I’ll start off with a link to a rebuttal to the issue we’ll be discussing which appeared on Brutish & Short.
Christine ‘Christie’ Blatchford writes for the far-right tabloid National Post, an infotainment periodical best known, much like Sun News Network, for filling an apparent void in objective (read: Conservative) journalism.
I suppose it is the height of objectivity to shit on a dead man, which Ms. Blatchford did with the savagery and skill of a seasoned expert. I mean shit, when it comes to writing something truly awful, Blatchford is second to none.
She has apparently been under duress since her Monday evening hatchet-job re: the outpouring of grief and the general public reaction to the loss of Jack Layton, which can be read here.
By her account, she’s been receiving a lot of hate mail beginning Dear Cunt. Read the attached articles and you’ll understand why.
Good job Christie Blatchford. I’m going to do everything I can to Santorum you.
It produced an audible ‘no’. I never thought I would actually do that.
I was at work when I found out, thanks to a text message from a friend. We all knew it was going to happen, despite our hope otherwise, yet I still wanted to him to bounce back, but knew it was hopeless.
I’m glad he got to witness the incredible success that was May 2nd. I’m sorry he was never able to go further, but when you consider his political career in its entirety you realize his list of personal accomplishments and triumphs, as a leader in his own right, already exceed the accomplishments of a great many prime ministers. As I’ve often said since, on May 2nd of this year Jack Layton won a victory for the NDP, for Canada and for Canadian Progressivism. It’s because of selfless, genuinely altruistic individuals such as Mr. Layton that we have a local progressive ideology – and a healthy, evolving one at that – to rally around. It’s because of people like Jack that we Canadians can hold our heads high as a people of genuine progress. And it’s because of Jack Layton that it is now only a matter of time before the NDP forms a federal government here in Canada. Quite a list of accomplishments indeed.
Jack wasn’t a politician in my eyes, as the term has been so unfortunately corrupted. He was a leader, clearly born and raised in the manner. I can imagine this may have lead him to many moments of doubt throughout his life, and yet doubt is hardly a term I’d associate with the man. He always seemed so damned optimistic, though it was never a naive optimism. It was the optimism of a proven formula, it was a wise optimism. You could see it in his eyes. Whatever doubt he may have experienced in private, he knew how to inspire and knew not to show fear – right up until the very end he was fighting, and I wanted to fight for him.
And now he makes me want to fight to carry on his legacy.
I feel I owe him that much. He inspired me to get serious about politics, and I saw in him, as I’m certain so many of us did, that he was the best thing about Canadian politics. He was an anti-politician, forgoing the mud-slinging and name-calling, forgoing the corporate media manipulation which has sullied all other political parties. Jack Layton took himself to be a leader and demonstrated this by fully accepting the responsibilities of being one – every single day. I would hope that other politicians in this country, like other citizens, will reflect on the man’s sense of duty to his fellow citizens. I think we can all honestly say he did it for the common good, and not his own interests. Now wouldn’t it be nice if this were the norm?
If this Champion is fortunate enough to leave a lasting legacy, I hope that it is one of altruism and feeling a responsibility for your society.
Here is his the Man’s last letter to the People:
August 20, 2011
Tens of thousands of Canadians have written to me in recent weeks to wish me well. I want to thank each and every one of you for your thoughtful, inspiring and often beautiful notes, cards and gifts. Your spirit and love have lit up my home, my spirit, and my determination.
Unfortunately my treatment has not worked out as I hoped. So I am giving this letter to my partner Olivia to share with you in the circumstance in which I cannot continue.
I recommend that Hull-Aylmer MP Nycole Turmel continue her work as our interim leader until a permanent successor is elected.
I recommend the party hold a leadership vote as early as possible in the New Year, on approximately the same timelines as in 2003, so that our new leader has ample time to reconsolidate our team, renew our party and our program, and move forward towards the next election.
A few additional thoughts:
To other Canadians who are on journeys to defeat cancer and to live their lives, I say this: please don’t be discouraged that my own journey hasn’t gone as well as I had hoped. You must not lose your own hope. Treatments and therapies have never been better in the face of this disease. You have every reason to be optimistic, determined, and focused on the future. My only other advice is to cherish every moment with those you love at every stage of your journey, as I have done this summer.
To the members of my party: we’ve done remarkable things together in the past eight years. It has been a privilege to lead the New Democratic Party and I am most grateful for your confidence, your support, and the endless hours of volunteer commitment you have devoted to our cause. There will be those who will try to persuade you to give up our cause. But that cause is much bigger than any one leader. Answer them by recommitting with energy and determination to our work. Remember our proud history of social justice, universal health care, public pensions and making sure no one is left behind. Let’s continue to move forward. Let’s demonstrate in everything we do in the four years before us that we are ready to serve our beloved Canada as its next government.
To the members of our parliamentary caucus: I have been privileged to work with each and every one of you. Our caucus meetings were always the highlight of my week. It has been my role to ask a great deal from you. And now I am going to do so again. Canadians will be closely watching you in the months to come. Colleagues, I know you will make the tens of thousands of members of our party proud of you by demonstrating the same seamless teamwork and solidarity that has earned us the confidence of millions of Canadians in the recent election.
To my fellow Quebecers: On May 2nd, you made an historic decision. You decided that the way to replace Canada’s Conservative federal government with something better was by working together in partnership with progressive-minded Canadians across the country. You made the right decision then; it is still the right decision today; and it will be the right decision right through to the next election, when we will succeed, together. You have elected a superb team of New Democrats to Parliament. They are going to be doing remarkable things in the years to come to make this country better for us all.
To young Canadians: All my life I have worked to make things better. Hope and optimism have defined my political career, and I continue to be hopeful and optimistic about Canada. Young people have been a great source of inspiration for me. I have met and talked with so many of you about your dreams, your frustrations, and your ideas for change. More and more, you are engaging in politics because you want to change things for the better. Many of you have placed your trust in our party. As my time in political life draws to a close I want to share with you my belief in your power to change this country and this world. There are great challenges before you, from the overwhelming nature of climate change to the unfairness of an economy that excludes so many from our collective wealth, and the changes necessary to build a more inclusive and generous Canada. I believe in you. Your energy, your vision, your passion for justice are exactly what this country needs today. You need to be at the heart of our economy, our political life, and our plans for the present and the future.
And finally, to all Canadians: Canada is a great country, one of the hopes of the world. We can be a better one – a country of greater equality, justice, and opportunity. We can build a prosperous economy and a society that shares its benefits more fairly. We can look after our seniors. We can offer better futures for our children. We can do our part to save the world’s environment. We can restore our good name in the world. We can do all of these things because we finally have a party system at the national level where there are real choices; where your vote matters; where working for change can actually bring about change. In the months and years to come, New Democrats will put a compelling new alternative to you. My colleagues in our party are an impressive, committed team. Give them a careful hearing; consider the alternatives; and consider that we can be a better, fairer, more equal country by working together. Don’t let them tell you it can’t be done.
My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.
All my very best,
Thank you, Jack Layton, for giving me something to believe in.
So as you may have noticed I’ve been monkeying around behind the scenes, changing the aesthetics and orientation, style and function of this site to provide a better, more user-friendly experience. Over the last few months I noticed a few problems, such as excessive amounts of spam. Wanting to get around this, I changed some security setting in a late-night panic, and was delighted to see the spam faucet turned off. Thinking I had discovered a surefire way to prevent all spam forevermore, I decided to step out from behind the dashboard and explore my blog from a first-timer’s perspective to try to further improve the blog. And that’s when I started making some changes. I hope you like them, please let me know.
And on that last note, I’ve also come to realize why all the comments had stopped too. I was particularly struck by last point, it was quite noticeable. New user registrations and an increase in comments and story sharing were all hallmarks of a little blog that could, and I was quite déçu to see the tap on commentary had also been shut off. And here I was hoping we may had even gotten a conversation going! Turns out as you may have already realized that leaving comments was made quite difficult what with the over-the-top security.
I’d rather just delete the spam – so please, feel free to comment to your heart’s content, I think I may have even made it easier to do so.
So there you have it. There’s a lot piling up on my back burner, so I’m going to be working through it over the next few nights and I’ll be sure to have a few new posts up before the end of the week. Stay tuned.
And on one final note, I’d like to thank Duane Hatfield-McCoy from Little Rock who in a thoroughly not-creepy fashion managed to track down my home phone number and call me in the middle of the night to tell me of this problem (Duane thought Montréal ran on Paris time for some reason). Thank you Duane, I look forward to sampling some of your delicious preserves.
The Empress Theatre is back in the hands of the Borough of Cote-des-Neiges/ Notre-Dame-de-Grace, and the City is calling on the public for suggestions on what to do with the 84 year-old theatre.
CTV Montreal reports that after a 12-year effort to develop the former theatre into a community cultural centre, the borough has decided to reclaim the building and the reigns as to the project’s direction. This Fall they’ll be hearing new and revised proposals for the site, which has been abandoned since an electrical fire gutted much of the interior back in 1992.
I’ve had the chance to correspond with several people involved with the revitalization project over the years, and have even had the chance to go inside and see the potential of this building. It’s unreal. It has that warm fuzzy feeling large empty buildings slowly being reclaimed by nature give off.
Unfortunately, I’ve also seen the damage, and there is a dearth of investment capital for theatre renovation these days, as one might imagine. Back last August renovation work was estimated at $11 million and the City was inclined to support some of the work, but the project otherwise had to finance itself.
This in turn leads me to one of the major sticking points of the project: how will it generate revenue? It would seem as though this is not just a sticking point for myself, but for the project as a whole. No one knows how to come up with the capital if not for government grants and private donations. What I found curious was that there didn’t seem to be a plan for use of the space as a performance venue. While it was hoped that the site would become a permanent home to a theatre company, there were no other plans to generate revenue through performance, which is exactly what this kind of a theatre was designed to do.
The Empress was built in 1927 as an Egyptian-styled ‘atmospheric theatre’ with a comparatively high seating capacity, featuring a balcony and boxes. The ornate interiors were designed by world-renowned theatre designer Emmanuel Briffa, who had also designed the interiors of a host of other Montreal theatres – almost none of which survive today. There isn’t much to salvage, and indeed any revitalization of this space, if it were to be done to resurrect the aesthetic of Briffa so as to do tribute to him, would necessitate additional costs to incorporate what remains of the original design into a cohesive reproduction of the original, something which may be possible thanks to the rather large qualities of media collected for just such a reconstruction. But more to the spirit of the theatre, the Empress was designed to be used with vaudeville in mind, and was thus inherently designed to be multi-functional, providing a wide spectrum of performance entertainment possibilities. It was well known in this respect.
Click here for an ultra high-resolution picture of the former Cinema V from back in 1982.
Today, the Empress is a hollow shell of its former self. It has been abandoned since the fire in 1992 and is slowly being eroded by time and the elements. If nothing is done, it will go the way of the Seville and York Theatres. The City has been described as having seized the Empress from the non-profit Empress Cultural Centre which up until recently was in-charge of finding a developer interested in revitalizing the dilapidated theatre.
Seize sounds overly dramatic, given that no one has the capital to redevelop the theatre, ownership of a semi-abandoned too-dangerous-for-admittance building seems tenuous for all parties concerned. It’s a miracle the building is at least structurally sound – for the moment.
The interior is dark, stark, and filled with all the goodies an urban explorer goes looking for. As you can imagine, the people in charge of the revitalization effort aren’t too pleased with the explorers, who inadvertently drive up insurance costs.
And so it is, back to the public for calls and considerations. What to do with an old theatre that could be saved and put to good use for the community by providing a much-needed performing arts venue, if only someone was prepared to put between 10 and 15 million dollars into an obstinately altruistic endeavour? What to do indeed!
It’s profoundly naive to think someone’s going to come up with this kind of capital if the project has no hope of generating revenue. This is a double-penalty to the initial investor, as there would remain the issue of financing the yearly operating costs of whatever cultural activities going on inside. None of this would be cheap.
Therefore, it seems profoundly irresponsible to me to go forward on this project without knowing exactly how, we as members of the community, intend to generate the capital necessary for completion. If the community can’t figure out how to pay for this project, then the city will turn around, condemn the building and raze it, partially or thoroughly, and allow a developer to do with the site as he or she sees fit. And if this happens, everybody loses, city and citizens together. The citizens will lose a vital cultural space located in the centre of the community, while the city loses the potential indirect economic benefits of having just such an institution in our backyard.
NDG lacks a proper performing arts venue, and Sherbrooke Street West lacks a cultural institution to anchor the street and serve as an intellectual and cultural focal point of the community. The Empress could be all these things, in addition to an economic generator if there was an organization in place whose goal it was to generate a ‘self-sustaining’ level of revenue through regularly scheduled performances and other entertainment activities. I can imagine a seat of community activity, all day, every day, right across from the jewel that is Girouard Park. Moving forward it is imperative that revenue-creation be taken into consideration as an element of the renovation/revitalization of the site.
But what about the community? We need something more than just a performance venue, we need a community cultural centre, which is another vital community component lacking from NDG. An architect was brought in to make a recommendation as to what to do with the space back in 2005. Among other things, he indicated there was enough space inside to have one or two stages, a gallery space, between two and three storefronts, offices, rehearsal and construction facilities in addition to a dance studio and rooftop terrace. It was ambitious to say the least, but it’s still feasible. And the bigger the redevelopment, the greater the possibilities for potential revenue creation. To handicap the project prematurely by not seeking a thorough renovation and maximization of the space inside would be regrettable, as this may only prolong the demise rather than stimulate new growth.
One final point: one of the greatest concerns of the people I spoke with, various local residents and members of the ECC, was that the city would repossess the building and sell it to an unscrupulous real estate developer who in turn would gut the interior and resort to banal façadism, providing a limited number of excessively expensive ‘theatre-themed’ condo units within. I thought the nightmare to be a bit over the top, but I suppose that danger isn’t completely irrational. Still, the Borough hasn’t yet made a call, and they in all sincerity think another public pitch for tenders may present new investors and opportunities.
Now consider this: there’s a parking lot adjacent to the Empress, roughly half the area of the theatre. The other half of the adjacent lot features a nondescript two floor building with restaurants and small shops.
A condominium project on this theatre-adjacent site, possibly a condo tower with a multi-floor underground parking lot and a commercial rental-property base, may provide the initial investment capital for the Empress’ rehabilitation. I can’t imagine a more solid investment than one in Montreal’s as-yet un-satiated condo market, especially if this particular condo project would a) be in a neighbourhood where condos are still a rarity, b) have a commanding view of Girouard Park, the Oratory, the Mountain, the City (and just about everything else!) and c) be adjacent to a newly revitalized performing arts venue and community cultural centre. The Seville sold out in a half hour, do you think we could beat that record? I can imagine the owner of the adjacent building and parking lot could be motivated to sell or invest, especially if the resulting commercial base offered his tenants more modern and efficient facilities. At least three revenue streams could be generated from such a development, and this in turn could provide the capital necessary to execute the renovations of the Empress and provide start-up funds for the performing arts venue and community cultural centre. These costs could be incorporated into the cost and value of the condominium units. I can imagine once the theatre is financially self-sustaining, they may be able to pay off this investment back to the condo developers.
In any event I digress, that’s just one unorthodox proposal. It should be an interesting few months and I’ll definitely be following this story.