Is the restaurant industry more sexist now? In short, I think so.

Restaurant waitressThe restaurant dress code has made the news once again and it is shocking that in 2016 this is even an issue.

This is a bit of a personal issue for me and here is why. While I was in college, I worked as a server for several years at a few independent and chain restaurants and bars. It’s always going to be murky waters when you couple a largely male dominated industry with alcohol and the general public. Lucky for me, I worked for some really great owners, who had in place a set of practices that protected me (for the most part) against harassment. The difficulty arose when the owners and operators themselves behaved badly.

I had my armour about me at all times. It took me some time to build it up, though. At the beginning, when I was young and somewhat “innocent”, I’d left myself vulnerable in a loose and sexually suggestive culture. As I started to see the way things were, I eventually guarded myself from guests (that’s what we called them) and management. Sadly, I’d learned my lesson the hard way: I’d encountered a few aggressive customers that harassed me at work and I was blamed for leading on the customers, suggesting that by serving them food, I somehow wanted more. I’d even had a couple of ugly encounters with a few regulars (a pseudonym for alcoholics).

So my coping mechanism was to develop a policy that stated I would not date customers. It made it easy to let a customer down without coming across as mean spirited. How could they, anyone,  argue with my policy when it seemed so reasonable and well thought out? Some bars actually had their own policy of staff not fraternizing with the customers or drinking after work. At the time I might have found it harsh, but looking back it might have been a good one.

In the end, what I thought was unfair is that I had to have a policy to begin with. Shouldn’t customers know that just because I was smiling while slinging beer, it didn’t mean that I wanted their phone number? I’d even had my share of being chased around the desk and inappropriate comments from management (sometimes even from woman) about my appearance. It made me feel like shit.

There has been a pervasive and sexist nature in this industry for decades and likely it has failed to get with the times. I suppose it hearkens back to the days of gentlemen clubs with their dimly lit smoky rooms and leather studded wing-back chairs. A place for men to discuss business over cigars and neat scotch. A place unsuitable for women.

My father brought me to one of these clubs back in the seventies. I was allowed to enter in his company, just a peek through the curtain. In the stuffy club dining room, the all male staff, from what I remember, were dressed in neatly pressed black and white uniforms, like a valet or a butler of sorts. The dress code tradition remains.

The one tool I had in my kit of protection was the dress code. It was always reasonable and also flexible. It was usually something like this: Dress shirt, staff shirt or staff t-shirt, jeans or black pants or black dress pants OR skirt OR shorts (for summer), and black non-slip, closed toed shoes or boots and apron and hair up if below the shoulders (for hygiene reasons and never in any suggested style). The host/hostess had a similar dress code.

What this meant is that I could dress for the most part from my closet and for comfort, especially on the days when I was working a 12 hour split-shift. It also meant easy turn-around for the days that I worked back-to-back shifts. But the most important aspect is that I could dress without being sexualized and(in most cases)no different from the male servers. (There were only two instances when it was a set uniform that was different from the men, but in that case they were merely ugly).

So how is it that in our current year, that in service environments like Moxie’s, Earls, Jack Astor’s, Bier Market and Joey Restaurants, they have a dress code that is sexually explicit and demeaning – high heels, low cut dresses, and short skirts? This dress code has nothing to do with doing one’s job and everything about titillating the male clientele. In other words, more bucks.

In a recent case where an employee’s feet were left bleeding after a training session that involved her wearing high heels, as stated in their dress code, the restaurant Joey’s went on the defensive arguing that it wasn’t actually their policy after being called out on social media. Meanwhile, the CBC obtained a copy of the training manual stating that female employees must wear 1” heels but no higher than 3”. This was a complete contradiction to their own statement (and manual) claiming the employee could wear flats or wedges.

Earls did agree to change their dress code policy after a recent CBC’s Marketplace investigation highlighting their sexist practice. Meanwhile, Joey didn’t, even though they are both owned by the Vancouver based Fuller family business. I honestly cannot fathom why the other chain restaurants have not fallen on their own swords, backed down from their outdated policies and apologized already. You can’t tell me that these forced dress codes can possibly be worth the boycotts and bad publicity, not to mention the many human rights complaints they are facing at the moment from former staff. I haven’t even touched on the rumour of their hiring practices, which if they are true are equally egregious and sexist.

A restaurant dystopia. A restaurant culture in the spirit of Mad Men, except without the irony.

 

Save

The Preludes to Assaults

Jane Eaton Hamilton

Feel free to share.

#gomeshi #ghomeshi #ibelievelucy #IStandWithLucy #BillCosby #hairextensions #truthmatters #rapeculture #cndjustice

Jian Ghomeshi, you [redacted]. I don’t know you very well, but I know this: one night in early 2004, after I’d been awarded a writing prize in Ottawa, you followed me to a side room annexed to the main hall, where I’d gone to get away from the crowds, and while my (then) wife was in the bathroom or off getting another drink, I’m not sure, you put your hand on me. That hand. One of the very hands that is being discussed in court this week. You closed the distance between us and you massaged my shoulder/neck while talking to me about how I needed to relieve the stress of my big win. Eventually my (then) wife returned, you dropped your hand (that hand), and we chatted politely while you bashed the Rockies, BC and, in…

View original post 1,512 more words

New Years resolution for 2016: purging the comment section

FeaturedImageFrame3

Last summer, Canadian expat Barbara Haynes tweeted “#DonaldTrump is like if a Comments Section ran for office.” That pretty much summed up what most of us have thought all along – that the trolls and the radicals are controlling the comment section.

I have been toiling with the idea of abandoning the comment section of late. I’m not sure for me what purpose it really has except for my fellow Canadian’s to exercise their free speech with their right to offend me – something they pretty much did on a daily basis. I already have my own personal outlet on my blog, and I can have meaningful dialogue with others on Twitter and Facebook. So how is the comment section relevant to me any longer?

It also been a popular viewpoint that perhaps the days of comments, the freely open marketplace of absurdity and free flowing thought by mostly anonymous posters, should have an expiration date. Many news outfits have even made the decision, well ahead of a mass exodus on the comment section, and since 2012, killed the comments for good.

Popular Science was one of the first major publications to do son back in 2013. In an on-line statement titled, Why We’re Shutting Off Our Comments, Suzanne LaBarre, online content director of Popular Science explained why (in part):

Comments can be bad for science. That’s why, here at PopularScience.com, we’re shutting them off.

It wasn’t a decision we made lightly. As the news arm of a 141-year-old science and technology magazine, we are as committed to fostering lively, intellectual debate as we are to spreading the word of science far and wide. The problem is when trolls and spambots overwhelm the former, diminishing our ability to do the latter.

That is not to suggest that we are the only website in the world that attracts vexing commenters. Far from it. Nor is it to suggest that all, or even close to all, of our commenters are shrill, boorish specimens of the lower internet phyla. We have many delightful, thought-provoking commenters.

US outlets The Chicago Sun Times, Reuters and Bloomberg quickly followed suit.

Back the Great White North, two Canadian on-line news sites that have recently put a kybosh on comments are the Toronto Star and the Toronto Sun. In September, James Wallace Vice-President, Editorial at the Toronto Sun ran a statement (in part):

…the increasing use of Sun comment boards for anonymous, negative, even malicious personal attacks, albeit by a minority, has led us to conclude our current commenting system is not serving the interests of the majority of our readers.

Therefore we have decided, for the time being, to no longer allow commenting on most online articles until we sort out a better and more accountable way for our readers to interact with us and each other.

And then, in December, The Toronto Star followed suit. Their statement (in part) read:

We have turned off commenting on thestar.com effective Wednesday, Dec. 16 and instead we’ll be promoting and showcasing the comments our readers share across social media and in their letters and emails to our editors.

So on New Years Day, I will have my morning cup of joe while reading the news on-line, feeling just a little bit lighter by shedding the comment section dead weight.

Happy New Year!

Featured

The Hateful Eight is not just a Quentin Tarantino Movie

Hateful-Eight

By Heidi Loney

Last month, I penned an article called The Mainstreaming of White Pride in which I outlined the reasons why I believed that both the Students for Western Civilisation and in turn, Toronto’s white student union are innately racist. At the beginning of December, VICE interviewed well known white supremacist and Alex P. Keaton look-alike Richard Spencer in the piece, We Asked a White Supremacist What He Thinks of Donald Trump (catchy title, huh?). Spencer used doublespeak to disguise his true beliefs:

…he [Spencer] prefers the terms “alternative right” and “identitarianist” over “racist” or “white supremacist.” To be an identitarian, Spencer says, is to say, “Identity is the most important question to answer. Who are we racially? Who are we historically? Who are we in terms of our experience? Who are we in terms of our community?” This is a fancy way of saying that he is a racist.

British professor Matthew Feldman shows why Richard Spencer might choose to use euphemisms in Feldman’s essay, Doublespeak: Radical Right Rhetoric Today:

…separation between “hardcore” fascists and “the public” was influentially posited in Cas Mudde’s landmark study from 2000, The Ideology of the Extreme Right, claiming that such groups typically have a more “moderate ‘frontstage’” intended for public consumption and “a radical ‘back-stage’” targeted at neo-fascist activists…For the radical right will not simply show the same face, with the same jackboots and salutes and manifestos of old. They too know their history.

Radical right

static1.squarespace.com
Richard Spencer: Sears model or white nationalist? You decide.

(Interesting side note: Richard Spencer and fellow white nationalist Matthew Heimbach, while their ideologies are similar, do disagree on something. Heimbach is against gay rights in any any or form, while one of Spencer’s colleague Jack Donovan identifies as an androphile [Alt-right doublespeak for gay], a man who is attracted to other men. Because of this wedge, Heimbach has been forbidden to speak at any functions hosted by Spencer, since Jack Donovan is a regular speaker for the National Policy Institute. See more on this in Queer Fascism: Why white nationalists are trying to drop homophobia)

So we can no longer rely on the symbols of old to know when we are facing hatred: the days of the white hood, swastikas and heavily tattooed Nazi skinheads, while not completely gone, are now replaced by the serene images of ancient western civilization, Odinism, and Viking lore.

Hate looks like the boy next door

Throw away your stereotypical back woods inbreeds and stupid rednecks. The new face of hate looks something like this –  squeaky clean looking boys; the kind you would gladly hire to mow your lawn or have walk your dog. They’re clean cut, intelligent and well educated.  Alan Dutton, the national director of the Canadian Anti-racism Education and Research Society tells me in an interview that,

the stereotype is that white supremacists are just low IQ, working class, alienated men is totally inaccurate. The recruitment of young Canadian men and women into white supremacist groups on campus goes back a long time.

eaglesm
Manly man and author of “The Way of Men”, androphile Jack Donovan

Along with their education, these young men do have other things in common: They all seem to love JRR Tolkien, Viking and Norse culture and anti-feminist author and former Satanist Jack Donovan. They also differ on some things. But what they all are is hard right, racist extremists – some more radical than others.

But what is surpising is that they do not all follow the same ideology – this group is a jumble of Third Positionists, Indentitarians, Alternative Right (Alt-Right) and Radical Traditionalists. There might even be a bit of Dark Enlightenment or Neoreacationary (NRx) thrown in for good measure (here’s a highly detailed explanation of this anti-democratic movement at Slate Star Codex). There are so many sections and subsections of these movements that it’s enough to make your head spin.

A year ago, Generation Indentity – Canada created their facebook group and website. According to Wikipedia, the Indentitarian movement, of which Richard Spencer identifies, is a largely anti-immigrant youth movement that began in 2002 in France and derived from the French Nouvelle Droite Génération Identitaire. The movement uses the upper case Greek letter Lamda for their symbol, which was used as a shield pattern by the Spartan Army who were greatly outnumbered by the Persians during the Battle of Thermopylae. (for the Hollywood version, you can always watch their adaptation of Frank Miller’s 300)

The logo for Generation Identity – Canada from the groups’ Facebook page.

But what all these movements are in a nutshell, with the exception of Third Positionists (which is a bizarre mashup of right and left) are ultra-hard-right, like further right than even neo-conservative and paleo-conservative movements, or the politics of David Frum and Pat Buchanan respectively. You know, if Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump moved into murkier, shark infested waters –  where his administration puts a full stop on immigration of Muslims and Mexicans – and they gather them all up and put them in camps or even repatriate them back to the “old country”, even if they were born in the U.S. of A.

But this bandy of racists doesn’t just hate on race and culture. They hate on women too (especially feminists) and women’s reproductive rights, science (many anti-vaxers are hard right), homosexuals, and the disabled. Some of them even hate on the 1% and corporations. Even more strange, some in the movement are radical environmentalists and conspiracy theorists with cultural Marxism (I explain this and traditionalism in my article: The Mainstreaming of White Pride), the Cathedral and the New World Order conspiracy.

The Students for Western Civilisation use cultural Marxist theory in their essay: York Needs A White Students Union! He/they write:

The doctrine in which York liberal arts students are programmed is called neo-Marxism or “cultural Marxism”. Neo-Marxism is an illiberal ideology which looks at identity politics in terms of “oppressors” and “the oppressed”. The three broad categories of identity include gender, sexuality and, the category that receives the most attention: ethnicity…

So, in order to address this situation, we propose the formation of a white students’ union. A white students’ union would serve multiple purposes. It would serve to promote and celebrate the culture of Western Civilisation. It would serve as a platform to promote and advance the political interests of Western peoples. And most importantly, it would serve as a venue to explore those perspectives on ethnic politics that our Marxist indoctrinators seek to suppress and ignore, thereby giving to York a taste of that intellectual “diversity” which it purports to value.

But Alan Dutton begs to differ. He tells me in an interview:

To organize a group based on white skin, or European heritage, raises many questions. Black student unions and Chinese [student unions] and others serve a function in a society where there is institutionalized and organized racism. I see little to justify a white union other than as a means of recruitment into extremists groups and ideology. History has shown that white unions have not been the bastions of human rights and freedoms, but have served as yet another basis for advocating far right ideology.

While I cannot confirm the identity of the author of the essay posted on the Students for Western Civilisation homepage, I can confirm that Toronto’s white student union does exist and is not actually a hoax. On the neo-nazi internet forum Stormfront, I discovered a posting by member “the Knights Templar” about Toronto’s white student union in a conversation with “devoid”. In September 2015, “devoid” wrote:

I spoke to this fella who created this group, the guy is a cuck, what a surprise.
I told him how Jews were responsible for DIEversity…. told me I was schizophrenic.
What a disgrace.

To which “The Knights Templar” responded:

I met the man in person (this fella who created this group) and he seems more rational than half the posters on this site. He introduced me to the rest of the group, all highly educated and presentable men. I analyzed the whole group, listened to them speak amongst each other, they definitely don’t seem like cucks to me. Perhaps you shouldn’t divide the movement further, by labeling all those who don’t share the same views as you, as cucks. People like you are the reason why we can’t get anywhere.

This further angers “devoid” who lashes out with:

People like me are the reason why we won’t go anywhere? You cannot be serious, are you actually serious?

Ok cuck, enjoy participating in these circle jerk groups who refuse to point out that Jews are behind white genocide. I am not dividing anything. You’re either pro-white, or you’re a cuck, it’s very simple. This useless group will achieve nothing.

The dude who created this group called me a schizophrenic for trying to point out that cultural marxism is jewish.

What does that tell you?

White people in Canada are completely done for. Why do we have to be delusional about everything? Can’t we just say things for what they are?

Only Eastern European countries have very strong resistance, and they will most likely be the only white countries left in the world. Eastern Europeans have their heads screwed on properly.

Not only are White Canadians completely done for, they’ve been indoctrinated so bad, they believe their OWN genocide is a progressive and wonderful thing!

Look it’s better to fight than do nothing, however, people have to realize when we’ve lost, we’ve lost.

Countries that already are gone: Sweden, Canada
Most likely gone: Britain, Germany, France

Who are these boys?

On a recent blog post Students For Western Civilization: Trolls, But Still Interesting (Part II), the website anti-racist Canada identified a group of radicalized Ontario boys meeting on-line but also in person. Anti-racist Canada identified Ottawa resident and Algonquin College student [redacted], a self-described Third Positionist, as the founder of the on-line Facebook group and VK group (Russia’s own social networking site), the now defunct Fatherland Front. According to anti-racist Canada, “[redacted] in particular, would post pseudo-intellectual comments on matters of ethnicity, antisemitism, and what they believed to be ‘traditional’ society.”

Nick Prokhorovych (Nikoslav Tigrovich) - December 20, 1996 - Ottawa, ON - FB - 1
Nick Prokhorovych, 1996

Ottawa residents Nick Prokhorovych (and fellow Algonquin college student) and Markoslav (Mark) Mikhailovych Makevsky (using Russianized names) appeared to both be regular contributors to the same group. Written when they were teens, here are some Christian fundamentalist/neo-Nazi pearls of wisdom (taken from screengrabs on the Fatherland Front Facebook page):

On gay rights:

Skinheads in Russia are doing the right thing, creating an unsafe environment for faggots, immigrants from 3rd world countries and leftists. Keep up the good work fellas.

Whoever calls himself a Christian and is pro-gay, cannot call himself a Christian. The two do not belong together. Either you are with the devil (pro-gay), or you with God (Christian).

-Nick.

On feminism:

The whole point of feminism is to ensure that the liberal state and the Jew assume the function of the man, in which women only conform to it.

-[redacted]

On immigration:

I must at times remind my nationalist friends that the mass invasion of our lands by third world immigrants is not the essence of the problem. The true cause of our problems is the failure of our leftist policies that have been in place since the Second World War. Third world immigration is a symptom not the cause. We must purge the leftist traitors within our ranks first and foremost.

-Mark

On racism:

When anyone calls me a racist after I point out the negative qualities of black people, liberals start defending them like loyal dogs. I simply say that there is no such thing as a non-racist person. You take any “non-racist” and place him in an all-black neighborhood for a month. Shortly, after a week, he will beg to move back to a white neighborhood after being insulted, mugged, beaten up, or maybe even gang raped. Suddenly, the nigger lover will become a nigger hater in a matter of [a] few days.

-Nick

Hating on special needs students:

So called ‘special needs’ students are put into special education classes with at least 1 qualified educator per every 2 students. These drooling imbeciles who rely upon the state for the sustenance get not only equal but preferential treatment. Lets stop this nonsense and allocate our qualified educators to students who actually have a chance to improve the lot of our folk and nation. It is an insult when good students have 1 teacher per 30 students while the imbeciles have 1 teacher for every 2 students.

-Mark

And finally, some seriously anti-sematic, hateful nonsense:

The Jew is a blessing to the Aryan, for he strengthens us in an attempt to destroy us. He challenges the very fabric of the latter by targeting the Aryan’s weak spots, who responds by improving upon them –thereby speeding up Aryan evolution in a journey to form a new man.

The Jew may or may not realise this, but he is prolonging the means to his own end.

Sometimes cancer cannot be treated but must be removed.

We will not ‘remove’ the general population, for they are destroying themselves. We are to build civilization over their remains.

Multiply Dachau by fourfold. Should do the trick!

-[redacted]

401490_2623607344984_942946414_n
A selfie of pimply faced Tyler (Marc) Malenfant just coming out of his teen years, February, 2012

According to anti-racist Canada, after removing the Fatherland Front from both Facebook, [redacted] replaced the Fatherland Front on VK with Regnum Arya (loosely translated as noble kingdom) – his VK page described as defenders of the Aryan realm. Anti-racist Canada was able to connect Tyler (Marc) Malenfant, a communications and design student at Ryerson University in Toronto by not only his VK profile but also because of his other on-line posts. Here is but a snippet of Malenfant’s postings on Aljezeera back in April 2015:

As a Christian, I can say the #1 dumbest thing in western society was to adopt secularism. The separation of church and state is a lie. The Jews will use these same lies to destroy Islam in the same way they destroyed Christianity. Any true Muslim will NEVER allow secularism. Secularism=atheism=Satanism.

…you so called “anti-racists”are killing me with your retrdedness [sic] and stupidity XD YOUR [sic] ALL JUST CALLING JUSTIN NAMES!!!!! Your [sic] all a bunch of idiots who think your [sic] “inspirational” or “enlightened” when in reality your [sic] all just dumb asses who are repeating what I hear on Shalom TV 24/7 365 Days a year.

And in the comment section of a VICE article, Malenfant indicates that he has ties to white nationalist Matthew Heimbach and the Trad Youth Network:

I’m fully aware of who created this group (mathew heimbach) and im also aware that there are jews in his original orgonization [sic], not anymore though since he started the traditionalist youth network. but if a jew wants to help us out and become one of us then thats [sic] great, but sadly most are liberal marxists who hate whites…. i know this from personal exprience [sic] because my mother’s side of the family is jewish.

im fb friends with mathew heimbach loolll and other members of that group, im simply just surprised that the group has finally moved into Canada

…there’s A LOT more nationalists in toronto than you would think….. this is only the begining [sic]

Patrick Jolin_White Students Union
Patrick Anthony Jolin sporting the same haircut as the boys from the white students union poster.

Marc Malenfant, clearly a zealously hateful young man, is also Facebook friends with both [redacted] and another notable young bigot named Patrick Anthony Jolin. According to Jolin’s twitter profile which featured a profile picture of him aiming his hunting rifle, the Montreal native and University of Guelph student is 21 years old, alt-right, a traditionalist identarian and an EMTP (a Myers-Briggs personality type meaning “visionary”). But mostly, like his “visionary” trait states, he is really just full of himself.

Paddy's Twitter
Screengrab Paddy’s Deleted Twitter Account

You can find some hints into what makes a racist like Jolin tick. It’s not as much from his Tumblr page, which features images of western civilisation, Old-English folklore mixed into a montage of war images and semi-automatic weapons. I actually feel icky looking at it.

Paddy's website
Screengrab of Paddy’s now deleted Tumblr page

What’s more telling (and more than slightly sad) is Jolin’s WordPress blog, from what I can tell he created while still in high school. In a post called, Who am I? (and since Paddy has scrubbed the internet) here is what he wrote in case you missed it:

I aim for success, I aim for the best. Second place is not for me.
I constantly live in a state of self improvement. I focus on the body, the mind, and the soul
I work out, I read, and I exercise my soul, through the art of Drama
I have learned many things in life, and I am proud to say that I am blessed with motivation, passion, and ambition.
However, I was not always like this.
It all started when I met a particular man in the Summer of 2010. Late August.
I have him to thank for my recent lifestyle.

He doesn’t think much of women, happily endorsing the pick-up artist blogpost, The Sixteen Commandments of Poon (slang for vagina) under his online moniker RichterSturmgeist:

Sixteen Commandment of Poon screengrab

It’s interesting to note that Jolin was reading blogs of this ilk, written by white nationalist and men’s rights advocate James C. Weidmann (under the blog name Chateau Heartiste) at the tender young age of 16 or 17. More recently, Jolin posted on the VICE story, A Group of White Supremacists Is Promoting Itself on Canadian University Campuses:

I love the fact the only people opposing this are sheltered, self loathing, white middle classed liberal-progressives who’ve never struggled a day in their lives. Too bad. We’re not going to apologize. The more these radical marxist social justice warriors continue to spit on us, the more conscious the Euro-Canadian identity will become in the minds of our youth. They’re only proving these people correct by reacting with hostility. The logic is really quite simple: Don’t pretend you’re an egalitarian or believe in classical liberal values if you’re going to hypocritically deny a group the right to work to their own collective benefit on the basis of race when you allow it for everybody else.

Rounding out this “Hateful Eight” are fellow racists Andrew Beland of Ottawa and Montrealers Gabriel Alexander Paradis-Knee and Bryan Sturmangriff Mons. Anti racist Canada documented a meeting two years ago in a Facebook screen grab showing the group gathered in real life for a New Years Eve celebration.

Group photo - Dec 31, 2013 (uploaded January 3, 2014) - FB - 1
Some of the members from the “Hateful Eight” New Years Eve, December 31, 2013

And no brood would be complete without a father figure

10620649_1000766663299720_9117204376966536212_n
A recent Facebook image of William Cooke, December 2015

What connects this group of a dozen or so boys from universities and colleges across the province is Toronto resident William Cooke. Cooke’s Facebook profile states that he is a former assistant professor at the University of Guelph and currently works as an English Glossarian at the Records of Early English Drama at U of T since 1995. However, the REED Project Manager informed me that Cooke has not done any freelance work for over a year.

Cooke was born in England, an active member of the Anglican church, has a fondness for the writings of Conrad Black and appears to be a both a traditionalist and a monarchist. I can’t confirm if this is the man that Patrick Jolin met back in his teens, but it is clear that he is influential in not just his life through his on-line posts, but in the lives of many of these young men.

It is also slightly creepy, that this man who appears to be well into his fifties, is schooling these young lads in the ways of tradition. From some of his posts, he comes across fatherly and kind and careful in what he says. And it’s also clear from Jolin’s post on Cooke’s Facebook wall, that Jolin greatly admires the man:

This is not my argument, but mark my words. When you tangle with this man’s brain, you’re going to lose.

It’s difficult to know if Cooke is just a hard-right conservative (given that he is careful in the wording of his on-line posts) or something more sinister. But despite his Gandalf style, slightly know-it-all qualities, his protégés might be more radical than he is.

In the mean time, we’ll be monitoring.

Quentin Tarantino

Further reading:“`

‘Cuckservative’ – the conservative insult of the month, explained

Editor’s note, January 20th, 2017:

I was contacted by one of the persons mentioned in this piece who asked me to either remove their name from the article or take down the piece entirely because they no longer ascribe to hate and that person was a minor at the time. Given the recent occurrences on school campuses, I believe that this subject is still relevant, Therefore, after removing this piece from my blog, I have redacted their name and reposted the article.

Save

The history of the (almost) short-lived conservative campus rag

Linda Frum
Linda Frum handing out issues of the McGill University Magazine

By Heidi Loney

Comedian Sarah Silverman recently said in speaking of progressives at university, “They lead the revolution. They’re pretty much on the right side of history.”

Student-run campus university papers have long been a tradition – the voice of the socially active progressives – with many of these young journalists carving out successful careers upon graduation. In the mid-eighties, a handful of ultra-conservative student-run newspapers cropped up on Canadian University campuses with funding from a US conservative public policy organization.

How they got into Canada

It was in September of 1983 when the first of seven campus papers, the debut issue of McGill University Magazine would first appear.

Dating back to 1911, McGill University already had an official student run newspaper called the McGill Daily. Like many campus newspapers, it was left-leaning, covering highly politicized issues of the day such as the anti-apartheid movement and the contras in Nicaragua. The paper reflected the ongoing protests on campus.

This was something that McGill third year arts student and young conservative Linda Frum, long before becoming a journalist with the National Post and conservative Canadian Senator, wanted to counter what she referred to as McGill Daily’s “self-indulgent politics”.[i]

Linda Frum is the daughter of the late CBC darling Barbara Frum, former host of The Journal. Linda is sister to David Frum, the former speechwriter for George W. Bush who coined the infamous term “Axis of Evil”. Linda wanted to offer a neoconservative alternative and like many of her contemporaries, Reagan’s and Thatcher’s domestic and foreign policies greatly influenced her.

The result was The McGill University Magazine, with 6500 copies of the first issue launched in September 1983, with Linda at the helm of its masthead. Sometime just after the turn of the last century, the McGill faculty had published the original McGill University Magazine, and this is what got Frum into trouble. Without asking for permission from the University administration and the Board of Governors, Frum had in essence violated copyright of the words “McGill” and “McGill University” as well as making her student paper appear official, which of course it was not. Even with a stern warning from administrators and without fear of some kind of reprimand, Frum plowed ahead with her premier issue.[ii]

It was unclear where the money was coming from to pay for the costs of printing her independent magazine, but Frum said that she’d financed the first issue of the McGill Magazine with “private donors” and just one advertiser, the Bank of Montreal. At the time, all Canadian universities had signed a South African boycott that prevented university-campus newpapers from selling ads to Canadian banks that loaned money to the apartheid nation. When the editors at the University of Toronto student paper the Varsity asked Frum if she knew why other student papers boycotted the Bank of Montreal, Frum answered, “I don’t know and I don’t care.”[iii]

Clearly Frum thought she was above the rules.

It would be over the course of the following term that more of these papers would appear across the country. Carleton University launched the Carleton Canuck while the University of Victoria John Galt, named for the male protagonist in the Ayn Rand libertarian bible, Atlas Shrugged. But it was Queen’s University right-wing paper Libertas and the University of Toronto’s University of Toronto Magazine that caused the most stir at Ontario campuses, and with good reason.

Each magazine, while staffed with its own editorial team and packaged with its own layout and covers, had conspicuously similar editorials. In their own editorial, the Varsity had lamented the need for another “alternative” magazine, considering the school already had a dozen or so college or faculty based papers. The Varsity suspected that the University Of Toronto Magazine, due to its “attractive look and handsome design work” must have also had a private or parental funding source.

Wright had told the Varsity writer Adam Corelli that it was his paper’s staff who’d contributed the $765 toward the $1000 cost of the first issue and denied family financial support, saying that his family didn’t share in his politics. He said that his staff and a friend who started a graphic design firm called Graphically Speaking just after leaving school, had come up with the look of the premier issue “over beer and pizza”.[iv]

2015-09-24 11.11.07
Digital Photo of the U of T Magazine Source: University of Toronto Archives

In February 1984, the first of five issues of the University of Toronto Magazine launched its premier issue, featuring a smartly designed blue tinted front page illustration of a grand staircase. The Toronto Sun‘s Andy Donato had donated the editorial cartoon, also in blue, accenting the back cover after Wright asked Donato for his help.

Regular magazine contributors included the campus’ who’s who on the political right including current federal cabinet minister Tony Clement, at the time a former U of T law student and politically active young Tory. Other writers included Linda Frum and Will Falk. They were fellow Trinity college students and Wright had used Linda’s Frum’s experience with her own paper, the McGill Magazine. Linda’s brother David Frum, who was also a good friend of Nigel Wright, held a meeting at his home. Wright, Clement and other politically conservative students from the Toronto campus attended the meeting to discuss the project.[v]

Other notable contributors included journalist Malcom Gladwell, who at the time was Nigel Wright’s classmate, and Guy Giorno, former Chief of Staff in the PMO of Prime Minister Stephen Harper before Wright succeeded him. Strangely, a letter to the editor from Giorno appeared in the second issue of the University of Toronto Magazine before his own article appears in the third issue. The letter reads:

Dear Sir,

I am fully supportive of the concept behind the University of Toronto Magazine; this campus is definitely in need of an alternative to the Varsity’s left leaning journalism.

Thank you very much,

G.W. Giorno.

It is likely that Wright and company would have had further help from David Frum’s future wife, Danielle Crittenden. Crittenden’s late father, Max Crittenden, had been the editor of the now defunct conservative daily, the Toronto (Evening) Telegram, the same place her late step father Peter Worthington and Andy Donato began their journalism careers. Worthington later became the founding editor of the tabloid paper the Toronto Sun in the same year that the Toronto Telegram owner, John Basset, shut down the paper because of company losses. Upon high school graduation, the Toronto Sun employed Crittenden as a reporter and feature writer until she left 1984.

After only five issues, Wright would leave the paper by year end to work in the Policy and Legislative Unit of the Prime Minister’s office, writing in a letter to readers,” I am comfortable in the knowledge that the Magazine has been left in able hands and in the hope that widespread support for it continues.” Wright handed the reigns of editor to Ingrid van Weert, his fellow law student and frequent U of T Magazine contributor.[vi]

Nigel Wright eventually served as the thirteenth Chief of Staff of the Office of the Prime Minister of Canada, later resigning from his position in 2013 after it came to light that Wright had written a check for just over 90K to cover the cost of Senator Mike Duffy improperly claimed residency expenses.

The money had to come from somewhere

Just as Nigel Wright was taking his new position at the PMO’s office, two student journalists – Albert Nerenberg and Howard Goldenthal – would collaborate on a series of articles in the McGill Daily. Printed over the course of a week in late 1984, Nerenberg and Goldenthal exposed the source of income for three ultra-conservative student-run papers at Canadian universities.

In the eighties, documentary filmmaker Nerenberg was the former editor at the McGill Daily and English Drama Student. Howard Goldenthal was a Ryerson journalism student at Ryerson Polytechnic Institute (now Ryerson University) and a regular Ryersonian contributor. Goldenthal’s investigative report on the Institute of Educational Affairs (IEA) was the first in his career. He would go on to work at CBC’s the Fifth Estate for 16 years and later as producer at The Current.

While Nerenberg reported that the Varsity had suspected US financing but had no proof, Nerenberg and Goldenthal were tipped off when a piece ran in the Carleton Canuck. The interview between McGill student Francis Williers and Carleton University student, Dalton Saunders, also the editor of Libertas, Queen’s University ultra-conservative rag, suggested that the money for the chain of ultra-conservative papers came from the US. Williers later admitted being behind the clone papers and that he’d received a grant for the Libertas from the US organisation, the Institute of Educational Affairs (IEA). It’s also interesting to note that Nigel Wright and McGill Magazine editor Mark Proudman eventually distanced themselves from Williers, Wright saying, “The PCs don’t want to be associated with that kind of trash.”[vii]

After contacting an IEA official, student journalism coordinator Jonathan Cohn, Nerenberg and Goldenthal were able to confirm that a “powerful American organization with ties to the Republican party” was behind the private donor money that financed McGill Magazine, the University of Toronto Magazine and Libertas. They learned that McGill Magazine had earned a $3000 grant from the IEA (that would be about $6200 today). While Nigel Wright admitted to getting grant money from the IEA while editor of the U of T Mag, he wouldn’t reveal the amount. He was probably still pissed that the “official voice” of the U of T was the Varsity, who according to an aside in his own paper, collected $1.25 from each student in 1984, with a 125% increase on the way to restore the Varsity’s financial health.[viii]

In an interview, Wright told Nerenberg and Goldenthal that, “We are happy to have the help of the Americans. They have more experience in setting up alternative papers.”[ix]

Mark Proudman had downplayed the funding from the IEA, telling the Montreal Gazette in November of 1984 that the McGill Daily IEA story was “much ado about nothing” and that McGill’s official student paper was “left of Trotsky.” McGill Daily editor Neremberg had argued that “disclosure of the funding is important because it lets students know ‘these conservative papers – these example of free enterprise – are part of an international network of neo-conservative ideology'”. [x]

In the same Gazette article, IEA president Phillip Marcus confirmed that the IEA had provided start-up grants to the three papers: “$3000 to McGill Magazine, $2700 to University of Toronto Magazine and $2000 to Libertas.”

The “who” behind the funding

What was the most disturbing about the funding was its actual source. The people behind the organisation were powerful, highly connected, and well financed. The Institute for Educational Affairs (later Madison Center for Educational Affairs) was a New York based, non-profit public policy organization founded in 1978 by William E. Simon and Irving Kristol. In the seventies, Director William Simon was Secretary of the Treasury during the Nixon administration. Beginning in 1977, he served as president of the John M. Olin Foundation, one of the IEA’s chief sources of financing. Many consider co-founder and journalist Irving Kristol the godfather of the neoconservative movement.

And the John M. Olin Foundation didn’t just help fund the IEA. In a Varsity journalistic piece authored by University of Toronto graduate student Patricia (Ellie) Perkins, she explored how the Olin Foundation penetrated Canadian higher learning institutes by funding, “a lecture series on ‘American political culture’ which is administered by the Political Science Department.”

Perkins, now a Professor at York University in Environmental and Ecological Economics, was highly critical of the selection committee asking, “Why has the committee to select invitees been limited since its inception 3 years ago to just four of the more than 45 members of the Political Science Faculty?”

Two of the University of Toronto professors on the committee were Clifford Orwin and Thomas Lee Pangle, both followers of Straussian political philosophy. After originally being denied tenure at Yale University for his Straussian beliefs, Thomas Pangle was eventually offered a tenured position at the University of Toronto. Orwin studied under conservative Harvard University professor Harvey Mansfield, also one of the guest speakers. [i]

Harvey Mansfield founded the Madison Center in 1988, merging with the IEA to form the Madison Center for Educational Affairs. When it eventually folded, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute assumed sponsorship for the Collegiate Network in 1995, which like its predecessor provides “editorial and financial outreach to conservative and libertarian student journalists.”[ii] The Collegiate Network names Ann Coulter and Laura Ingraham as prominent alumni.

The Collegiate Network’s American style neoconservative predecessor, the Institute of Educational Affairs, had a history of funding ultra-conservative campus newspapers. Old-right conservative Frank Chodorov and conservative author William F. Buckley, Jr., founded the Intercollegiate Studies Institute back in 1953.

Where we are today

The Ryersonian operates through Ryerson’s School of Journalism by its professors and its staff drawn from a pool of journalism students as part of their course credits. Excalibur, the autonomous newspaper of York University, is exclusively student-run and funded through York’s student union. Journalism grad student Peter Goffin is one of four managing editors at the Ryersonian. In a phone interview he says that his paper has no specific slant and that managing editors, rotated every 4 weeks, must be “on-board” with all editorial decisions. As well, the Ryersonian welcomes input from all viewpoints in both their opinion section and on-line comments. Goffin says that the paper has yet to turn down a single opinion this year and with the exception of some hard right student groups, doesn’t sense any negativity on campus.

The Varsity editor-in-chief Alec Wilson concurs. While the paper has its slant, he says that U of T students can express their different viewpoints through the editorial and paper’s comment section. And like the Ryersonian, Wilson says that they’ve had no complaints.

But in February 2011, a group of conservative university students, feeling ostracized by the political perspectives represented on Montreal’s McGill campus, founded the Prince Arthur Herald, a bilingual neoliberal student publication. Certainly much more economical without printing fees, the publication began with just $150 with an additional $17,000 raised through fundraising; the money paid for the costs of incorporation and web design. As an “alternative” voice to the McGill Daily, McGill, Queens’ and Ottawa University students make up the conservative team of writers and editors. In her weekly column, National Post Barbara Kay refers to the students of the publication as “the [National] Post’s journalistic farm team.”[iii] Barbara Kay is also a member of the Herald’s Board of Governors and a regular contributor to the publication, so perhaps the Herald has become the farm team for the National Post.

The Prince Arthur Herald
Screen grab or the conservative digital publication, the Prince Arthur Herald

As a private off-campus publication, the Prince Arthur Herald has no requirement to reveal their funding sources. What’s unknown is where the $17,000 came from. The Collegiate Network, a Delaware based charity that provides financial support to conservative and libertarian student publications, names the Prince Arthur Herald, the only Canadian student publication on the member publication page of their website.

Jacob Lane, Managing Director of the Collegiate Network for the Intercollegiate Studies Institute was not available for comment.

None of this surprises the McGill Daily editor and political science major, Cem Ertekin, considering the timing. In Quebec, a series of student protest stemmed from an increase of student tuition fees highlighted the issues. Ertekin says that during the 2011/2012 academic year at McGill University, a small group of students created the Mod Squad (short for Moderate Squad), a smallish on-campus group that sought to “empower the McGill student body by restoring the voice of the average student.” The McGill Daily stated that “the group”, who later changed its name to the Moderate Political Action Committee (ModPAC), “formed as a result of a Facebook event that started during the five-day occupation” of the sixth floor of the James Administration building at McGill.

According to a Maclean’s article in what would become known as the 6Party movement, “Students took over the building on Tuesday when about 60 showed up to protest the administration’s decision to not honour a referendum over the continuation of funding for two campus groups.” On the sixth day, the protest ending without incident when police and security asked the occupiers to leave. The ModPAC’s facebook page, website and twitter page petered out.

Unlike the Toronto campus papers, Ertekin states that his paper cannot possibly be non-partisan when in their own statement of principles (SOP) it says: “Within this optic, The Daily recognizes that all events and issues are inherently political, involving relations of social and economic power and privilege. Further, we recognize that power is unevenly distributed, especially – but not solely – on the basis of gender, age, social class, race, sexuality, religion, ability, and cultural identity…To help correct these inequities, to the best of its ability, The Daily should depict and analyze power relations accurately in its coverage.” Ertekin adds that much of what he sees from the right is reactionary to the progressive movement rather than rightist activism in itself.

Ertekin believes that given that the Prince Arthur Herald is merely an on-line outlet, it doesn’t factor in at McGill University.

Okay, so (maybe) nothing to worry about there. But we still have the men’s rights groups and white supremacist groups trying to assert their rights on Canada’s campuses. Most recently, the Students for Western Civilization, a white supremacist group “composed primarily of students and alumni of Toronto universities” claim that Excalibur refused to publish: York Needs A White Students Union! In September, the group whose members are unknown, plastered their “White Student’s Union” posters without detection on York, Ryerson and U of T campuses.

20120613-white
One of the WSU posters discovered on Toronto University Campuses

The Students for a Western Civilization movement created their Facebook early in 2104, attracting a bounty of comments from neo-nazis across North America. No one at Excalibur knows about the submission or who is behind both of these hate groups. For all we know, someone anonymously slipped the letter under the editor’s door. Both the Ryersonian and Excalibur are investigating, hopefully with some results.

[i] Right-wing Olin foundation funding sympathetic lectures, The Varsity Vol 109, No 29 Jan 17, 1985

[ii] Beer, Jeremy; Jeffrey, Nelson; Frohnen, Bruce, American Conservatism: An Encyclopedia, May 20, 2014

[iii] Barbara Kay, Giving conservative students a voice, The National Post, Wednesday September 7th, 2011

[i] The Varsity Volume 104, No 15 October 14, 1983

[ii] McGill 25 Years Later: The McGill University Magazine Controversy: http://www.alumnilive365.mcgill.ca/2009/10/05/mcgill-25-years-later-the-mcgill-university-magazine-controversy/

[iii] The Varsity Vol 104, No 15 October 14, 1983

[iv] The Varsity Vol 104, No 53 February 10, 1984

[v] The Varsity Vol 104, No 43 January 18, 1984

[vi] University of Toronto Magazine Vol 2, No 2 December 1984

[vii] Seven ultra-conservative campus papers surface, The McGill Daily Vol 74, No 31 November 21, 1984

[viii] University of Toronto Magazine, Volume 1, No 2 February 1984

[ix] U.S. Institute behind Canadian Magazine, The McGill Daily Vol 74, No 30 November 19, 1984

[x] McGill students feuding over US grants, The Montreal Gazette, November 29, 1984

The War of Winds

Lego_Wind_Farm
Miniland Wind Farm, Legoland, Windsor, England

By Heidi Loney

The Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change green-lighted two new energy sources in South Eastern Ontario. The first is a 900 MW new gas-fuelled electricity generating station near Bath, Ontario (just south of Napanee). The second is a 27-turbine wind farm just a short ferry ride across Adolphus Reach and destined for the south side of Prince Edward County. With climate change effects on our environment and the health of the planet, it appears reasonable that the County would broadly accept renewable energy alternatives as part of Ontario’s new energy strategy. But they don’t.

Ontario's Energy Mix at a Glance
Source: Wikipedia

Currently in the Province of Ontario, power comes from three main sources: fossil fuels (mostly gas), nuclear, and hydroelectric while renewable energy and biomass account for a small percentage of our energy mix (less than 4%).

Just last month, the Calgary based TransCanada – the corporation behind the Keystone XL Pipeline Project – broke ground at the future site of the Napanee Generating Station (NGS). At a time when we’re trying to move away from fossil fuels after closing all of the coal plants, the Ontario government relocated the gas plant from its original slated home in Oakville after a surprising about-face and political maneuvering from the former McGuinty government. The unrecoverable costs from the gas plant cancellation were almost half a billion dollars.

Oakville’s loss is Napanee’s gain, according to residents, because gas plants bring jobs to rural communities. Their mayor, Gord Schermerhorn, stated long before the ground breaking began that, “It’s 600 construction jobs, 25 permanent jobs, and millions of dollars spent in the construction. It’s going to be the most up-to-date plant that could possibly be. We’re very happy about that.”

According to Susan Holtz, a former private consultant on energy and environmental policy, she states, “The Napanee gas turbine plant is intended to meet the grid’s need for more peaking capacity. Typically, gas turbines are never used for anything except peaking because they cost a lot to operate. All electricity grids require peaking capacity, because electricity demand is not constant; it fluctuates on a minute-by-minute, daily, and seasonal basis, and that varying demand must be continuously met. Base load plants can’t be quickly turned up and down are generally expensive to build but, once built, are relatively cheap to run. That means there have to be plants whose output can be immediately turned up and down. There are different facilities to do this, but among the most used are gas turbine plants, like the Napanee one.”

Mayor Schermerhorn, a former milk farmer and current business man, has served as mayor since 2003. He tells me in a phone interview that he welcomed the Napanee project to his region and hopes that the current Lennox plant doesn’t close any time soon. The Lennox plant, he says, supports the community not only with jobs but by sponsoring local events and sporting teams.

Napanee Generating Station
Artist Illustration of Napanee Generating Station

While he can’t comment on the particulars on the Oakville plant, he believes the Oakville site was too close to a residential community, while the Napanee Generating Station is located on OPG land next to the current Lennox Generating Station and a good deal south from residents. A liaison committee, he tells me, meet regularly with TransCanada to determine the look of the facility and surrounding landscaping techniques including the use of berms on the north side of the facility to soften noise.

Mayor Schermerhorn is not against renewable energy per se, from what I can tell in our conversation, and might not like the look of those towering windmills, but he does have some reservations about solar farms. His greatest concern is that some of these fly-by-night solar companies that use prime agricultural land get passed on from company to company and might eventually go belly up, thereby abandoning the solar plant site and leaving the community stuck with no cheap or easy way of decommissioning the site themselves.

Schermerhorn said at a Napanee town council meeting back in 2009, “I am not against development in the town. I do not like the idea of a solar farm on prime agricultural land.” He added, “If I had a home there, I don’t know if I would want to be looking at a field of solar panels.”

In Ontario, protections are already in place for prime agricultural areas and Specialty Crop Areas. Under the Green Energy Act in Ontario and the Ministry of Agriculture, non-rooftop solar projects greater than 10 kilowatts may be ineligible for a renewable energy generation contract if they are proposed to be located on prime agricultural lands. And farmers can expect to receive $400 to $1200 per acre per year from solar developments on sub-par land.

SkyPower Corp. in Toronto, the company that was behind the solar park, “had completed studies and developed plans on how to curtail the possible reflective glare from the panels, and how they will attempt to block the structures themselves from public view by the use of berms and trees.” Source: Napanee Guide

The 8.5 MW solar park, named Little Creek Solar Facility for its location on the south side of Little Creek Road, sits in the County of Lennox and Addington. In 2014, and as Schermerhorn had feared, Canadian Solar Inc. sold Little Creek Solar Facility to Calgary based BluEarth Renewables Inc.

According to a press release, BluEarth is no fly-by-night renewable energy operation. “Both the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan (Teachers’) and ARC Financial (ARC), BluEarth’s major shareholders, committed to an additional equity investment in BluEarth, along with management and other investors. BMO Capital Markets acted as strategic advisor to the company.”

While the mayor and residents approve of the Napanee Generating Station, the project isn’t without some opposition. Randy Hillier, PC MPP for Lanark-Frontenac-Lennox & Addington finds fault with the gas plant. He said back in 2012, “So we’re spending in the order of $1.5 billion, about $1,000 per man woman and child in the province, to build another plant, beside a plant that idles, and will produce half as much as the existing plant will produce. We know that the demand for electricity is not in Napanee or Kingston.”

His statement was clearly for political reasons, given that he said it right before the provincial election and a more than a year before the Liberals, under Kathleen Wynne, earned a majority.

Lennox Power Station
Lennox Generating Station

But what he says makes sense, given this. As of 2007, 40 year old Lennox operates at a fraction of the capacity, sometimes as low as 1.5% at a cost of 7 million per month. That’s hardly efficient or economical. To add further to this, the payments for the Napanee Generating Station are greater than the Lennox station, which gets a minimum of $15,200 a month for each MW despite output. Napanee is projected to run between 11% to 67% per cent capacity and get a minimum $15,200 a month per megawatt, regardless of output.

The Napanee station is half the size of Lennox and will consist of 2 271 MW gas turbine/generator sets and a 457 MW steam turbine/generator set. Lennox Generating Station consists of 4 – 535 MW units 2 smokestacks – each 650 feet (200 m) tall. The plant burns both residual fuel oil (RFO), a type of dirty oil and natural gas but operates solely at times of peak load; the base load for the Ottawa-Toronto region is supplied by Pickering and Darlington nuclear power stations.

Lennox’s two smoke stacks that spew out flue gas – a combination of CO2 and water vapour – are double the height of the Prince Edward County wind turbines. Lennox facility emissions for 2012 were 180,585 tonnes of CO2. That’s the equivalent of an average car driven 801 years non-stop!

Holtz says that the two plants are “are not at all the same thing, and shouldn’t be compared.”  Holtz states that, “If the Lennox facility, designed, I assume, for base load and shoulder load (and certainly not for peaking) isn’t being used much, primarily due, in the decades as and after it was commissioned, to the push for Ontario to develop a major nuclear base load fleet, well, that reflects the past.”

According to a Toronto Star article, Jan Carr, former chief executive of the Ontario Power Authority stated, “It’s really the wrong plant in the wrong location. Always has been.”

Bob Chiarelli, Minister of Energy stated, “We know we have an excess of supply of power in eastern Ontario, and where there is a greater demand for power is in the densely populated GTA region. And we also know that to attain the greatest efficiencies and the greatest practicalities in the generation of power is to generate it as close to the demand as you can.”

And yet, Ontario Power Generation has signed a contract with the power authority this year to keep it running through 2022, allowing OPG to recover its costs and earn a “reasonable return”.

***

In the island community of Prince Edward County, with a population just over 25,000 and rich in history and archeological significance, a small group of county folk are reluctant to embrace any great change to their landscape. Many of the people in the County have lived there for generations and it’s understandable that some of them would resist changes to their lifestyle.

What was mostly agricultural with over 500 kilometres (310 mi) of shoreline and good limestone soil, in recent years much of the farmland has been turned into vineyards, bringing in wealthy retirees and city dwellers looking for a nearby weekend escape. And unlike the mayor of Napanee who sees jobs, Robert Quaiff, the Mayor of Prince Edward County, doesn’t. In a letter to the Minister of Energy and the Premier, Quaiff pens a rather melodramatic memo on behalf of his anti-wind constituents, declaring Prince Edward County an “unwilling host”.

Currently, Canada has 90 anti-wind groups, with 79 of those in Ontario and the epi-centre of Canada’s anti-wind movement. Don Ross, a member of the County Sustainability Group and a long time Prince Edward County resident and renewable energy supporter, tells me that he sees the wind opponents as being in the minority and perceives Mayor Quaiff catering to the wind opponents’ proclivities. He says that before the Green Energy Act, the former Prince Edward County mayor and members of the town council, which included then Councillor Robert Quaiff, voted in favour of wind farms in a 10 to 5 vote.

Don Ross wrote this letter-to-the-editor in response to the Mayor Quaiff. The County Weekly News printed it in their Thursday, August 27th edition.

Oracle Opinion Poll 2012
Oracle Opinion Poll Figures

According to opinion polls, opposition to wind appears to be isolated. While slightly outdated, Oraclepoll Research Limited conducted an opinion poll of 1000 Ontarians back in early 2012. CANwea (Canadian Wind Energy Association) commissioned the poll which revealed that 78% of Ontarians agreed with the statement:

Wind energy is one of the safest forms of electricity generation compared to other sources (such as nuclear and coal).

The survey also revealed that residents of Central and Northern Ontario, the working class (with incomes $35,000 – $75,000) and those aged 55 or older are the least likely to support renewable energy.

Why might this be? According to the same survey, the pollsters asked respondents what they felt was Oracle Opinion Poll 2012 - 2the most important issue facing Ontario at this time. The top answer, not surprisingly, was jobs, and therein lies the rub. Jobs. Environmental concerns are low on respondents’ radar except for a small percentage that are concerned about utility prices. As Ross mentions, people just want to flick a switch and have cheap power without questioning where it all comes from or its environmental impact.

In a local poll, a QuinteNews on-line survey asked County residents the following question:

Do you believe the provincial Ministry of Environment was right to approve the White Pines wind farm in Prince Edward County?

Out of over a thousand respondents, 80% agreed with the following statement:

No one likes change, but we have to stop killing people by creating energy from sources that pollute the environment.

Windmills Europe (2)
Wind turbine count by European Country

A representative from wpd Canada tells me that what is happening in Ontario is unique. In European countries such as Denmark and Germany, renewable energy is at a high acceptance rate. As of 2010, individuals or farmers in Germany owned over 50% of renewable-energy capacity; the Big Four energy companies owned just 6.5%. And while the initial costs are high, 5 U.S. cents per kilowatt hour surcharge to finance the feed-in-tariffs (FIT), the previous Minister of the Environment, Norbert Röttgen, had pointed out back in 2011 that, “When more people consume oil and coal, the price will go up, but when more people consume renewable energy, the price of it will go down.” Source: Yale e360

And while Ontario is abandoning coal in favour of renewables, Canadians question why Germany abandons nuclear power while continuing to burn coal. The reasons are somewhat complex and as North Americans something that’s difficult to comprehend.

The nuclear accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine 1986 and the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster solidified Germany’s fear of all things nuclear. Before 2011, Germany derived a quarter of their energy from nuclear, but after the current government shutdown 8 out of the country’s 17 nuclear reactors after the Fukushima incident, nuclear provided Germany with only 17% of its power. Source: World Nuclear

Windmills Canada
Wind Farm locations in Canada

More recently, Germany’s electricity mix had a 27 percent renewable share in the first quarter of 2014. Source: Bloomberg Through a program called Energiewende or energy transition, Germany’s government vowed to wean itself off nuclear power over the next ten years and replace it with green energy, meeting its goal of a 40% cut in greenhouse gases (from 1990 levels) by 2020.

Windmills Germany
VS Wind Farm Locations in Germany

Germany has the most aggressive green energy policy in the world with a goal of ensuring renewables contribute to 80% of Germany’s energy supply by 2050 with wind power – both offshore and on, contributing half of that. Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, had said back in 2012 in Berlin meeting with Germany’s state premiers that, “The energy switch is a Herculean task which we are all committed to. We have a lot of work ahead of us but we agreed to work together.”

Meanwhile, Canada’s total wind power production currently stands at about 8.5 GW, but all of that is from land-based wind farms. Unlike Germany, there are no offshore wind projects operating or under construction yet in Canada or the United States despite their great potential. The Ontario government abruptly put the brakes on promising offshore wind projects being developed in Lake Ontario several years ago prior to an election. Britain is the current top dog in off-shore wind with half of the world’s capacity. Source: The Globe and Mail

The firm behind the White Pines Project in Prince Edward County, German based wpd Canada, is one of 42 pre-qualified developers to participate in the first phase of the newly minted Large Renewal Procurement. The LRP replaces FIT (feed-in-tariff) for large projects after that program was cancelled in May of 2013.

White Pines Wind Turbine Map
White Pines Project Wind Turbine Map and Legend
Wind Turbine PEC
Wind Turbine proposed for Prince Edward County 2.05 MW MM92

The Class 4 wind facility that is White Pines Wind Project and with a nameplate capacity of 59.45 megawatts (MW), will feed an estimated 169,464,000 kWh annually into Hydro One Networks Inc.’s distribution system, equivalent to the average annual power use of 9,683 homes. Source: wpd Canada

According to an article by Susan Holtz, she writes, “Preventing the intrusion of large-scale wind turbines into a local viewscape is rarely put forward as the central reason for opposing such a facility, presumably because it is seen as too subjective to be a powerful argument. Nevertheless, wind proponents often regard this as the actual reason for local wind opposition, especially if opponents use birds or health as arguments against wind in spite of never previously having shown a special interest in birds or in the huge health consequences of burning fossil fuels.”

Holtz is also a member of the County Sustainability Group. She tells me in a phone interview from her home in Prince Edward County that the big oil and gas lobby targeted renewable energy, namely wind “since it’s the cheapest and the most available”. She says it’s no accident that the anti-wind movement through marketing created the term ‘industrial wind turbine’ because it implies a menacing threat.

She states, “In the US and some other places, such as Australia, there has been for some time a mostly right-wing, very well-financed, anti-wind lobby, some parts of which are also linked to or originate from corporations, think tanks, and wealthy individuals who are climate change deniers.” She adds, “Any concerns raised by the mandated public consultation events or by personally motivated neighbours about the proposed project can be fed and enhanced by negative material from well-organized groups in other parts of Ontario or worldwide.”

And it’s big money pulling the strings in Washington. According to a Huff Post piece by Elliot Negin, Senior Writer at Union of Concerned Scientists, he writes that the Koch brothers ” — the billionaire owners of the coal, oil and gas Koch Industries conglomerate — have enlisted their extensive network of think tanks, advocacy groups and friends on Capitol Hill to spearhead a campaign to pull the plug on the PTC [Production Tax Credit].” According to Negin, the PTC “subsidy helps level the playing field between wind and fossil fuels…helping to make wind one of the fastest growing electricity sources in the country.”

It’s rich that the Koch brothers are attempting to kibosh wind subsidies in the US considering that the American oil and gas industry has received $4.86 billion US (by today’s dollars) in tax breaks and subsidies every year since 1918, while renewable technologies averaged $370 million US per year from 1999 to 2006.

While that might paint the bigger picture State side, back in Prince Edward County, it’s some of the residents nearest the proposed projects that hate the way the wind turbines might blemish the landscape that are the most vehemently opposed to renewables. Human health and politics are merely runner-ups to this opposition.

Unlike solar power, area farmers can lease prime agricultural land for wind turbine use. Since wind occupies only a small fraction of the land (turbines and roads use 1 to 1.5% of a typical 40 hectare farm parcel), farming or grazing may continue undisturbed. Source: Environmental Registry

As Holtz tells me, the family farmers in the County have the most to lose if their contracts are withdrawn.

According to Energy and Policy Institute, in Ontario alone and using both health claims and disruption to local wildlife habitat, there are currently 14 Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) decisions and two higher court cases (out of 17 in the country). Toronto lawyer Eric Gillespie’s firm represents wind opponents in at least ten of those cases, including the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists (PCFN) for Ostrander Point. Gillespie is somewhat of a known entity in the tribunal world after Madam Justice S.E. Healey gave him a metaphorical slap on the wrist when he used her own words out of context to the media. She awarded the defendants in the Clearview Township lawsuit, wpd Canada and a family farm business, $110,000 in court costs.

In April, the Ontario Court of Appeal revoked the Renewable Energy Approval (REA) for an on-shore wind power project by Gilead Power Corporation. The crown land at Ostrander Point is sited for the project in the south part of the County. According to Holtz, the land is hardly pristine or suitable for agriculture purposes since it was used just after World War II as a bombing range.

The Gilead case marks the first appeal that the top court revoked their REA, overturning the previous decision by the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) in favour of The Prince Edward County Field Naturalists (PCFN) and the Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County (APPEC).

Windturbine_decibels
Click image to hear a wind turbine.

It is important to distinguish that the court based their decision solely on the survival of a rare and endangered species, the Blanding’s Turtle. According to the Globe and Mail, “the risk is posed not by the wind farm itself but by 5.4 kilometres of roads to and from the site”. Meanwhile, the eleven victim impact statements, and so-called “expert” testimony on behalf of the appellant, the Environmental Review Tribunal dismissed the alleged impacts to human health and to other animal and plant species.

Not merely an open and shut case, Gilead has one more opportunity to offer an appropriate remedy and amend their proposal when they appear at the ERT hearings beginning September 2nd.

Don Ross tells me, “It was the ERT that initially rescinded the Director’s (MOECC) approval of the project based on a presentation that the Blanding’s Turtle would suffer irreversible harm from the project. Gilead appealed the decision and the appeal court judge ruled the ERT had erred legally as Gilead were not allowed to offer a mitigation strategy and that under these circumstances they could have extended the time frame of the ERT. The appeal court did issue a stay against Gilead proceeding until the Superior court heard an appeal from the ‘Field Naturalists’.”

According to Holtz, “This issue can be easily resolved.” She states that the “Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR — they are the Ostrander Point Crown land managers) [through] their policy, broadly speaking, was to promote public access to MNR lands, having had attention drawn to this supposed conflict, is quite happy to limit public access to these roads with gates.”

But why even build wind farms in the first place when Ontario already have a surplus of power, sometimes selling our excess power to the States? You can blame nuclear for that. According to a Toronto Star editorial piece, “According to the IESO [Independent Electricity System Operator], a reactor ‘must remain offline for between 48 and 96 hours following a shutdown, depending on the unit,'” making it cheaper to sell our power glut to the US rather than power down one of our reactors. ” By contrast, a wind turbine can be turned out of the wind in seconds and a gas plant can similarly respond on a dime to market signals.”

At 3,524 MW, Darlington supplies Ontario with 20% of its power and at a peak in 2008 peak, operated at 94.5% capacity. Beginning in 2016, if their license to operate is renewed after hearings this fall, the Darlington Plant will begin an outage execution and mid-life overhaul of four aging reactors to the tune of $12.9 billion and counting, with an expected completion date of 2025. Meaning, in the next 11 years, Darlington will produce 25% less power than before.

Back in 2013, the provincial government scrapped two new reactors set for the Darlington site. In a statement, Bob Chiarelli, Minister of Energy for the province of Ontario said that, “There is a strong consensus that now is not the right time to build new nuclear, and refurbishment is where we should be going.”

Meanwhile, the 40 year old Pickering Nuclear Power Plant which produces 3100 MW of power, is scheduled to stop generating electricity in 2018 and several decades before the decommissioning is complete in 2058. That means that renewables will have to make up the difference and Ontario has committed to putting 20,000 MW of renewable energy online by 2025.

But before that, wpd Canada will have their day at the Tribunal. Last month, after a 60 day public consultation that consisted of 155 emailed and hand written comments (both for and against the projecy), wpd Canada received their REA less two turbines from MOECC.

But as expected, the wind opponents filed an appeal at the end of July and MOECC loaded the third party hearing to the Environmental Registry. There is no date set for the hearing. In the meantime, the Napanee Generating Station, which unlike renewables requires no special approval, appears to be full steam ahead. But both the White Pines Wind Project and the Ostrander Point Wind Project are tied up in an endless spool of red tape.

Updated: August 28, 2015.

What’s the BIGGY about HOV?

hov_lanes.jpg.size.xxlarge.promoToronto traffic has always been a bone of contention with commuters, but never more so since the introduction of HOV lanes or high occupancy vehicles lanes. So much so, that it has dominated Toronto airways, news outlets and overshadowed the Pam Am games over the last few weeks.

As someone who doesn’t drive and has taken public transit for the better part of my adult life, I find the whole argument absurd. Seriously, there are plenty of other things in this world to bitch about, and this one seems to be about a 2 out of 10.

But what I have made a few observations from this whole thing:

1. There are a lot of commuters coming in from great distances within the GTA to work in downtown Toronto.
2. Very few drivers carpool.
3. Drivers have a very negative perception of public transit, even if they have actually rarely or never taken it.

According to a recent Metro article, writer Jessica Smith Cross and two compatriots attempted a commute from 1 Yonge Street and up the DVP to Fairview Mall on Sheppard Avenue East. Not surprising, the HOV commute took only 18 minutes while their colleague’s commute as a solo driver took 43 minutes. Smith Cross observed as their car “held a steady clip of 80 to 90 km/h on nearly the entire length of the Don Valley Parkway” that it’s “a stunning reminder of how many people drive to work and back alone”.

My family drove up to Orillia to drop my son off at camp on Monday afternoon. The only spot that we encountered HOV lanes were on the Don Valley Parkway, which we could use since we had four in the car. I was also surprised to find that there were so many solo drivers. But after that stretch, where we entered the 401 and the 400, we were just like any other driver without any special lanes at our disposal. The traffic was pretty clear all the way north, but upon the return trip, the 401 was heavily congested, because, it was rush hour.

HOV2Globe and Mail writer Darren McGee did a two-part comparison between driving to work in downtown Toronto from his home in Clarington, ON and taking the Go train. He titled the first installment HOV horror: One long, frustrating drive on the highway to Pan Am Hell. From the title, it’s obvious that McGee has a penchant for exaggeration either because he is a man-baby or he thinks it makes good copy. One commenter named K. Leicht wrote, ” Nightmare? Really? Nightmare!? What a blissfully joyful life you must live for your long, uneventful commute to be considered a nightmare. Makes a mockery of #firstworldproblems”.

HOVAt any rate, McGee complains that it took him 112 minutes to get to the Globe office during rush hour traffic (regular commute during rush hour takes about 55 to 80 minutes), with most of that time spent on the Don Valley. So, it took him 32 minutes longer on a bad commute day and an hour longer than his best commute time.

Sounds bad I know, but he did this test on the very first day the 3 person HOV lanes were opened – lending to a greater deal of confusion – AND there was an accident on the Don Valley that morning, which added to the lengthier proportion of time spent on that route.

The next day, he compared his previous day drive with a go at GO Transit, in the aptly titled: All aboard GO Transit for Day 2 of the Pan Am Games travel nightmare. He’s not one for concise titles. McGee complains while sitting in the quiet zone of the Go train, that a man with a bad cold and a woman who drinks her coffee too loudly surrounds him, while another woman applies her makeup, he might add, too heavily. The trip takes 108 minutes from door to door, 4 minutes shorter than the previous day’s drive.

Port Credit Guy tells McGee in the comment section, “If you brought your laptop or a book or something (or even the G&M), you wouldn’t even notice the make-up people and coffee slurpers, and you would actually get something done, which you can’t do in the car. Sounds like you need some time management training.” Definitely, man-baby.

Finally, I can’t wrap up this post until I mention that according to the Toronto Sun, our former mayor and current sitting Toronto city councillor Rob Ford has openly disobeyed the traffic laws. Recently recovering from abdominal surgery, he admitted to driving as a single occupant in the HOV lane and bragged about to the media.

Ford said, “Me? I’ve gone on the HOV lanes. Absolutely, I have. I have to get down here sometimes.” He added that, “these HOV lanes are a complete disaster. I know I see people just going down the HOV lanes and saying, ‘OK.’ Basically catch me if they can. There were a lot of people I saw that were by themselves.”

This coming from the same guy who smokes crack cocaine. Our current mayor John Tory has yet to comment. Perhaps he is too classy to even bother.