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A little Toronto reading

Came across this blog post on Toronto FC that gives an interesting take of the city and its decline and rise. It’s too bad that Toronto FC’s onfield “achievements” have been in complete contrast to its rabid fan support, one of the league’s best. It’s kind of like the Maple Leafs, the NHL’s most famous franchise but which has endured 5 or 6 straight non-playoff seasons, which is sad. I’m hoping next MLS season, Toronto FC will get better.

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During my time in Toronto, one of the most infuriating things to deal with was the TTC, the city’s public transit service. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s quite inefficient, antiquated and miles behind Taipei’s or Hong Kong’s public transit services. But what was really bad was the attitude of quite a number of drivers, who thought it was cool to squeeze passengers into already-full buses, drive off quickly from stops while ignoring onrushing passengers and behave surly. Apparently even this pales in comparison to what many TTC passengers have faced, as this Star article reports. Granted, the majority of TTC staff and drivers probably do a good job and are decent employees, but the number of ignorant and callous employees is not insignificant.

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What a shocker in Toronto. I went onto the Toronto Star’s site and instantly saw the top story was that a top mayoral candidate was ending his campaign due to a sex scandal. Following in the wake of high-profile politicians like John Edwards, Elliot Spitzer, and Mark Sanford being felled by controversies involving mistresses and hookers, Adam Giambrone, a Toronto city councillor and the head of the city’s public transit, the TTC, admitted to having sexual relations with several women “throughout most of last year” on Tuesday, including a university student. Giambrone, 32, is the youngest city councilor and has already served for over 6 years. He has been the head of the city transit body since Dec. 2006. Whilst he has faced criticism over the TTC, he has an impressive political record and can be considered a rising star. This scandal will obviously have a big effect on this.

I had the privilege of conducting a brief interview with him for a transit story for Excal, York’s campus paper, a few years back and I came away with the impression that he was a really decent and intelligent guy. One of my colleagues was even ready to swoon over him knowing that I was set to interview to him over the phone.

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TTC strike over

It’s a good thing the TTC went back to normal from last evening and should be for the time being. Meanwhile the TTC union management and TTC staff should be hanging their heads in shame. Even worse than the audacity of their strike, is the probability that maybe the strike wasn’t even about the contract so much as it was about internal union politics. This Star article mentions this saying “An email circulating among TTC operators blamed the strike on an attempted coup against Kinnear. He was elected in 2003, against the wishes of the local’s executive board.” Of course, there is no absolute guarantee that this allegation is true but it raises some questions about the whole situation.
What’s also interesting is that the vote on the contract agreement supposedly agreed upon last weekend by union leaders was 65% against, though maintenance workers and mechanics only make up 4,000 members of the union. The article has TTC GM Gary Webster saying that opposition from these maintenance workers and mechanics was expected. However the fact is that though these workers only make up less than half of
the union, 65 % of the union voted against so it means drivers and other non-maintenance staff also opposed the contract.

Also, I think TTC union head Bob Kinnear’s reasoning for not giving a 48-hour notice because of fears over drivers’ safety is quite flakey and demonstrates how cowardly him and his union are. What did he think was going to happen if they had given the 48-hour notice- drivers would get killed or taken hostage? Sure, TTC staff may have faced some abuse and threats as they did the first time they declared the 48-hour notice last week, but by and large, nothing deadly or harmful would have really happened.

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Damn TTC strike

That’s right, make those bums get back to work. Seriously you have to wonder about the work ethic and ethics in general of these people. From threatening a strike last week before agreeing to a contract and returning to work, only to lure everyone into a false sense of security so that they could spring a surprise strike Friday midnight. You really have to admire the nerve of these people. I’ve endured so much unpleasant experiences from the TTC in my several years in Toronto and I have little sympathy. I understand that the union workers voted against this contract but then it was a contract their own leaders negotiated and then, they should also have given a fair notice of this strike. Thankfully I don’t have any more classes, but I lost out on covering an event this noon because it was downtown and the cab fare would be very expensive.

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The York rant-part 1

Soon, assuming everything goes ok with my courses, my time as a university undergraduate student will be over. And it can’t come soon enough. For some reason this year has been really busy for me, with all my classes, work and writing and my minor stomach trouble as well. But that isn’t why I feel so much relief and joy over graduating from York. That’s because I’ve been in school so long and it’s time to begin a career, in the real world in some manner or form.

There’s also the um,mildly speaking, somewhat significant detail that I really, really dislike my York experience. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against my profs, most of my classmates, my job or the Excal, the latter two which have been great. I’ve just had a collectively lousy experience at York which has me feeling automatically sluggish as soon as I step foot on campus. In fact getting off campus is excruciating as well because of the sometimes weary and debilitating experience called waiting for the TTC bus.

However I should probably start with my program and courses. I’m doing political science but also taking some social science courses for International Development. While many of them do cover some interesting matter, the fact is that a main part of course material is theoretical studies whether it’s development, culture, liberalism or international political economy. Almost every course has assignments which are long essays and the topic is always to write about an issue and present it in some perspective. After a while, 3 years actually, this can get repetitive and really redundant. The profs and TAs always want you to write in a specific manner and perspective and use academic sources and formal language. I’ve had one thought coming to my mind over and over- “How exactly is this going to help me in the future?” Sure I want to write for a living, or at least for a career, but not these kinds of writing. Maybe some don’t think so, but academic essay writing and writing news or features articles for a newspaper or magazine are two different activities completely. I would even go so far as to say that writing essays for my courses actually numbs my mind, reduces my joy in writing and even retards my writing skill.

I really hate taking the TTC to school and back. I’m not some pampered guy who thinks he’s too good to take the bus and would rather drive. I have been taking public transportation regularly since high school and I’m pretty used to it. I have even thought about taking public transit for years after I graduate and delaying getting a car until way in the future. I’ve taken public buses, subways and trams in four countries. After all this, taking the TTC to York is a tremendous pain and if I was staying in Toronto, I would definitely consider buying a car as one of my first decisions. During this past year, I’ve had classes until as late as 5.30pm and 7pm and work on other days which finishes at 8. The last thing I want to experience at those times is to wait in extremely long lines for the bus which can sometimes take over 20 minutes. That is exactly what has happened many times. Furthermore the ordeal doesn’t stop there. After taking the bus to Finch station, I then face further waits for the Finch bus to go home, where the crowd is sometimes so large that it takes 3 or 4 buses before I can get aboard. And of course, the wait then is about 20 minutes also, or more. I have to admit that this isn’t the fault of York but more the TTC, but it is a significant problem with coming to York. It’s good to know the TTC is planning to build a subway station at York.