Saturday’s appearance of the above editorial cartoon coincided on a particularly brutal weekend which saw the deaths of 5 Canadian soldiers fighting alongside NATO troops in Afghanistan. Predictably, calls are again being made to get our troops out of the war and bring them back home. The loudest voice comes from Jack Layton who has seized the political opportunity to play the peace dove in this debate. You’d think following the overwhelming condemnation of his position in weekend editorials, columns, military circles, and even within his own caucus, Layton would refine his opposition and (while the word is still flying around) ‘nuance’ his words a little more keeping in mind Canada’s international obligations and long term strategy for defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan. The debate about Canada’s role in Afghanistan was settled months ago when Parliament voted to extend our mission there. And do we really need to be reminded on a daily basis why we’re in Afghanistan in the first place? Does Layton seriously see Canada sitting down and discussing a peace settlement with the Taliban over a cup of tea? Maybe…as I suggested back in April:
In my last blog entry I railed against rubberneck news, or useless news which becomes widely known and discussed among the masses. Here’s my ongoing useless rant against useless things in the world: icicle lights.
For over 5 years I’ve obsessed against those white dangling icicle lights, especially when homeowners decide to keep them up all year round. It’s quite ironic that a device designed to light up and beautify a house for the festive Christmas season at nighttime can actually do the complete opposite during the daytime making a house or window look absolutely hideous. Pretty…
What’s worse is when people think they can get away with decking their house for Christmas and leave the lights up until they actually fall off, or disintegrate. Venture about in any Canadian city and it won’t take long to find a house at the end of August decked out with drooping icicle lights. Go through the real estate pages and you may come across a few houses for sale pictured with the decorations still up as if they make for a nice selling feature.
Through the years I’ve done the following cartoons:
If you’re ever inclined to send a message to a neighbour who thinks celebrating Christmas is a year round thing I’ve given you a licence to make it known to those people that their decorations are ruining your property values:
Garage doors. I hate ’em.
I originally drew this cartoon in April, 1999. The house indicated in Fig. 2 is the ranch style house I lived in while growing up in Dundas, Ont. It had a carport, which my dad couldn’t stand. I was glad to see a critique on garage doors as the lead story in today’s National Post. There’s hope for humanity.
Melissa Leong — National Post
Last week, Carl Zehr drove through a new subdivision in Kitchener and saw a wall of garages.
He looked at the rows of semi-detached homes with double-car garages in front, separated by swatches of concrete and small tufts of grass.
“When you looked at these in multiples, side by side if you were looking [down the street], you saw nothing but garage doors,” said Mr. Zehr, Kitchener’s Mayor.
“There has to be a better way.”
On Monday, the city’s municipal council voted unanimously to ban two-car garages in front of semi-detached homes, beginning in 2007. Mr. Zehr said the new zoning bylaw is not simply about ridding communities of what urban planners and architects call “snout houses.”
“It’s about quality of life, eyes on the street and making sure that people could interact in their front yards,” Mr. Zehr said.
Kitchener is the latest example of Canadian municipalities launching attacks on the garage in an effort to create more livable, sustainable communities.
Avi Friedman, an architect, planner and professor at McGill University, said more towns and cities are taking their inspiration from places such as Bois-Franc in Montreal, Garrison Woods in Calgary and Cornell in Markham. They have attractive streetscapes with trees and porches, and few front-facing garages.
“When you build garages, what you get is not only an unpleasing building that looks at times like a car wash, you also create a situation by which a large segment of the sidewalk is paved — not leaving room for trees,” Mr. Friedman said.
“The street is, therefore, very dull. Developing something like this is an anti-social statement.”
Valerie Shuttleworth, director of planning and urban design in Markham said the town was one of the first in Greater Toronto to wage war on the garage.
In the mid-’90s, the town set limits on the size of garages and began developing communities with lanes to access detached garages behind houses.
She said she didn’t get to know her neighbours until she moved to an area without front-facing garages.
Going back to suburban development in the 1920s, garages or sheds were found at the back of the home, planning experts say.
As society increased its reliance on cars, the garage began to creep around to the front of the home.
As more households required multiple vehicles, the garage grew to two, three and four-doors. And as land values rose, people wanted to maximize space by building on top of and around the garage.
“What consumers wanted was the convenience of having a garage attached. They wanted to increase the size of the outdoor space at the back of the house for their enjoyment,” Douglas Stewart, president of the Waterloo Region Home Builders’ Association, said.
“It’s convenient, it’s efficient and it improves the overall urban design,” he said of front-facing garages.
With increasing restrictions on garages, some builders and real estate agents lament the reduction of choice for the consumer.
“If builders are coming forward with houses and designs, it’s because they’ve got a demand out there that they’re trying to meet,” said John Kenward of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association.
“It’s all very well for somebody to stand back and say, ‘Frankly, I don’t like the look of it,’ but … I think the customer has to have a say in this at the end of the day.”
Eastforest Homes Ltd. built 52 semi-detached homes with double garages in a Kitchener subdivision, which was the cause of concern for the city.
But Dave Steinbach, a real estate agent with Peak Realty in Kitchener, said the houses sold “like crazy.”
They cost about $217,000 each. A single detached home with a two-car garage in the same neighbourhood starts at $295,000, he said.
“Today everybody’s a two-car family,” he said. “The city tends to think you use your driveway for a car and the garage for a car. But unless you build a shed in your backyard, where do you put the lawnmower and the kids’ bikes?”
Kitchener tightened garage rules for single-family homes in 2000 (the width of a garage is limited to 70% of the home’s frontage) but did not include semi-detached homes until now.
As municipalities become stricter on what can be built, the building industry has had to modify how it designs homes.
Garages are being pushed back into the house; municipal planning departments need to be consulted on colour schemes for homes.
“They’ve turned the construction market upside down,” Mr. Steinbach said. “All these restrictions add to the final cost of the house.”
Restrictions are the result of municipalities learning to manage the pressures of growth and urbanization or communities being proactive in their planning, design experts say.
“If the Mayor of the community doesn’t think of himself as the chief urban designer of the city then no improvement is possible. It has to be led by the top echelons,” said Toronto-based architect Peter A. Gabor.
“You would be astonished at the range of measures that are controlling development all across the region. Council gets very inventive.”
But planning experts argue that if the goal is to create a better public realm, kicking massive, front-facing garages to the curb is a timid first step.
To reduce the focus on the car, local officials need to develop more compact communities, better public transit and live-work-play areas, Ms. Shuttleworth said. She added that Markham is planning a major employment centre near its Cornell community.
“This issue of the garage is really a symbol or a sign of a much deeper underlying problem,” said Ken Greenberg, a Toronto-based urban designer.
“At the rate Southern Ontario is growing, we have to find new paradigms of handling that…. I think there’s a huge pent-up desire in the public for alternatives to the conventional form of low-density sprawl.”
A visit to the Church of the Universe
To put some context to the latest local cartoon I feel compelled to explain who I placed in the position of God in my parody of Michelangelo’s famous painting “The Creation of Adam”. It’s Michael Baldasaro, and most Hamiltonians know who he is. For the record, here’s a photo essay I created after I was invited for a visit in February 2004.
An update on onetime federal PC leadership candidate, and mayoral candidate, the Rev. Michael Baldesaro, and his campaign manager, Brother Walter Tucker.
When you put the words “politics” and “Hamilton” together, the first name that springs to mind is Sheila Copps. But did you know that along with left leaning Coppsian politics, steeltown is also known for the political movement to legalize cannabis? The crusade has been led for years by the two founders from the Hamilton based Church of the Universe. On February 9, I was invited to their temple. Here is my photo essay:
The first thing one notices upon entering the temple is the high security system. Before being allowed in, I was observed from a closed circuit surveillance monitor. Following admittance, the door was secured behind me. Brother Michael tells me the building has been prey to trouble makers desiring free access to the church’s leafy sacrament.
That’s a George Foreman grill to the left of the door.
Once comfortably seated in the temple kitchen, Brother Walter spoke about previous busts, jail sentences, and court challenges, as Brother Michael rolled a joint.
And they worshipped the sacrament…
We talked about some of the cartoons I had drawn of them, and they presented me with a framed drawing I had done in May, 1999.
The brothers, also known for advocating naturism, lobbied the city to consider creating a nude beach at the edge of Hamilton Harbour. Brother Walter, pictured in the cartoon on the right, confided that the cartoon motivated him to lose weight.
I had them pose together with the cartoon:
After an hour and a half visit it was time to get back to the office. Brother Michael offered me a brownie cooked by members of the church’s ladies auxillary. Unfortunately, I had to decline consuming the brownie owing to the fact that I’ve been limiting my carbohydrate intake recently. He suggested I offer it to a colleague, and I obliged by handing it over to my office neighbour, The Spectator’s City columnist upon my return to the office. Then I got busted by my boss, the Editorial Pages Editor, a former RCMP officer, who interrogated me and my colleague before confiscating the baked good for disposal.
For more information, visit the Church of the Universe website at:
Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Friday May 26, 2006
Klein threatens to abandon equalization
Alberta would pull out of the federal equalization program rather than see the other provinces benefit from its oil and natural gas resources, Premier Ralph Klein said.
Klein said on Wednesday he’s ready to fight with the eastern provinces to keep Alberta’s resource revenues out of the equalization program, which sends federal money to poorer provinces so they can provide services such as health care.
At a meeting next month, other premiers are expected to suggest that Alberta’s oil revenues can be included in the calculations that determine how much cash each province gets from Ottawa.
“This is political showdown,” Klein said. “This is also a constitutional issue. Alberta has control and authorization and authority over its resources.”
And he said he’s willing to walk away from the program altogether.
But University of Alberta political scientist Steve Patten suggests Klein can’t really do that, and his bluster won’t go far among the premiers, even if it works to whip up long-standing anti-eastern sentiment among Albertans.
Equalization payments come from federal government revenues, such as federal income tax, not from Alberta’s bank accounts, Patten said. Pulling out, he said, would have no effect on the program. (Source: CBC News)