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Bruce Dowbiggin

The Californication Of Toronto: Urban Nowhere

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Last weekend I talked on the phone with my broadcasting friend Andrew Krystal about the state of Toronto— including his beloved Maple Leafs. Little did I know it was to be our final conversation; Andrew died just a few minutes after as he walked home in Yorkville.

In his inimitable way Andrew had been giving me the gears for criticizing Toronto after I’d spent so many years there. “You made your name here. You are a product of Toronto,” he pointed out above the din in a local Toronto bar.

Indeed I was a product of the Toronto I left behind in 1998. As I told him, that Toronto— the Little City That Could—is long gone. Replaced by something… else. As we shouted to make ourselves heard I told him that Toronto now reminds me of the California nightmare described in a recent Matt Taibbi piece on Substack. “California is what happens when new money becomes old money.”

Taibbi quoted Swedish writer Malcom Keune: “California shifted mid century from being the US’s fastest-growing state — 50% population growth between 1950 and 1960 — to a state that is somehow, improbably, shrinking… mostly because of the regulations the state’s inhabitants put in place that block the housing that’s required to support California’s economic success. As a result, California has lost the “technology” of being able to affordably house its inhabitants… 

To use a California literary reference, that meant no more living off the “fat of the land,” for with the well of plenty drying, even elites are now forced to feed off each other. In such a society, he wrote, “belligerence is not a choice,” and “you need to dispossess others” to get ahead, because “not doing so means losing your own way of life.”

The Diaspora of middle-class Californians to Texas, Montana, Florida, Tennessee, Colorado and elsewhere has been mirrored by the thousands of successful businesses such as Tesla, Oracle, Hewlitt-Packard and many more also leaving the state, taking with them tens of thousands of excellent jobs. Leaving behind a titled elite and a serving class— many just arrived in the state.

The desire to make California a morally pure progressive paradise has turned into open drug use on streets, collapsing infrastructure and sclerotic one-party rule.  “California announced a high-speed train in 1996 and the current plan is for service on the L.A-San Francisco line to begin in 2033. One executive I spoke with described the state’s development as “frozen in aspic.”

One reason is strangulation by bureaucracy. “Institutions everywhere are filling up with employees bearing skills “orthogonal” to the bureaucratic mission,” Kyeyune writes, “part of what’s been packaged as progress but feels more like a vast jobs program for otherwise unemployable pseudo-intellectuals. “Hire us, pay us, give us and our clients sinecures at your expense, “or we will make life difficult for you.”

As I told Andrew, “It doesn’t take a great leap to see these descriptions applying to Toronto as it came into its new status as a progressive cosmopolitan haven.” The Toronto of today, like California, is moving forward and backward at the same time. A champion in its day for fighting apartheid in South Africa, the same city now proudly celebrates segregated commencement sessions .

The source of Toronto’s entitlement was the stopping of the Spadina Expressway in the 1970s, the singular NIMBY resistance to growing the city at the expense of leafy neighbourhoods. Since then attempts to move newcomers around the heart of privilege have produced gridlock.

The result? Stratospheric housing prices in a city that resisted growth even as it imported hundreds of thousands to serve as its worker drones. The basic roof-over-one’s-head now is exclusive to aging Boomers squatting on their cashboxes while their children and newcomers move two hours away (if lucky) or mortgage themselves to the real-estate lottery.

Like Hollywood, Toronto’s hip class is besotted by Woke culture. Instead of Hollywood, Toronto is an IT factory married to media elites. But this success a two-edged sword for liberals— as California discovered. The Golden State “began to worry about how to balance the proceeds of its mastery of lowbrow markets with the desire of its most influential inhabitants to maintain reputations for the latest in progressive attitudes”.

Toronto’s IT culture has opinions; they’re just all virtually the same. None may say a negative word for fear of being banished to Barrie or London or (gasp) Alberta to find a living. It is a self-imposed gag order.

Exit strategies? Like California, Toronto’s business Diaspora to its suburbs and beyond has been replaced by a tax base resting on rapacious condo construction and gentrification. Its attempts to replace cars with rapid transit, such as the Eglinton subway project, mirror California’s rapid-rail project. No one in office wants to make hard decisions about the Gardiner Expressway, so they put off the inevitable.

Once a bastion of security, Toronto’s street crime is blighting the city. No wonder the middle class is cashing out its homes and heading to Northern Ontario, PEI, Alberta and the U.S.

Like the California elite in Silicon Valley, Toronto’s Family Compact has shown its survival skills in the Trudeau years, returning Captain Blackface to power on three occasions in a Faustian bargain to preserve its status. With the reality sleeping on homeless sidewalks, Toronto’s nomenklatura moved “to dispossess others” to get ahead, because not doing so meant losing their own way of life.

The accelerator for decline has been the gelding of its media. With government now pumping billions into media based in the city, there is a homogeneity of thought in coverage. Reporters who were once independent and cranky now see their best interests served in building echo chambers for the government/ corporate crowd. In California there are at least some people such as Taibbi defying the Media Party directives. For how long not one knows.

I will miss Andrew but in many respects. I’m just glad he won’t be around to see what will  happen to the city where he was raised and where he revelled in the last days of old Toronto.

Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy is the editor of Not The Public Broadcaster (http://www.notthepublicbroadcaster.com). The best-selling author was nominated for the BBN Business Book award of 2020 for Personal Account with Tony Comper. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, he’s also a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. His new book with his son Evan Inexact Science: The Six Most Compelling Draft Years In NHL History is now available on http://brucedowbigginbooks.ca/book-personalaccount.aspx

BRUCE DOWBIGGIN Award-winning Author and Broadcaster Bruce Dowbiggin's career is unmatched in Canada for its diversity and breadth of experience . He is currently the editor and publisher of Not The Public Broadcaster website and is also a contributor to SiriusXM Canada Talks. His new book Cap In Hand was released in the fall of 2018. Bruce's career has included successful stints in television, radio and print. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada's top television sports broadcaster for his work with CBC-TV, Mr. Dowbiggin is also the best-selling author of "Money Players" (finalist for the 2004 National Business Book Award) and two new books-- Ice Storm: The Rise and Fall of the Greatest Vancouver Canucks Team Ever for Greystone Press and Grant Fuhr: Portrait of a Champion for Random House. His ground-breaking investigations into the life and times of Alan Eagleson led to his selection as the winner of the Gemini for Canada's top sportscaster in 1993 and again in 1996. This work earned him the reputation as one of Canada's top investigative journalists in any field. He was a featured columnist for the Calgary Herald (1998-2009) and the Globe & Mail (2009-2013) where his incisive style and wit on sports media and business won him many readers.

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Bruce Dowbiggin

Hockey Canada’s Own Goal: Burying The Lawsuit

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Why in the name of Aurel Joliat would a sports organization want to put itself in the hands of the McHale’s Navy of governments? Namely, Justin Trudeau’s faculty lounge. But that’s what Hockey Canada has done. Its neglect and incompetence in a recent sexual assault allegation against members of the 2018 WJC champion team seems to have been asking for trouble.

Hockey Canada’s access to public funds (HC gets 6 percent of its funds from the government) is now frozen by the federal government, effective immediately, over its response to the alleged sexual assault and a subsequent out-of-court settlement last month after a woman claimed she was assaulted by members of the country’s 2018 gold-medal winning world junior hockey team in June of that year at a gala in London, Ont.

And why, after the Chicago Blackhawks sexual abuse scandal that surfaced last year,  has the NHL once again been shown incompetent in dealing with a sexual assault allegation? Twenty-two members of the 2017-18 junior squad in question were NHL draft picks. While we don’t know the eight in question one only has to peruse the roster of that team to realize a number of the players are stars in the NHL at the moment.

In the absence of evidence otherwise, all members of that team are under suspicion. (The woman, who decided against speaking with police or HC investigators, chose not to identify the players.) CBC reports, “The woman, now 24, was seeking $3.55 million in damages from Hockey Canada, the Canadian Hockey League and the unnamed players. Details of the settlement have not been made public”.

Which looks bad enough on the organization trusted to handle both men’s and women’s hockey in this country. But then the HC suits appeared in front of a House of Commons committee to throw a little accelerant on the fire. Outgoing HC chairman Tom Renney told MPs that HC had hired an outside law firm in 2018 to help it with the allegation that— so far— has produced no criminal charges.

HC president Scott Smith— who said Sport Canada had been notified of the allegation in 2019— testified, “players present at the event in London were ‘strongly encouraged’ to participate, but it was not mandated. (Renney initially testified that between four and six of the 19 players in question spoke with investigators before Smith indicated later the number was 12 or 13.)  He added that HC does not know the identity of the eight John Does listed in the lawsuit.

Needless to say the voluntary nature of testimony caused heads to explode among the politicians. “We were all expecting answers to all the questions, the many questions, that we have regarding how they handled the whole situation when they testified,” Sport Minister Pascal St. St-Onge told reporters. “Unfortunately, we did not receive many answers… But we did learn a few things.”

Such as HC saying that public funds (HC got $ 14 M. From the feds in 2020-21) had not been used to settle the lawsuit. St. Onge was not mollified. And so funding was frozen pending a forensic audit and fuller explanations of the HC’s handling of the incident.  “The fact that they haven’t been identified sort of shocks me,” added Liberal MP Anthony Housefather, a member of the committee.

HC might have predicted the volatility of the allegations. Previous sexual abuse cases such as former coach Graham James’ abuse of Theo Fleury, Sheldon Kennedy and others in the 1980s produced national outrage— and HC protocols on how to deal with future incidents.  While it appears that HC followed some protocols of conducting an independent investigation, the revelation that players involved were not compelled to testify beggars the imagination.

With the euphoria of the Stanley Cup, Memorial Cup and IIHF World Championships now dissipating, hard questions need to be asked. The innocent should have the shroud removed from their reputations. Those who sought anonymity in the lawsuit need to face NHL sanctions. And Hockey Canada needs to  understand yet again that carrying the flag for Canada in world hockey only covers them so far.

 

Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy is the editor of Not The Public Broadcaster (http://www.notthepublicbroadcaster.com). The best-selling author was nominated for the BBN Business Book award of 2020 for Personal Account with Tony Comper. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, he’s also a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. His new book with his son Evan Inexact Science: The Six Most Compelling Draft Years In NHL History is now available on http://brucedowbigginbooks.ca/book-personalaccount.aspx

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Bruce Dowbiggin

Exit Stage Right: Bordering On A Change

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“There’s something happening here. What it is ain’t exactly clear.” Buffalo Springfield

In a delightful irony the hippy ode to 1960s Richard Nixon tyrant-obsession is now applicable to 2020s Woke oppression. While the Left still reminisces about its rebellious past it has in fact morphed into the Establishment Party. The smugness of the new symmetry was summed up in Montreal by F1 driver Sebastian Vettel, whose team is sponsored by Saudi Aramco (the world’s largest petroleum producer) criticizing Alberta’s energy industry for sins against Gaia.

Short of a miracle, nothing will penetrate this orb of virtue. These onetime radicals have closed the information loop; nothing is getting in now. The View’s self-image as truth speakers for the power grid is locked in for life, contrary information be damned.

Meanwhile the former party of Wall Steet/ Bay Street is now churning with revolutionary foment about sovereignty and secession. While pundits will say that this right-wing pushback has happened in the past— see: Social Credit Party/ Reform Party— there is a dark commitment contained in the current crisis.

The elites of Ottawa and DC saw Donald Trump as a rogue Gilgamesh bent on conquering gullible conservatives, but he was instead a messenger from the middle class to the elites that they have failed the people who don’t fly private jets. Instead of heeding the warning the Left condemned Trump, believing his demise would spell the end of the rebellion.

Fat chance. Faster than you can say Ron DeSantis, governments in affected regions are setting out the terms of their continued cooperation with the elites. While Elon Musk points Twitter away from its advocacy role as establishment censors, grassroots movements are staking out a challenge.

In Alberta, where Jason Kenney’s half-hearted attempts to articulate the province’s resentment at having its energy industry sacrificed to foreign grad students and Marxists, a potential successor is being blunt on where she’s going.  Enter former Wildrose leader Danielle Smith, now running for the United Conservative Party leadership. “On Day One, I’m introducing the Alberta Sovereignty Act, authorizing our provincial government to refuse to enforce any federal law or policy that attacks Alberta’s interest or our provincial rights.”

Smith sees Quebec’s rejection of federal rights & freedoms and British Columbia’s lax enforcement of cannabis laws prior to legalization as a pathway in which Alberta could opt to dodge federal law. “It seems to me we’ve established a precedent that laws that do not work in a particular jurisdiction, that the province has the latitude to either seek an exemption or say it won’t apply,” Smith said. She pointed to Quebec’s Bill 96, which insists on French supremacy in the province, as examples for Alberta to follow.

Jesse Kline in the National Post (a sovereignty sceptic) outlined the issues: “Alberta’s grievances are very real. Our electoral system gives more weight to voters in Quebec and Atlantic Canada than in the West. The Senate, which is supposed to be regionally represented, affords twice as many seats to Ontario and Quebec as all the western provinces combined.

“The equalization system is full of baked-in inequalities that put Alberta at a disadvantage. And if Alberta’s oil and gas industry isn’t being attacked by the openly hostile Liberal government in Ottawa, it’s being stymied by the other provinces.”

Legal scholars were quick to dampen enthusiasm for the proposal. “The idea is frankly so absurd and untenable I’m not even sure it would create a crisis, because it would be laughed out of court too quickly for a crisis to develop,” says Emmett Macfarlane, a constitutional law expert at the University of Waterloo.

The usual media suspects, too, are tut-tutting the notion. They repeat the hoary clichés from Meech Lake days about “a peaceful, prosperous and democratic country that has withstood the test of time.”

In this gauzy nostalgia there seems to be little realization at the heart of federal power in Ottawa that they’re losing the country. That, maybe, siding with the guy who calls fellow citizens fascists, Nazis, anti-science and worse—then goes and hides in a bunker while you get honked at— is not a legal problem but a moral one.

How far would Trudeau’s federal government be willing to go in punishing elected officials in Alberta and perhaps Saskatchewan who defy them? Having the law on your side is one thing. Enforcing it is another. Waging economic war against the West on behalf of Ontario only perpetuates the grievances of the West and splits the nation further. Sovereignty author Barry Cooper did the math. “Indeed, that is the whole point. The Canadian Constitution has never worked in favour of Albertans, so it needs to be changed.”

Meanwhile, Texas Republicans, smarting over the porous border with Mexico and their own GOP senators voting to erode the Second Amendment are drawing their own line in in the dust. In a recent document, the state GOP called for a referendum on secession in 2023.  The referendum will determine if Texas should “reassert its status as an independent nation.”

“The legality of seceding is problematic,” Eric McDaniel, associate professor of government at the University of Texas at Austin, told The Texas Tribune in 2016. “The Civil War played a very big role in establishing the power of the federal government and cementing that the federal government has the final say in these issues.”

But halting the erosion of state sovereignty might be too late. A series of recent referenda have revealed that nine Oregon counties have voted to join Idaho, with another three to vote in November. Those counties— which make up 64 percent of Oregon’s land mass— are fed up with Oregon’s Uber-left government based on the coast and seek to join the more conservative Idaho.

This comes in concert with a wholesale exodus of people and businesses from high-tax blue states such as New York, Illinois and California to red states with lower taxes, less crime and fewer regulations. In Canada, urban Boomers are fleeing the major metro regions for rural Ontario or the Maritimes, convinced that the urban crime, soaring taxes and a crumbling infrastructure delivered by today’s elites has seen its day.

As Buffalo Springfield said, “ It starts when you’re always afraid. Step out of line, the man come and take you away.”

Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy is the editor of Not The Public Broadcaster (http://www.notthepublicbroadcaster.com). The best-selling author was nominated for the BBN Business Book award of 2020 for Personal Account with Tony Comper. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, he’s also a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. His new book with his son Evan Inexact Science: The Six Most Compelling Draft Years In NHL History is now available on http://brucedowbigginbooks.ca/book-personalaccount.aspx

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