A Modest Proposal to End the Student Strike

Here’s my humble two cents – while their still worth something that is.

Responsibilities of the Québec Government:

1. The complete and total elimination of Bill 78 as a provincial law, including all of its provisions, and an official public apology from the Premier for so aggressively impugning our fundamental Charter rights. Whether federalist or separatist, conservative or liberal, immigrant or pur-laine, Bill 78 is a cancer which must be expunged from the official record. Let it be what it is, an overzealous over-reaction and a mistake neither Charest nor any other Québec Premier will ever dare repeat. Nothing can happen until this is done.

2. An official demand that the Sureté du Québec and the SPVM stand down and return to normal police activities. In addition, as part of this general ‘cooling down’ period, a prohibition on the carrying of weapons – all weapons – for the Montréal police, for the duration of the Summer. There would be an exception made for mobile armed-response units to act as a deterrent against the possibility of an armed crime spree, but in general, officers conducting routine police activities would be un-armed. The aim here is to restore the public’s faith in local police and ensure we go at least one Summer without another incident of local police shooting unarmed people.

3. The creation of a student legislative council with the ability to appoint an executive education minister, from the pool of MNAs, regardless of the latter’s party affiliation. The council would be composed of elected student representatives from Québec’s public universities and CEGEPs based on a proportional representation system. Student voting would be mandatory though an abstention option would always be provided. There would be no renumeration for elected representatives, nor political parties. The council would be responsible for steering education-related legislation and making recommendations to the minister.

4. The government will be able to implement a 50% raise in tuition over five years, and would be required to implement all alternatives listed in their last counter-offer (such as the elimination of discretionary spending by universities on compensation, a prohibition on new construction and the elimination of all additional school fees, among others).

5. The government will subsidize a half-price student transit card for any citizen enrolled in a public university or CEGEP for as long as they’re officially enrolled, be it on a part or full time basis. In addition, the government will establish province-wide price controls on student text books and non-technological school supplies.

Responsibilities of the public universities and CEGEPs:

6. Eliminate all corporate-styled compensation for university administrators. From hereon in all executive administrators will receive ‘dollar-a-year’ type compensation. This model was used during the Second World War for the executives running various federal agencies and crown corporations as a cost-cutting measure. It’s also a way of making sure people don’t use the university system to make themselves rich while further ensuring those who get the jobs are doing so because they have a vested interest in making our schools better. If it turns out to be a stepping stone into the world of politics, so be it. Better educators than lawyers anyways.

7. All public universities and CEGEPs must create an alumni trust where funds collected in any given fiscal year are ‘locked-in’ for the following ten. These funds will be used for university expansion, new construction, R&D and, if well managed, eventually bursaries and for the funding of student activities. This trust won’t be used to pay the salaries of anyone working in a university or CEGEP.

8. The complete elimination of credit-card and loan hustlers from campus, in addition to anything else which may cause a student to spend money frivolously. This would also include eliminating advertising inside university buildings for anything not directly related to activities within the university itself, as well as prevent for-profit businesses from operating within the university.

9. There are to be no additional fees for attending a public university or CEGEP aside from the cost of tuition and books for a period of fifteen years. Student unions will be encouraged to use their space on campus to operate businesses whose profits will be re-directed to support student activities, but this will necessarily be the only source of student activity funding aside from what might be provided through an alumni trust.

Responsibilities for the students:

10. Continue demonstrating, but let’s try occupying en lieu of marching. As part of the ‘cool down’, I’d recommend that students occupy public space, such as Parc Emilie-Gamelin, Square Victoria, Place du Canada etc, but end marches for the duration of the Summer. The police will step back and step down first, then the students, in good faith, will purposely confine their protest to large public squares. Among other things, this will largely eliminate the massive over-time and danger-pay costs associated with escorting and trying to prevent marches from happening. It will also likely allow the student movement to mitigate pissing off the general population by blocking bridges and snarling traffic inasmuch as it will take the wind out of the ‘anarchist’s’ sails. Probably the smartest move they make if they want to public’s overwhelming support for additional concessions later on. Remember, the ideal is 100% free post-secondary education at the best possible schools the state can provide, and that’s what we need to work towards. This isn’t an end to the movement, because it is so much more than just a tuition hike. But we need to take this in stride and plan for the long haul.

11. No more blocking access to class. This is reprehensible. If you want broad support, you won’t get it by bullying people into taking sides. That’s not what democracy looks like. That’s a dictatorship of thugs and we’re better than that. Protesting should take place outside university and CEGEP buildings with respect to those who disagree. They have as much a right not to participate as you do to protest.

I’m sure I’ll think of other things to add to this list, but here’s a start.

I hope it’s clear where I stand; this isn’t a clean cut issue – nothing in Canadian politics ever is. And it is a Canadian issue, but we need to wait for other students and progressives to wake up and join our cause. that said, we must take the moral high ground, and must demonstrate our ability and interest in negotiation. Protest without a plan is futile.

Comment away – I’d like legitimately like to know what you think.


Sad and frustrating all at the same time…


The only three Rs I could care about in times like these.

Let me get this straight: the education minister quits as a result of the impasse what with the student strike.

She’s replaced by the old education minister, who is already the head of the treasury board as well as the deputy premier. The crisis has no conclusion in sight.

So why was she allowed to up and quit?

There ought to be penalties against this – how many times have various politicians, cabinet ministers, presidents of public universities or public transit agencies simply walked out on the job (in some cases collecting major severance packages) without facing their critics and any potential lawsuits heading their way?

It’s sad that she felt compelled to leave as a result of the student strike. It infuriates me that Charest would accept that. What kind of message are they sending to the youth of Québec? Is the strike working in that its forcing ministers to quit? Will this not encourage students (and the myriad anti-government organizations going along for the ride) to press on?

And it’s not like it will change anything. Both sides have dug in their heels, without wanting to give an inch. At a certain point standing by your convictions becomes hopelessly futile and anti-productive. Refusing to negotiate with a lunatic despot is one thing. Charest hardly qualifies, he can be negotiated with.

Now I’m less certain though – allowing Beauchamp to resign her post means he has to come back to the table even more stubborn than before. And now the more militant core of the protest movement may feel their tactics are working.

All of this is leaving the general public in a hopeless state – if the government can’t do anything to resolve the crisis, what do the students propose we should do? It’s not like they have any better answer than ‘give in’.

Ideally, education should be 100% state funded, but that won;t happen with the current government and I can guarantee you won’t happen under any péquiste government either. The student movement could be working out a brilliant solution to this mess, but they can’t seem to do more than bully those who disagree with them.

Not to mention pissing off the general public. Last week’s Métro smoke-bombing was idiotic to say the least. Take it as an indicator the general public is losing faith in the student leadership and the movement as a whole – the cops used social media and found a plethora of willing tattle-tales to rat out these presumed free-tuition fighters.

But now they may face a terrorism charge, and five years in one of El Presidente Harper’s ‘supermax prisons for leftist intellectual re-education’. Okay, I’ll admit it – they haven’t yet settled on the new name.

A terrorism charge? For a smoke bomb you can pick up at any military supply store?

They didn’t kill anyone. No one was hurt. The economy didn’t grind to a halt.

All they did was piss Montrealers off and lose credibility.

It almost makes me think they should be let go, but that’s not right either. Five years of community service, helping young immigrant kids learn how to speak French… now there’s an idea I’m certain would make almost everyone happy.

And finally in this cavalcade of excess: Victoriaville, and the SQ’s annual attempt to remind everyone that yes, indeed, they are still the thugs we know and loathe from Oka.

All of this is leading me to an awful conclusion. When it comes time for the next provincial election, my choice will be between a bunch of closet social conservatives who smell to high hell of collusion, nepotism and myopic ‘nation-building’ policies, and Jean Charest’s inept PLQ.

Why do we do this to ourselves? We were once so very great.

Dreaded Development

It can’t all be bad, right?

I’m kinda impressed with this proposal rendering of the new Icone condominium project. I’d have chosen a different name, and I’d like to put it somewhere else ideally, but if it actually looks like this and is placed over an ugly parking lot, well, then I’m typically sold. That said, I’m curious as to what they plan on doing with the heritage property half-way up the block from René-Lévesque.

It doesn’t look like a Montréal skyscraper per se, but then again I don’t think we’re so easily pigeonholed. I have a feeling, with the recent spate of new condo and tall-building construction that we may be in for a very well-defined local look in twenty years. The question is, do we want this kind of look?

It’s not just condo towers, though there certainly seems to be a lot of interest, capital and active projects, there are whole neighbourhoods which may very quickly disappear and get replaced with something wholly foreign to what was there prior. As one may imagine, it’s pissed off Phyllis Lambert.

And for good reason. I’m not keen on the development taking place in Griffintown, though that’s largely because I’d prefer to see new versions of the classic Montréal triplex going up in neat tree-lined rows instead. Whether these new residential developments will actually lead to the creation of viable neighbourhoods and a real sense of community remains to be seen. I’ve noticed very little in terms of cultural or social development. No new schools, no libraries, no community nor cultural centres. Can the city afford an urban high-end real-estate market dominated by singles? Where’s the long-term investment? If we develop new residential areas as mere geographic manifestations of our consumer culture, well, guess what? These new towers will be tall slums as quickly as tastes may change, leaving the buildings either uninhabited or sold to the lowest bidder. Unless community is constructed, new towers are white elephants in waiting.

I’ve looked over a lot of the conceptual drawings for new condo and office construction and a lot of lit looks very similar in style and general layout. I approve of the fact that these project are mostly slated for empty lots or parking lots, but there’s still the potential danger of losing a landmark like the Lafontaine House or the Horse Palace. Then there’s the issue of scale – a lot of these buildings are very, very large compared to the buildings around them, yet are typically on smallish plots of open land, meaning there’s a requirement to maximize space use that may give the impression of a large and obtrusive box where a view once was. This is a city built on exceptional perspectives on the urban core made available to the everyman. We should be cautious to proceed in such a manner that this doesn’t become a thing of the past, inasmuch as we ought to sincerely develop a broader cultural attachment to heritage architecture and urbanism. When it was far more complicated to build a high-quality city, you better believe people took their time and worked fastidiously to produce beautiful landmarks.

Are any of the recent additions or towers going up majestic or awe-inspiring in their own right? or we just happy to finally see a skyline choked with construction cranes?

Looks can be deceiving…

And in other development and re-development news:

There’s a new plan for the Empress Theatre, but it seems to be little more than a new conceptual rendering and the added provision that among the Empress’ supposed limitless possibilities, an analog film institute.


But why?

Although I suppose if there’s enough room to accomodate that and everything else on the Empress wish list, it’s no harm no foul. No official word on who’s ponying up, but apparently there are ‘several interested parties’. Cost estimated at $6 million. This seems very low to me, but what do I know?

Having been inside on a few occasions and from my previous experiences discovering the ECC, I feel the cost just to bring the building up to code (and to pay off the construction companies) may bring this well into double digits.

That said, I really hope they accomplish their goal and make it profitable. If the ECC works as so many NDG residents want it to, the whole community will experience a dynamic transition. Call it the Plateau’s western cousin, but a brand new performance venue in the dead centre of NDG will have a positive effect on the local economy to say the least. It may very well stimulate a vast renovation and gentrification of the Sherbrooke West corridor, and this would be very good indeed. An economic and societal anchor if there ever was one.

And finally, yet another bump in the long railroad saga that stubbornly refuses to resolve itself (what else might that remind me of? Hmmm…), Clifford Lincoln’s Train de l’Ouest lobby group has refused to endorse the ADM’s new ‘elevated light rail’ proposal (which apparently might even share track and run in the same corridor as VIA, CN, the AMT and CP trains).

Once again, the issue is not about how to get people from the airport to the city and back again in the quickest and most efficient manner (which may actually lead to a rise in tourism, but that’s another issue), but about West Islanders not having enough regular service on commuter rail lines.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – these issues are distinct and need to be treated as such. Aeroports de Montréal should know better than to clog the highest traffic rail corridor in the Americas with yet another train, and Lincoln’s group should be looking at making better use of the existing branch lines which may just as easily serve commuters’ needs. Further, I’m pretty sure there’s a rather large stockyard just next to the airport, and several other branch lines which approach the airport from the North rather than the high-traffic South.

Find another way, and I’d like to ask the AdM to not pursue the absolute most expensive alternative they can think of. An elevated line is unnecessary and impractical, especially if it will cause disruptions on the existing CN/CP infrastructure. You may as well build a Métro tunnel at that rate.


The Four Years We Fix Everything

Turcot Interchange, aerial perspective shortly before completion

Call this an early campaign promise.

I figure we can fix more-or-less every major infrastructure problem in our city in a single concerted effort – a four year program of various projects all set into action simultaneously and inter-dependently. In other words, the mother of all public works projects.

A program designed with maximum operational efficiency at the forefront of all planning – nothing happens unless we can do it all at the same time. Consider the near-perpetual closures of Parc Avenue and St. Lawrence Boulevard over the past few years – how many times were the streets ripped open because no one had bothered to schedule all the maintenance at the same time? How is it that public utilities can operate complex networks yet can’t call some other large utility to try work out a mutually agreeable schedule for renovations? And why doesn’t our city have an infrastructure oversight committee do ensure our city gets repaired efficiently and effectively, and then move onto instituting best-practices solutions so we don’t have a re-cap of the infrastructure problems we’ve been dealing with over the last decade. You’d figure we’d have preventative maintenance policies already in place, so it really makes you wonder how holes can develop on regularly used bridges and concrete slabs just fall off buildings or (worse) over-passes.

It’ll doubtless be a gargantuan under-taking, involving multiple engineering and construction firms (hell, maybe all of them!) working hand in hand with transit agencies, public and private utilities and government agencies. It’ll be inconvenient, in some cases, and will require short-term solutions to cope with disruptions to traffic and transit. Our roads need to be thoroughly repaired, with new measures put in place so as to minimize corrosion and increase the relative lifespan of all road types. And then we’ll have to do the same with the bridges, tunnels, railways etc. Our parks, squares and plazas need a collective sprucing up. Almost all of our Métro stations could use aesthetic improvements and a solid coat of graffiti-resistant wall-treatment; the AMT stations need break-resistant glass to cover the station displays. Bus and train shelters need to be similarly upgraded, and it wouldn’t kill anyone if we installed solar-powered space-heaters within (it might even save a homeless fellow from freezing to death, so why not?) Finally, we should put one of those First World War helmets atop King Edward VII’s head in Phillip’s Square; I’m sick and tired of the accumulated pigeon poop up there, and cleaning it off is clearly too expensive.

Okay, I’m joking about that last part. That would be historically inaccurate.

In any event – what do you think? How are we going to fix these seemingly never-ending problems?

Adam Yauch – 1964-2012 / The In Sound From Way Out

Late to the party as always.

Found out after reading Cadence Weapon’s tweet – a simple ‘oh no’. It definitely sucks, I am a huge Beastie Boys fan, but I never had a chance to see them perform live.

The Beastie Boys were obviously influential and ground-breaking in numerous ways, not least of which was that they were an early hip-hop group that was born, more or less, out of the early-1980s NYC hardcore & post-punk scene. The Beastie Boys played one of their first shows on the last night Max’s Kansas City was open.

My introduction to them was the double-CD compilation issued in 1998, The Sounds of Science. I bought it mostly because I wanted to get a better idea of what they were all about, and wanted to see how the band had evolved over time. The personalities of the three members came to light, and MCA stood out as the slightly quieter one, the background man with the raspy voice.

I’d discover later on that he had directed numerous Beastie Boys videos under the pseudonym Nathanial Hornblower, a character who would come to some national prominence at the 1994 MTV VMAs, when the band lost multiple times (including twice to Aerosmith) in various categories – in my honest opinion, Sabotage, nominated in four or five categories, should have won easily. Not only is it one of the finest general rock songs of all time, but the video is a classic. The song demonstrated a number of things, chiefly that they were at home in multiple genres, that they were sonic experimenters de rigeur, that they legitimized sonic sub-cultures etc. It also features MCA rocking a solid bass line, notable in the break before Ad-Rock screams Why? halfway through the track.

Yauch was also one of the first musicians I associated with public political consciousness in my own youth. It wasn’t so much that I perceived the Beastie Boys as somewhat enlightened post-punk pugilists and perennial smart-asses, but that at their core there was artistry, business and causes. I was mad disappointed when the Rhyme and Reason Tour was cancelled in 2000, but impressed with Yauch’s work with regards to the Tibetan Freedom Copncert. If you remember the mid-1990s, trying to get people to pay attention to all the shitty things going on in the world wasn’t nearly as easy as it is today, and some even questioned whether or not rock and rap groups should be so political in the first place. These same individuals kinda missed the point to begin with – perhaps this explains the rise of ICP and Limp Bizkit in that era, following in the wake of what the Beastie Boys had crafted so many years before. But those latter groups were created by some record label to fill a void; the Beasties were the real deal, which is why I’m certain their music will entertain many more generations of fans.

Above, a favourite video. It’s rather long at ten minutes, but features MCA as Nathanial Hornblower interrupting Michael Stipe’s acceptance speech for the ‘Everybody Hurts’ video. Towards the end, the Beastie Boy’s revenge – one of the tightest live performances of Sabotage I’ve ever seen. Worth waiting and feeling the build up as they lose in every category. At the end, they demonstrated clearly what made them just so ground-breaking. It wasn’t so simply that they were suburban white boys in a black man’s world, it’s that they were damn good musicians and lyricists, with a clear understanding of their style, image, and perhaps thanks in large part to MCA, a defined aesthetic and message too.

He’ll surely be missed.