Posted by: Kiersten | October 20, 2009

Ukee vs. the Big Smoke: A totally biased contrast of news articles.

Over the past four months, while Kat & I have researched the business prospects and planned our transplantation, I’ve been reading a lot of Ukee news. Sometimes I tune into CBC Victoria, sometimes CBC Toronto. Sometimes I read the Westcoaster, sometimes the Toronto Star. You can’t help but compare.

Toronto is in a huff right now over the prospect that will not die: A highway to Toronto Island. The Toronto Island is one of the last truly pretty places in the GTA, and you can get there by public transit. There are three lovely beaches to bask upon. The Island has been my little nature retreat.

Why do they want cars on the Island? They want to expand the Island airport. So not only will you have cars and smog on the island, you’ll have commercial air planes jolting you from you nap in the sand and drowning out your conversation with your friends at an impromptu picnic.

The prospectors were trying to get a bridge to the island built about 8 years ago. They were smacked down by newly elected mayor who was brought to power by a mass of outraged Torontonians. People said the bridge would be an eyesore and an obstacle for shipping vessels.

Well now the bridge has risen again, but in the form of a tunnel. An underground bowel. The tunnel-pushers argue that the tunnel is COMPLETELY DIFFERENT from the bridge, never mind the environmental nightmare to built it.

All I know is, once you start allowing general traffic on the Island, it’s ALL OVER. The Torontonian’s last refuge away from smog and traffic noise will have died an undignified death.

Toronto’s roads and highways are the strands on this spider’s web. Sometimes home, sometimes a terrifying trap. While the GTA is packed with the swirling intestines of Ontario, Vancouver Island has only one two-lane road going East to West, providing road access to Ucluelet and Tofino.

This road was not even paved until the 1980s, and only then was the glorified logging road renamed Highway 4. It’s not really a highway by Ontario standards though. In many places the speed limit is 30 km/h. The blind switchbacks snaking up the mountainside make safe passing impossible, so drivers are expected to use courtesy “pull outs” – paved sections on the side of the road where you are to pull over and allow more experienced drivers to pass.

Highway 4 is as far as you can get from the 401. Oh, and it still floods out on a pretty regular basis:

Toronto’s Mayor David Miller has really made an effort to make Toronto a greener city. He has pushed to get 70% of Toronto’s garbage diverted from landfills into recycling plants. Well, never mind that Toronto ships it’s recycling to Asia to be sorted, burdening the environmentally-friendly recycling program with a heavy carbon price tag. It’s the thought that counts, right?

Another recent brainwave was to build a wind farm on the Scarborough Bluffs. The Bluffs is one of the few pretty places left in Scarborough, and it’s a marvel. The side of the bluffs reveals over 500 MILLION years of the earth’s history. You can count the ages in the horizontal stripes on the hillside. It’s full of fossils of ancient sea creatures that pre-date any earthling with a spine. But never mind, let’s build over 400 windmills on it and block it off from public access. It’s not even a particularly windy place. Naturally, the residents were outraged:

Now, I really think Ukee deserves to brag about this – Ucluelet has sustainable energy policies, and has begun to participate in wave energy research. The town’s won awards for this sort of thing:

How is it Ucluelet can get it’s shit together about this and Toronto can’t? Too many short-sighted cooks in the kitchen, chopping each other’s fingers off for political gain? I don’t know.

In 2002, Toronto’s city employees went on strike. Garbage festered on every curbside for weeks. Rats prospered and multiplied. Now it looks like the garbage strike is becoming an tradition of contract negotiation; it happened again in 2009.

It’s almost November and we’re still seeing wasps.

And there’s Ukee, sitting in smug contrast on the other side of the country. If Ucluelet had a garbage strike, it wouldn’t be possums and rats taking over the parks, it would be black bears. Dozens of black bears would become accustomed to humans, and learn to associate green garbage bins with food. They would have to be shot if they start seeking people out. This is why Ucluelet developed it’s award-winning bear-proof garbage management system.

I don’t know how this is going to work – I guess we’ll find out. I know you’re not supposed to store garbage outside, and in some places you’re advised to freeze your food scraps until pickup day. There is no outdoor composting. Learning to live with bears is a skill Kat & I will have to acquire.

And then there’s crime. Obviously, Toronto has more violent crime than a teeny town of population 2,000. But the contrast is still funny:

The Toronto Don Jail is so over-crowded, the prison guards walked out in protest:

Ucluelet doesn’t have a jail; instead, trouble-makers are told to get outta town by sundown!

We don’t want to see yer face in these here parts again!

And the pot. We Canadians just love our pot. Every time there’s a news article about a bust on CBC radio, pages of comments spread out demanding “LEGALIZE IT!” Everyone has different reasons for wanting decriminalization.

Torontonians want illegal grow-ops out of their suburban neighbourhoods, because it pulls down the value of real estate in the area. Besides, the tax revenue on regulated grow-ops could provide property tax relief: class=”hiddenSpellError” pre=””>canada/toronto/story/2009/10/06/marijuana-bust.html

When a huge grow-op hidden in the bush near Ucluelet was busted, you could just hear the collective groan. Disappointed stoners posted comments to the Westcoaster article “We can’t buy local anymore!” “Aww, dude! HARSH!”

North of Ucluelet, Tofino has some interesting news stories too.  This fall a missing surfer was found after an extensive (and expensive) search when she showed up back home after disappearing for several days (without telling anyone or notifying her workplace.)  Turns out she had been meditating in the bush.

Just google “Toronto” and “Missing” for the GTA’s current list of hijacks and kidnappings.

In Tofino a crime spree involves breaking windows of cars to steal change and CDs, stealing propane tanks and marine gasoline.  The teenage suspects are chased by flip-flop wearing locals, who find the string of thefts to be “a real drag.” 

In Toronto, the municipal police allegedly indulged in their own crime spree and there is an ongoing investigation by the RCMP:  Isn’t there some saying about the inmates taking over the asylum?

There’s another saying: You can judge a society by how it treats the vulnerable. Well this last contrast is quite telling.

Warning – this next article details some nasty cases of animal abuse by, wait for it, the Toronto HUMANE SOCIETY. Outraged Torontonians have organized protests and the OSPCA is investigating the Toronto Humane Society. Toronto city council asserts it can not do anything about it.

Meanwhile in Ucluelet, citizens of Vancouver Island are organizing petitions and letter-writing campaigns so that the crazy lady can keep her deer!

And the Ucluelet Mayor heads a coalition to support her!

I don’t mean to idealize Ucluelet, I know that small towns have their own set of problems.  But after 10 years in the big smoke, I need to be in a place where the local news makes me laugh and not cry.


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