Toronto councillor is very concerned about Ottawa City Hall

Toronto city councillor James Pasternak is very concerned about the goings-on in Ottawa. Specifically, he does not like the Invisible exhibit at City Hall’s Karsh-Masson Gallery. He recently took to his website to denounce the Ottawa pols who would dare offend his sensibilities:

“It is incredibly disturbing for our nation’s capital to be hosting an exhibit supported by taxpayer funds glorifying terrorists in its City Hall. I am calling on Mayor Jim Watson and the entire Ottawa City Council to apologize for hosting this repulsive exhibit and immediately have it removed from City Hall. There can be no place for the promotion of hatred in our civic buildings,” said Councillor Pasternak.

I’m certainly not going to lambaste someone for expressing an opinion, but Mr. Pasternak did more than that. He decided he needed to bring this issue up at a council meeting, a Toronto council meeting:

(I’ll avoid jokes about how art is better than crackheads at City Hall… well, except for that one.)

I thought, perhaps, Mr. Pasternak could use a bit of clarification, so I’m switching to the second person for a paragraph:

Mr. Pasternak, you are not an Ottawa city councillor. You are not a resident of Ottawa. You are not an Ottawa taxpayer. As a Toronto city councillor, the internal dealings of the city of Ottawa are not your worry. It is ridiculous that this matter would be brought up at a Toronto council meeting. In fact, it makes me support the display even more.

Art can be political. It can be controversial and offensive. Hell, a lot of great art is intentionally controversial and offensive. I commend the city for displaying controversial exhibits rather than pictures of fluffy kittens. If a Toronto city councillor can’t handle controversial art, he is welcome to refrain from visiting the Karsh-Masson Gallery. No one will ever force him to view “Invisible”.

Let’s go back to what deputy city manager Steve Kanellakos says:

Who gives me the right, or anybody the right, to pull an artist’s work if it’s not breaching some law of the land?

Art, by its nature, is going to be controversial, depending on your point of view.

I’d suggest the good councillor take a lesson from Mr. Kanellakos.

…or just worry about his own city, and shut the hell up about ours.

The fruits of voter apathy

Kind of makes you nostalgic for the crack now, doesn’t it Toronto?” So asked Stephen Colbert of the popular satirical news program The Colbert Show about what was the latest embarrassing statement by Rob Ford. Much of the world is laughing at Toronto’s mayor and, by extension, they’re laughing at Toronto. For many of us, this is all well and good. The Centre of the Universe deserves it, we might say. To borrow the words of documentarians Albert Nerenberg and Robert Spence, let’s all hate Toronto.

Things aren’t so funny in Toronto. No one wants there mayor to be a Saturday Night Live punchline, regardless of how well-deserved. The scorn is bleeding onto the city as a whole, and it is understandable that the citizenry wants it to stop. How long must Canada’s largest city be a victim of the Ford follies?

But there’s the rub. Toronto isn’t a victim in this. The people of Toronto are co-conspirators, having voted for a man who was clearly unfit for the job. It is easy to point out all the gaffes Ford has made during his time as mayor; there have been so many, it may be hard to remember a time that he wasn’t Toronto’s intoxicated, antagonistic, profanity-spewing mayor. But there was such a time, and before he was mayor, he was dropping racial epithets during council meetings and getting arrested for drunk driving. Yet, still, Torontonians decided this was their guy. Continue reading