Monday, November 11, 2019

Remembrance Day 2.0

I have no connection to the military whatsoever, but Remembrance Day has always stood out as my favourite holiday. 

My enthusiasm is born of the commitment and catharsis Remembrance Day represents. It’s only the day when the country says in one voice: “never again”, and grinds to a halt for a moment of solace. It’s the only day when you can publicly cry about the madness and unfairness of the world and be understood by a stranger. 

The temporal context of Remembrance Day is changing; the last of the World War II veterans will find peace on the other side of the poppies soon. As this unavoidable reality approaches, what will it mean for Canadian culture to have the human memory of the Great Wars go extinct?

It means, like all things classic, Remembrance Day will undergo a millennial reboot. 

Remembrance Day is typically approached as an account of history - the telling of a cautionary tale and unimaginable loss. We spend the day looking back, for now. 

The millennial rewrite will challenge the retrospective character of Remembrance Day. Remembrance Day 2.0 will be an activist uptake of “never again”. We will look as deeply into our future as we do our past with the lens of remembrance. 

Remembrance Day 2.0 will be a fusion of reminder and remembrance, where the love and consideration we look back with now become behaviours we carry with us everyday. It will be our holiday to remember great loss, but more importantly our holiday to meaningfully commit to peace and all the sacrifices and complexities that peace requires. 

Lest we forget. Lest we desist. 

Saturday, October 12, 2019

The Power of a Good MP: An Endorsement

If you're a friend or follower, you know my life has brought me to beautiful coastal Saint John. My blessed return to New Brunswick was foregrounded by a formative decade+ in our nation's capital. After graduating from high school in 2005, I left Sussex Corner to attend Carleton University and was immediately enamoured with the architecture, natural environment, and civic engagement the National Capital Region boasts.

I did something bold when I got to Ottawa. I joined the Green Party. It was 2006, and Stephen Harper had just won his first minority government. This election was my first; displeased, I decided not to remain silent. I joined the Green Party in time to vote in and volunteer at the Ottawa leadership convention that elected Elizabeth May leader.

L to R: Jim Fannon, David Chernushenko, Elizabeth May. Ottawa, 2006.

Green values are my values, and Green policies appeal to me as principled and pragmatic. Ecological wisdom, non-violence, participatory democracy, respect for diversity, social justice, and sustainability guide Green policy - I signed up for an orderly revolution.

Green politics are different than those of traditional parties. Foremost, the party is unyielding in its efforts to work across difference for the common good. Whipped votes are forbidden by the party's constitution; each Green MP votes their conscience and assumes accountability to their constituents foremost.

Scant representation in the House of Commons has affirmed that beyond an ethos, this willingness has been a necessity for Elizabeth May to be the exemplary parliamentarian she is. Because of Elizabeth May, no Canadian can legitimately doubt the power of a good MP.

Talented progressives are stepping up as Green candidates across the country. Look no further than astrophysicist Amita Kuttner, PhD (Burnaby North), former broadcaster Jo-Ann Roberts (Halifax), and indigenous leader Racelle Kooy (Victoria).

In a perfect world, every Green candidate is as extraordinary as these. We don't live in that world; parties of all stripes nominate flagbearer candidates in non-competitive ridings. These candidates expose the d├ętente of Canada's First-past-the-post elections: strategic voting.

Consider that every vote is strategic; the decision to vote is strategic. The quandary for Greens is intense this election. We're polling higher than ever and we're projected to win in multiple ridings. FTFP forces voters to insidiously conceive their votes as both national and local, both symbolic and procedural.

Subsidies for political parties complicate strategic voting further. If a candidate receives over 10% of the vote in any riding, 50% of their campaign expenses are reimbursed. The meager threshold stokes an incentive to campaign halfheartedly in perceived non-competitive ridings.

Meanwhile, Liberal rhetorical commitment to climate policy has gone unmatched by actions. They promised us a red eye and handed us an Americano. A good barista would apologize and remake the drink, but the planet is not a coffee coffee shop. There's no remaking the Earth. The best case scenario for our strained people and stained planet is a Liberal minority government tipped left by Green and NDP caucuses.

Catherine McKenna executed a Liberal bait-and-switch on climate policy. Her impudence is second only to Maryam Monsef's tactless excision of electoral reform. McKenna must be defeated in Ottawa-Centre.

Emilie Taman is the right woman for the job.

Emilie is the kind of person who knows the purpose and power of an Opposition MP; she's a human rights champion who understands the existential threat of the climate crisis. Emilie is a civil liberties proponent. Even when the details are complex and the subject matter is caustic, her concept of justice is clear. More than any other candidate in Ottawa-Centre, I have the utmost confidence in Emilie to insist on legal gender pluralism and pursue justice for nonbinary, two spirit, and trans Canadians.

I begrudge noone a conscientious vote, but I implore consideration of the actual work an MP does. Our elections deliver a parliament of individuals who participate in legislative processes. That's the job. If an MP shows up, and they write down what they say they were going to write down, they "make" everyone read it, they speak to it persuasively, and they create consensus......*long inhale*
They. write. laws.

It would be fair to say I bleed Green. At the time of my fateful move East, I was the Communications Chair of the GPC's Ottawa-Centre riding association. I have since assumed campaign communications duties here in Saint-John Rothesay in support of Green candidate Ann McAllister - the only serious progressive on the ballot - a regional dynamic we're seeing across Atlantic Canada.

Progressives in Canada's coastal provinces are coalescing around Green candidates, but Ontario remains a different political animal. As I plea for Ottawan Greens to take a harder look at Emilie Taman, I equally urge Atlantic New Democrats to consider their allegiances.

The blood feud between Greens and New Democrats has gotten out of hand. I've lost much respect for those partisans who choose to spread lies about the Green party being either anti-choice or "secretly" conservative. I personally conceive the grief between Greens and New Democrats as a tactical disagreement, albeit one with legitimate and immediate consequences. I've written on behalf of merger, and when the wounds of the Fall election heal, it's a conversation we need to revive.
Until then, I'm proud to reach across partisan lines and offer my sincerest endorsement to Emilie Taman for Ottawa-Centre's next MP.

So go ahead, and ruin Thanksgiving dinner by talking politics. The planet is counting on you!

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Spaces I Love: Robinson Village

After 31 trips around the sun, I have a whole apartment to myself. In April, I signed for the last 4 months of a tiny bachelor apartment at the foot of Sandy Hill in Ottawa. The building will be demolished in the Fall as part of forthcoming redevelopment of Robinson Village. Beyond the joy of my first apartment, I have a deep appreciation for pre-gentrified Robinson Village. This essay is about both.

My first solo apartment is an anomaly in many ways. I took over a lease from a graduating business administration student for the four Summer months. A fateful Kijiji alert found me the best value apartment I've ever heard of in Ottawa. While less than 300 square feet isn't much, I'm paying $650 a month including utilities. For a bachelor in Ottawa? Unheard of! That's not a price break for the takeover, either. The previous tenant was paying the same.

Height zoning for Robinson Village development.

Logistical-financial reality dissuades me from investing in a space where I could host a few people socially. The space is set up such that two people could barely survive, but I'm quite happy there alone. I have a space that, when in proper order, I can sleep, cook, watch TV, do art, work, and work out in. It juuuust hits minimum requirements of what I need and not a shred more.

I have a small omni-room, a decently sized closet, and a desk-nook. The unit opens to the bathroom on the right and a hallway that ends in the omni-room. The designer in me knows I could work with the space. A Murphy or loft bed would be a game changer, but my tenancy is short, so I resolved not to spend money or muscle on items to move at the end of August.

In any configuration, the unit is so small that there could only be two functional areas other than the kitchen, and one of them has to be my double mattress. If a twin bed was an option, there'd be a possibility for a meaningful partition. A double mattress fits in one corner with two perpendicular options. One opens up space immediately in front of the large south-facing front window, and the other the nook on the other side of the closet that a single bed would easily slide into.

Three of my five pieces of furniture are in the desk-nook. The 1.5 x 2 meter rectangle is home to a red folding director's chair & TV tray from Giant Tiger, and an almost-but-not-quite, matching folding stool from Dollarama. A an over-toilet white wire shelf fits over the heater and gives the nook storage.

The previous tenant opted for the other orientation, placing a loveseat against the main window, where I just have an end table with plants on it. That layout would make hosting a guest more comfortable, but sacrificed a workspace. Not gonna lie, though. I do think if I magically had a cute bistro set up three flights of stairs, it might change my mind.

There's an obvious slant to the floors. The East wall is the lower side of the unit. My bed accordingly subtly dipped down at the head before I used a few boards to level it out. The window is the perfect dimensions to host my rarely flown New Brunswick flag as a curtain. It's trimmed with a set of lights, and propped open with an inverted mason jar.

My bathroom is one of the quirkiest I've ever been in. The shower is a tiled triangular afterthought, but it's actually quite large. Two people fit into it with no struggles. (Wink!) The toilet is between the shower and the wall on the other side of the hallway. Above the toilet, there's a plain white shelf with a 2x3 foot mirror that I leaned against the wall. That's it.

There's no sink in the bathroom - the first of two glaring impracticalities of the apartment. The other drawback is somewhat unforgiveable to me; there's no onsite laundry, and lest the appreciative tone of this essay be tarnished, I shan't dwell on how laundry trips irk me.

The unit's only sink is on the kitchen wall of the omni-room. Plain white cabinets flank another basic shelf holding up a mirror. I'm satisfied with the counter and storage space, despite losing much to a two-burner cooktop and toaster oven.

I've made good use of the counter overhang, which was clearly left for the possibility of a dishwasher. It's now home to storage boxes and my TV. Between good antenna reception and Google Chromecast, the TV provides a soundtrack and background noise to my home time.

The last and best detail about my apartment is my beautiful cannabis mural. I went on a two-week trip a week after I moved in, so I offered my place to an artist-friend who is underhoused. I told him he could go nuts if he wanted to, but there was absolutely no expectation. I couldn't be happier with the result.

The neighbourhood is diverse in terms of race and language with roughly equal populations from working and middle classes. We're adjacent to the Rideau River and Robinson Park. My backyard is a soccer field and a riverfront park.

There are five Muskoka chairs on the Rideau River banks at Robinson Park. They just showed up in June, and not all at once. I've twice seen them used and thrice used them myself. I actually texted my friend James about them: "maybe we can have nice things?"

Five chairs by the river. 

The riverfront is so quiet at night that I forget I'm in the middle of the city. 

 Robinson Field. 

It takes 30 minutes to walk to the Rideau Centre through Sandy Hill,  I can shave off 5 minutes walking down King Edward Ave. If I go in the complete opposite direction, St. Laurent is also ~30 minutes walk away. For groceries, it's 15 Minutes to the Walmart at Trainyards,

Trainyards is my closest Starbucks - a welcome and unexpected homo hub. Kettleman's Bagels has a location all the way at the end Trainyards retail park, but I live on carbs, it's got wifi and coffee, and it's open 24 hours.

To get to Carleton I take a picturesque 15 minute walk along and across the Rideau River to Hurdman Station and catch a 104.

Bussing from Lees/Chapel is closer than Hurdman, but it's complicated; Robinson Village, like the Lees towers, got stiffed by transit construction. Only one direction of the temporary transitway replacement routes way serves the stop. Traveling East is great. Coming back or going West, I walk or transfer to Templeton/KEA.

417, Lees Station, and Lees apartment towers.

There are are three distinct introductions to Robinson Village. Via the Rideau River Pathway, Robinson Village feels like just another chunk of Sandy Hill. By bus, you're treated to a notably steep and poorly maintained path connecting Robinson Village to Lees Ave at Chapel. And if you drive to Robinson Village, it becomes obvious that RV is on the other side of the 417's sound walls. From Lees, you take Robinson beside and against highway 417 traffic.

The Rideau River Pathway entrance sandwiched between two blocks of townhouses. 

Pathway connection to Robinson Village. 


How you drive to Robinson Village: the sexy Lees overpass. 

Entrance to pathway to Lees/Chapel.

Poorly maintained path to Lees/Chapel bus stop. 

Bitter cold Ottawa Winter would have been a struggle in Robinson Village, particularly without a car during LRT construction. The Rideau River Pathway wouldn't be cleared, and the steep path to Lees/Chapel would be treacherous when icy. My perspective on the neighbourhood is admittedly rosier only spending a Summer.

Low rise apartments:

Small houses:


Unoccupied buildings:

There are no stores in Robinson Village. There's an industrial kitchen equipment dealer and a City of Ottawa garage. The closest convenience stores are the Quickie on Mann or a few options in the ground levels of the Lees towers. As the neighbourhood develops, a grocery store in one of new buildings would be a welcome addition.

The kitchen equipment dealer.

City yard pics.

TBH, writing this essay was a bit of a coming-of-age reflection. I was an undergraduate student during the narrative shift that rebranded Hintonburg from a place of visible struggle to Ottawa's premiere creative and culinary neighbourhood. I heard the grumblings, but the neighbourhood's changes didn't affect me, and gentrification as a process was just gaining prevalence in public dialogue.

Much of the appreciation I have for this Robinson Village is knowing it's only temporary, so I should enjoy it for what it is. The experience I'm having here won't be offered to another Ottawan. Robinson Village's last Summer as underdog will be remembered fondly as a time and space I love(d).