By Emma Teitel - Monday, December 19, 2011 - 0 Comments
The Bay street lawyer who helped end Occupy Toronto explains tactics like giving the police daffodils
Tim Gilbert is a 48-year-old lawyer on King Street in Toronto. His office is on the 20th floor of the TD Trust building, where it overlooks the financial district. He is the chair of Toronto’s Design Exchange (in what used to be the Toronto Stock Exchange) and the principal lawyer at his own patent and trademark firm, Gilbert’s LLP. He is hoping to put a large flat-screen television on the far wall of his office for Skype interviews and conference calls. He is a strong believer in free markets. He is also a friend of Occupy Toronto—and one of the people responsible for the peaceful outcome of the police eviction at St. James Park on the morning of Nov. 23.
Since then, tent cities have turned back into parks and editorial boards have turned to new topics, but Gilbert hasn’t been so eager to move on. Since the eviction, the intellectual property lawyer has been meeting with some of the movement’s organizers (a term he says he “uses loosely”) to discuss “the group’s next step.” “I don’t agree with many of their solutions,” he says. “But I think it would benefit them to have some degree of leadership and organization.”
The aftermath of Occupy—with park cleanups donated by businesses and rhetoric that’s seeped into the national dialogue—suggests the movement has made a dint in the national psyche.
By Emma Teitel - Monday, December 5, 2011 at 10:30 AM - 9 Comments
Why I’ve been feeling a bit alienated from the pro-Occupy demographic you’d think would be my peers
I’ve avoided writing about the Occupy movement for the following reasons: 1. Until last week I thought Warren Buffett sang Margaritaville. 2. I’m young and I have a job—a fortuitous, albeit awkward combination, as working for a major corporation isn’t exactly popular in most (drum) circles these days. In other words, it’s not the best time to be a liberal arts grad turned corporate lackey. As a result, I’ve been feeling a bit alienated from the pro-Occupy demographic you’d think would be my natural constituency, my peers. My Occupy contemporaries wear clothing made of plants and live in yurts. I just bought a coat with a genuine rabbit collar and I live in a building made of brick. One friend of mine who shall remain nameless appeared in a Toronto Star photo of the St. James Park encampment, beating a bongo drum to apparent oblivion. Another friend who doesn’t mind being named, Jen Anderson, states on her Facebook page that she believes in “energy” and that “we are creatures of the sun / no worries, no wishes / . . . the sun rises to greet us / we spin to meet the sun / There is always more than one truth.”
As disaffected as I sometimes felt from the Occupy movement, its detractors have left me even colder. Both sides have co-opted the supposedly free discourse with claims that strike me as unfounded. But, absent a side on the issue I can fervently embrace—and I suspect I’m not alone here—there are some truths I do stand by:
1. Less is more. Most people would take one good lie over multiple depressing truths. Most people are tired, busy and ignorant, and you don’t Occupy when you’re preoccupied. I love Jen Anderson, but as far as I can see, she doesn’t represent the 99 per cent. I do. Every time I read a story in the newspaper about the Canadian Occupy movement, I feel as though I just opened a book halfway through and I don’t know the plot.
By Nicholas Köhler - Friday, November 11, 2011 at 10:25 AM - 73 Comments
A suspected overdose at an Occupy site in Vancouver is just one of many signs the movement needs to end
In Saskatoon last week, as temperatures sank below zero, residents of the local Occupy encampment began taking stock. The tiny tent community had dwindled from the 30 who’d set up camp on Oct. 15, part of a wave of occupations mounted in solidarity with lower Manhattan’s Occupy Wall Street, to about a dozen. Many who remained were less activists than they were homeless people. The activists chose to pull up stakes. “I’m not too sure whereabouts I’m going,” a homeless man named Spike said. “I just don’t know.”
So it was across Canada: from Vancouver to Halifax, workaday realities had crept in and soured utopia. At some Occupy sites, such as in London, Ont., the movement had fractured into splinter groups, multiplying the number of encampments. Elsewhere, as in Ottawa, where one group of protesters discovered a blanket soaked in bodily fluids draped over their tent and left, core supporters abandoned the movement over philosophical differences. In most cases, protesters have had to come to terms with an influx of people for whom addiction and mental health issues loom larger than concerns about wealth distribution. In every case, occupiers have tested the resolve of municipalities striving to balance their rights to free speech with long-standing bylaws, safety concerns, and the rights of neighbours to order and good government.
On Saturday, Vancouver’s drug problem infiltrated one of dozens of tents erected outside the Vancouver Art Gallery, where 23-year-old Ashlie Gough of Victoria died, likely of an overdose. She is one of just two Occupy fatalities in North America so far (18-year-old Louis Cameron Rodriguez, a homeless man who called himself “The Poet,” died of causes unknown in Oklahoma City). Mayor Gregor Robertson, in the midst of an election, used the death as the final stroke and ordered the tent city closed (an official later said the city would seek to force the matter with a court injunction). At the same time, Victoria, where authorities had already cut water and electricity to the site, officially ordered protesters out: “The city appreciates you vacating the lawn around the sequoia tree,” read the notice.
By Jaime Weinman - Monday, November 7, 2011 at 9:50 AM - 7 Comments
Canadian-born Mort Zuckerman is leading a charge against America’s ‘divisive, anti-business’ leader
Canadians in America do a lot of things very well, including Obama-bashing. Real estate and publishing tycoon Mort Zuckerman (New York’s Daily News, U.S. News & World Report) supported Barack Obama for president in 2008, but he’s become the leading spokesman for an aggrieved minority: billionaires who feel Obama is treating them badly. Or, as the Montreal-born Zuckerman put it on the CNBC network: “There is a sense in the business community, not just for big business but for business all over, that this is an anti-business administration.”
Zuckerman, a McGill graduate who moved to the U.S. in 1961, has been worried about Obama since 2009, even while claiming that he “helped write” one of Obama’s speeches (White House speech writers denied they’d ever met Zuckerman). He wrote that Obama was creating “a country of ‘born-again budget hawks’ who will rise up if taxes are boosted to pay for it all,” and commemorated the first year of the administration with an article entitled, “He’s done everything wrong.”
In the last month, the 74-year-old Zuckerman has laid out a harsher case: it’s Obama’s fault the economy isn’t recovering. “Those who might help us escape,” he wrote in the Financial Times, “are now being held back by the anti-business policies of President Barack Obama.” The biggest drag on business, he says, is Obama’s criticism of “fat cats”: “this perceived hostility,” wrote Zuckerman, “saps the animal spirits required for taking risks on expansions and start-ups.”
By Erica Alini - Monday, October 31, 2011 at 12:02 PM - 62 Comments
With the Occupy protesters still camping out on city lawns across Canada, it’s worth investigating whether our tax and transfer system needs a tune-up if we’re going to tackle income inequality.
To be sure, we are a more unequal society than we were thirty years ago, even after one takes into account the redistributive effects of personal income taxes and things like the National Child Benefit and Employment Insurance programs. In 1989, the after-tax income of Canada’s richest 20 per cent was 7.2 times that of the poorest quintile of the population, according to the Conference Board of Canada. In 2009, the richest group made 9.1 times what the lowest income earners did. Continue…
By Andrew Coyne - Monday, October 24, 2011 at 10:10 AM - 234 Comments
Andrew Coyne on why the Occupy Wall Street movement has it wrong
Was there ever a more ersatz political movement than that which purported to “occupy” Canadian cities over the last week? The Occupy Wall Street protest on which it was modelled may betray the same cartoonish understanding of the world, but it at least reflects the genuine despair felt by many people in a country with a number of deep and serious problems: a housing collapse that left millions with homes worth less than their mortgages; a financial sector that, having lent the money to buy these homes to people who couldn’t afford them, then resold the bad loans via opaquely bundled securities to others—then had to be bailed out when the whole house of cards collapsed; high and seemingly intractable levels of unemployment, poverty at a 17-year record, declining social mobility, and a general stalling in income growth. The reasons for these may be debated, but if you lived in the United States, you would have good reason to be ticked.
By contrast, well, let’s just run down the list, shall we? Canada did not have a housing bubble, hence had no housing collapse, nor the resulting epidemic of mortgage failures. Our banks did not get overextended, did not have to be bailed out, and are lending, again unlike the U.S. banks, at a good clip. Unemployment is not rising in Canada, but has been falling steadily for more than two years: at 7.1 per cent, it is still above its pre-recession lows, but remains lower than at virtually any other time since the 1960s. Ditto for poverty: even when measured against a moving target like Statistics Canada’s low income cut-off, it is just off its 40-year low, at 9.6 per cent, from a peak of 15 per cent in the mid 1990s.
The observed stagnation of income growth in recent decades is more a phenomenon of periodic recessions, and associated spikes in unemployment, than a generalized inability to get ahead. Outside of recession years, median incomes have in fact grown steadily. In the long boom from 1993 to 2008, for example, median family income grew by 21.5 per cent after inflation. Indeed, it is hard to reconcile the supposed stalling of living standards with the spread in ownership of a wide range of household appliances that were once affordable only to the few. Since 1980, the percentage of Canadian homes with a dishwasher, for example, has more than doubled, from less than 30 per cent to 60 per cent. Fewer than one in 10 homes had a microwave oven in 1980; today it is upwards of 90 per cent. Washing machines, colour televisions, computers, cellphones and so on: the trend is the same.
By Nicholas Köhler and Richard Warnica - Saturday, October 15, 2011 at 6:25 PM - 26 Comments
Protestors set up camp in a Toronto park
One of the first arrivals early this morning at Bay and King, the financial district launch spot for today’s Occupy Toronto demonstration, was a transgendered woman named Stephanie who parked her silver Dodge Dakota SLT pickup truck on the southwest corner, erected a hefty P.A. system, a microphone and stand, and began blasting dated top-40 hits at high volume into the gathering crowd. At one point, Robert Palmer’s “Simply Irresistible”, from 1988, welcomes the arrival of young people in Guy Fawkes masks and skinny jeans. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, October 14, 2011 at 2:39 PM - 28 Comments
The Occupy Wall Street movement arrives in Canada this weekend with hopes of influencing the political scene.
“I think our movement can energize the political left,” Lasn said. ”In Canada we have Harper so strong, the Conservatives so strong because there is no energized opposition. Over the next few months, and possibly one year, it’s possible for fascinating, exciting new ideas that the political left has had for a long time, for those ideas to push up from the grass roots and start having an impact again on Canadian politics.”
Tilleczek said youth organizers in Canada have been trying to galvanize the movement, criticized by some for lacking a clear expression of its demands, by invoking the image of former New Democrat leader Jack Layton, whose death in August from cancer touched off a remarkable display of national grief and affection.
By Jaime Weinman - Friday, October 14, 2011 at 8:15 AM - 7 Comments
Putting the ‘owe’ in occupy
Could the Occupy Wall Street movement really be about student loans? The protests have spun off a Tumblr blog called “We Are the 99 Percent,” where ordinary people submit photos of themselves holding up their stories (written or printed on old-fashioned paper). And many of the stories are about young people drowning in college loans. “I have $29,685 in student loans. I worry I will never be out of debt,” writes one graduate. “I am hounded daily by the loan company demanding payment,” writes another.
Some pundits who initially dismissed Occupy Wall Street as an unfocused hippie gathering have had their minds changed by the blog. The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein wrote that after reading We Are the 99 Percent, he realized that “college debt represents a special sort of betrayal” for the protesters, who were promised that education was the way to get ahead. The fact that the government paid off Wall Street’s debts but not theirs may also have something to do with the anger. As one debt-ridden 99 percenter put it, “I understand that I made the choices that got me here. However, my choices were led by the failed institutions that make up this nation.”
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, October 13, 2011 at 4:50 PM - 17 Comments
First, the Finance Minister quotes Bobby Kennedy and waxes romantic about public service and “working together” for the “public good.” Now, he expresses some sympathy for the Occupy Wall Street protestors.
Jim Flaherty says he can understand the “legitimate frustration” of Occupy Wall Street protesters in light of persistently high youth unemployment … “It really is a Wall Street proposal,” he told reporters prior to flying to France for key G20 meetings on the global economy. “In Canada we have a progressive income tax and it favours people with lower incomes who are vulnerable, quite frankly, in Canadian society. Our tax system is clearly progressive. Having said that I see a point that income distribution is important and that there is a concern that a very, very small group of people have very large incomes.”
While the present circumstance may not be as dramatic, income inequality is reported to be growing at a faster pace in Canada.
By Colby Cosh - Wednesday, October 12, 2011 at 4:42 PM - 27 Comments
Political newspaper iPolitics.ca accidentally unearths a breaking story, as liberal law professor Errol Mendes uses its electronic pages to praise the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. In Citizens United SCOTUS ruled that campaign-finance law must treat corporations, unions, and other groups as though they have the same speech rights as the individual people of which they are made up. The American left cannot mention this heinous act of pro-corporate radicalism without ejecting a fount of furious spittle; the “repeal” of corporate personhood is, for example, the first and foremost demand of the Occupy Wall Street protesters and their allies elsewhere. President Obama memorably denounced Citizens United from the podium, staring the nine justices right in the eyes, in his 2010 State of the Union address. But Mendes apparently thinks corporate speech is an “important form of political expression” and that it may be protected by our Charter. Damn, Canada really is moving rightward! Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, October 11, 2011 at 2:04 PM - 52 Comments
Brian Topp considers the Occupy Wall Street protests.
There are false roads open – like the fantasist right-wing populism of the American Tea Partiers. And there are better roads open – like modern, prudent, determined and fearless social democracy, of the kind Jack Layton was talking about. Perhaps we will go down that first road, brought to us in Canada in our mild Canadian way by Stephen Harper and his team. Hopefully we will go down the other, on offer in Canada through Mr. Layton’s team.
But the Wall Street occupiers are there to let the Wall Street revellers and bonus-hunters know that their own particular party – and the whole approach to government that made it possible in the United States and here in Canada – has just about had its day.
By Claire Ward and Nicholas Köhler - Monday, October 10, 2011 at 10:40 AM - 29 Comments
A new protest movement, with Canadian ties, is taking shape, and spreading
Last Sunday, just before 7 a.m., as the sun cast its first light on Manhattan, cold, damp Zuccotti Park, just south of Ground Zero and north of Wall Street—those twin poles of a shattered American psyche—looked like little more than a junkyard. Shopping carts, blankets, garbage bags, sodden pizza boxes, piles of cardboard protest signs. Most of the two or three hundred anti-Wall Street protesters camping out there were wrapped in sleeping bags and under tarps, the pigeons pecking about their heads. A couple snuggled together on an air mattress. An elderly man in combat fatigues, his grey hair tied back in a bandana, slept against a concrete wall, a German shepherd at his side. Such were the moments of first light, before the makeshift village in Zuccotti Park came to life.
When the people awoke they gathered in groups to discuss ideas: corporate control, securitization, debt and credit, the environment, the Federal Reserve. There was heated debate and a lot of hugging. “I see it as a mathematical improbability to have a growth-based system based on finite resources,” said Tim, a 57-year-old bassist from New Haven, Conn., with long grey dreadlocks. “It’s kind of depressing, to be honest with you. I think the bottom is going to have to fall out of the economy.” When a protester approached asking for rolling papers, Tim promptly produced some from his pocket. “The solution is money,” said Rick DeVoe, 54, an environmental activist from East Hampton, Mass. “If the dollar doesn’t work for us, let’s create something that does.”
Over by the info booth a mousy girl in her 20s handed out a newspaper—The Occupied Wall Street Journal, a deliciously tongue-in-cheek jab at Rupert Murdoch’s business broadsheet. On a nearby table, various pamphlets lay strewn beside a Macdonald’s coffee cup and a well-thumbed copy of Dostoevsky’s Notes from Underground. A white-haired soccer mom on vacation from Tennessee, all smiles and glasses, asked if there was a petition to sign. Volunteers distributed food from the kitchen—concrete benches laden with donated bagels, coffee, juice. At the media centre, marked off with caution tape, youths sat on cement benches glued to MacBooks, spreading the word on various social media networks. @OccupyWallStNYC, one Twitter handle among many here, had some 39,000 followers as of Tuesday.
By macleans.ca - Thursday, October 6, 2011 at 1:11 PM - 2 Comments
U.S. president calls on financial industry to stop “deceptive practices”
U.S. President Barack Obama told a news conference on Thursday the Occupy Wall St. protests that have been spreading throughout the U.S. expose the “broad-based frustration about how our financial system works.” Obama also lashed out at the financial industry, accusing banks of resisting attempts at reform to prevent another collapse. “For us to have a healthy financial system, that requires that banks and other financial institution systems compete on the basis of the best service and the best products and the best price,” he said. ”And it can’t be competing on the basis of hidden fees, deceptive practices or derivative cocktails that nobody understands and that expose the entire economy to enormous risks. “
By Claire Ward - Monday, October 3, 2011 at 12:18 PM - 36 Comments
The once-ramshackle, disorganized group of protesters is evolving as it gains traction
“The whole world is watching.” Roughly 1,000 protesters were chanting as much on the Brooklyn Bridge this Saturday, after they were kettled by the NYPD (some may recall the technique from the G20 protests in Toronto), and shortly before 700 of them were arrested. They were right. As Jeff Jarvis put it on Twitter, “The beauty of the #occupywallstreet Pied Piper arrest is that the demonstrators’ video cameras outnumbers the cops’ and media’s.”
Two weeks in, the once-amorphous Occupy Wall Street protest in downtown Manhattan has begun to take form. The NYC General Assembly—the activist group central to the protest—finally published a mission statement late Sunday, which reads like a declaration of human rights. Labour unions and college students across New York City are planning walkouts to join the group in a solidarity march this coming Wednesday.
By macleans.ca - Monday, October 3, 2011 at 11:54 AM - 27 Comments
Demonstrators aim to mimic U.S. “Occupy Wall Street” protests
Canadian activists inspired by protests in New York are planning to converge on Toronto’s financial district on Saturday Oct. 15 before marching through the streets when the Toronto Stock Exchange opens on the Monday. Similar protests are being planned online for Halifax, Calgary, Montreal, Ottawa, Victoria and Nova Scotia. The demonstrators aim to mimic Americans who have been camped out near Wall Street for more than two weeks protesting a number of inchoate causes relating to the global financial system and corporations. 700 people were arrested on Saturday after demonstrators protested on the Brooklyn Bridge, bringing traffic to a standstill. The “Occupy Wall Street” movement has entered its third week, and organizers say the demonstrations will continue into the winter.
By Claire Ward - Sunday, October 2, 2011 at 3:30 PM - 9 Comments
Occupy Wall St. protesters say they were duped by police
About 700 of the demonstrators taking part in the Occupy Wall Street protest in New York City were arrested late Saturday during a march across the Brooklyn Bridge.
In a statement, NYPD Deputy Commissioner Paul J. Browne said protesters received multiple warnings by police to stay on the pedestrian walkway, and were told that if they took the roadway they would be arrested. “Some complied and took the walkway without being arrested,” Browne said. “Others proceeded on the Brooklyn-bound vehicular roadway and were.” Continue…