberals for better post secondary funding, there is no mention of tax increases so how the Liberals plan to implement these promises is still a mystery. Maybe they’ll borrow from the bank of tomorrow and leave the tax payers of the future to pay the interest.
“There’s simply no better investment a society or economy can make than in its youngest generation by equipping them with the best possible skills,” said McGuinty.
This is his way of justifying saddling the future with debt. Apparently the government has not learnt from the mistakes of the Wall Street stock crash in 2008.
When you promise prosperity to hopeful people, but you don’t discuss future repercussions of your prosperity and you don’t plan for when that prosperity ends, you get a lot of angry people in the next generation, who don’t have jobs or homes or food or a future. This is the problem we’ve had in Toronto for the last half decade or so, we kept increasing services but kept tax at the same level and now we have to cut everything because as Budget Chief Mike Del Grande pointed out last week “No one complained when we increased taxes by 2.5% when it should have been 5%”.
Tuition to post secondary is not like houses; you can’t foreclose on education, you can’t just say “Oh, it appears you can not pay back your OSAP debt, let’s take away your diploma” and with only 29,000 students finding jobs after university (Stats Canada, 2009) chances are no one will have the money to pay back their debt or pay taxes for that matter. If you don’t plan for the future, the prosperity of today will be short lived and all that will be left over will be a lot of angry homeless people with degrees in engineering who know how to make bombs and grenades and demand an answer to the question “What the hell? Why does everything suck?” All the government will be able to answer is “Well…uh….remember 2012? Yeah those were the good ol’ days”. Then Canada will join the rest of the world in civil unrest because things are going to get bad, and you think they’re bad now, you just wait for the oil to run out.
It is absolutely terrifying that our politicians would rather appeal to our sense of entitlement then take time to actually plan and raise taxes. As unpopular as it is to raise taxes, it is far more unpopular to cut services, however getting the country into more debt then it can handle seems like a valid option, just look at the financial issues their having in Europe. The government shouldn’t be running itself like a crack addicted bartender; yeah sure, right now he has the money to support his habit, but when you’re the only person in the bar and he finds he has no more money for crack he is going to call in the 1000$ tab you’ve racked up over the past few years, and chances are you don’t even have 1000$ to pay him.
The Liberals are trying to appeal to a youth market; they want to make the very intelligent decision of legalizing and regulating Marijuana, they want to give tax incentives to families who enrol their kids in after school programs to keep kids off the streets and they want to give home renovation tax credits so that way people with disabilities can continue living at home. The Liberal platform is a good platform. The promises make sense; there is measurable benefit to people and not corporations, it takes into account people and not profit, it is a platform that is written for seniors and struggling families. People, who always seem to fall through the cracks and get left behind by the current system, may finally get a government who cares about them. There would be a 16 billion dollar deficit in the Liberal budget this year. With no tax increases there is no way to even out this deficit. Part of having a government is making the unpopular decisions. Raise taxes. Keep services. The future will thank you.
But what do I know? I got my acceptance letter to George Brown yesterday.
What Really Happened at Toronto City Hall Yesterday
What Really Happened Yesterday at City Hall
Yesterday, at Toronto’s Nathan Phillip Square in front of City Hall, police and protesters collided and inside of chambers security and “Stop the Cuts” members collided.
Sometime after a five minute recess that lasted ten minutes, phones began going off in the chambers and we the spectators of the circus known as council, were made aware that outside four people had been pepper sprayed and several were punched in the face by officers. Upon the news chambers began to empty as they began barricading City Hall’s main entrance.
I was sitting in council last night. Upon receiving several texts from outside telling me not to go outside, I stayed, worried. On my way into City Hall Chambers last night I passed several reporters, I even talked to one inside, so one would think all headlines this morning would read “Protesters Punched and Pepper Sprayed”….Nope. Everyone I’ve talked to who has read media coverage of what happened last night has no idea about the pepper spray, a few know about one or two people getting punched by officers, but what I have read of media coverage of the event there has been little coverage on the cops use of pepper spray.
The cops say that protesters were unlawful, and yes, shaking a barricade is very unlawful and understandably threatening to a group of police officers on the other side, but the reason they barricaded the doors does not make any sense.
The protesters shaking the barricades were trying to get inside the lobby, which has the capacity for at least 500 people if not 1000. There was far less then a hundred trying to get in and there were approximately 39 people inside that lobby. That is my estimate, from when I was in the lobby at 6PM before a friend and I were randomly invited by a security officer to go into the chambers and watch the “action” unfold in council chambers.
The spectator’s seats were all full so I leaned against a wall on the highest platform. When I came in, Councilor Doug Ford was in the middle of a speech in which there was at least one misquoted key financial figure. There were several outbursts from the audience, and Speaker Francis Nunziata became increasingly flustered over the course of the meeting.
At the five minute break, I went to go sit beside some friends of mine when a seat became vacant.
Watching the meeting from a different angle gave me a different perspective. I had not noticed that at every vote Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti would put his thumb up or down to signify to everyone else how he was privately voting. This struck me as strange, but what struck me as stranger, was that the Speaker or anyone else for that matter did not bother to stop him. Notably, Councillor Gloria Lindsey began imitating Giorgio Mammoliti, by thumbing up or down how she was going to vote.
There were two outbursts from stop the cuts members. The first one came from three women standing at the platform where I had stood earlier. After a vote they chanted “Stop the Cuts!” and were quickly met by police officers. The officers escorted them to the elevator, waited for the elevator, realized the elevator was not coming fast enough and escorted them down the stairs. The woman continued chanting down the hall until we could no longer hear them, at which point the elevator arrived.
The second outburst came from another “Stop the Cuts” member who shouted something along the lines of “Why don’t you look outside!” she was promptly escorted out as she pointed out the very important observation, the one that sparks the occupy movement “You were elected to represent us, why don’t you represent us”. Everyone clapped at her observation as her point is in fact a valid one.
With fifteen minutes left in the meeting the chambers weren’t even half as full as they were earlier. When the meeting ended, I went back outside to Nathan Phillips Square.
Inside, I had figured that all of the texts I had received were blowing everything out of proportion. I was met with the potent odour of pepper spray outside. A lot of my friends who I met up with had red eyes from the dispersal of pepper spray and one of my friends had a bruise from being punched by an officer.
I have a theory on why this story about pepper spray and police brutality is being downplayed or not covered at all. The media believes the public has grown tired of stories featuring protesters (especially from the occupy movement) being pepper sprayed.
When we are pepper sprayed, it just proves how valid our point is. It proves that democracy doesn’t meet the wishes of everyone and the opportunity to express that isn’t covered under free speech. It proves that our democratic society isn’t so democratic and that free speech comes at a price.
With the whole city watching the budget this closely, councilors have begun to stand up to Ford. Weather or not that effort is enough to keep him from crippling the city is a whole other animal.
Tensions will continue to mount today on day two “Occupy the Budget” at city hall.
But what do I know? My eyes still hurt from last night.