All posts by Adam Smith

Restore the Wards

Hello, my name is Adam Smith; lifelong Toronto resident, father, activist, and two-time candidate for Toronto councillor.  I created the Restore the Wards campaign to convince provincial parties and candidates that restoring Toronto’s wards prior to Ford’s 2018 mid-election slashing was an important issue in the 2022 Ontario election.  Sadly, it was not.

You know the elite have won when the people reject democracy. In 1975, two years into our last era of high inflation triggered by the OPEC oil crisis, Rockefeller and his fellow elites at the Trilateral Commission published a paper called “Crisis of Democracy”.  Do you know what they felt the crisis of democracy was?  An “excess of democracy”.  Yes, ironic as that sounds, they found that too many people exercising their democratic rights was interfering with the elite’s ability to impose their agenda.  Sounds diabolical?  It’s easily found:

The Crisis of Democracy

“some of the problems of governance in the United States today stem from an excess of democracy…  Needed, instead, is a greater degree of moderation in democracy…  the effective operation of a democratic political system usually requires some measure of apathy and non-involvement on the part of some individuals and groups.”

47 years later and it would seem they’ve accomplished their goal.  Voter turnout for the provincial election was an all-time record low at 43%.  With Ford getting 40.88% of the popular vote that means 17.58% of eligible voters gave Ford 100% of the power.  Due to the distortions of our archaic first-past-the-post electoral system, the NDP had just shy of quadruple the number of seats of the Liberals, and yet the Liberals had more of the popular vote, while the PCs now have a super majority, controlling over 66% of seats.

The Restore the Wards campaign was a dismal failure.  Not only did it not pick up steam with the public, very few candidates beyond the NDP pledged to restore the wards, and only two Liberals and nearly a dozen Greens pledged.  From reactions on social media I can tell you that the majority of people seem to think less democracy is a good thing, that less politicians is always a move in the right direction. 

Cynicism and distrust is super high, people who complain about never being heard and having no say are ironically clamouring for less representation and more concentration of power.  And whether they realize it or not, that means they are asking for even more elite and unaccountable politicians, because with larger wards it will be even harder for someone lesser known and independent to ever get a foothold  against a candidate with elite connections and a deep election war chest.  City hall will become even more overtly partisan.

The longer Toronto stays in 25 wards the more likely it will remain this way, and we will continue to have the least amount of municipal representation for a city our size in the developed world.  It’s always been obvious to some that we don’t actually live in a free and democratic society, that ultimately the elite run the show and we’re all just along for the ride.  Unfortunately more people are finally waking up to that reality, it’s just too late to do anything about it.

It’s a shame to end this campaign on such a sour note.  I truly believed what Ford did to Toronto was a travesty and an attack on democracy, but very few seem to agree, and so many seem not to care.  Which is exactly where the elite want us.  They strived for “apathy and non-involvement”, now it’s clear they have it. 

I will continue trying to fight for increased democracy and a more equitable society, I encourage others to do so too, but the elite have the public so well-divided and thinking only of themselves that such a goal seems ever more a fantasy.  Stay well everyone…

Adam Smith, 21st Century

The bedfellows of development and neoliberal ideology

This article was so incredibly off-base in so many regards it requires a whole blog post to debunk it. It is rife with pro-developer neoliberal ideology, and one of the sources is quite surprising (ie disappointing).

It’s not clear if the author is 1) just reporting what these “experts” have told her completely oblivious to the fact they’re feeding her neoliberal propaganda and that it’s one-sided, or 2) she’s aware of the neoliberal bias because she shares it and is knowingly offering a slanted perspective, or 3) she is just talking to the people she was told to talk to and reporting on the subject she was told to report on and her only option to balance the information was the comment on investors at the end. Here is the article in question:

How Canada’s new immigration targets will help housing recover — and push prices higher long-term

I will go quote by quote debunking this claptrap…

“A record number of immigrants are slated to arrive in Canada over the next three years, potentially lifting the housing market from its current slump by bolstering home prices long-term and labour shortages in the sector, economists say.”

A record number of immigrants… only because the feds are opening that gate as wide as possible in a misguided attempt to feed the destructive and unsustainable growth economy. And anyone who’s done any deeper reading on economics knows it’s all just made up, economists live in a fantasy world of their own devising, with formulas that never match up to reality and teachings that are no more than neoliberal ideology in service to the wealthy elite. There was not one heterodox voice in the article.

Lifting the housing market from its current slump… a slump that is both natural and unable to be controlled. It is natural because of “secular stagnation“, a natural plateauing of the economy. This has happened before in the early 70s, right before our last inflationary storm triggered by the OPEC oil crisis. The slump is unable to be controlled because it’s less about a lack of housing demand than it is about the skyrocketing costs of labour (low supply) and inflation and supply chain issues of materials (high costs and low supply). These cost-raising variables make new builds a non-starter for developers, and no amount of new immigrants will change those issues.

Bolstering home prices in the long term… is desirable WHY? It’s desirable to existing homeowners worried about their equity, especially those foolish enough to have taken a new mortgage in an incredibly over-priced market the last couple years, but does nothing to counter the previously mentioned reality: THAT WE HAVE AN INCREDIBLY OVER-PRICED HOUSING MARKET. It’s quite the irony when you have politicians lamenting how unaffordable housing is yet they wish to maintain high housing prices.

Labour shortages… so we’re depending on new Canadians to build our new housing? We’ve got all kinds labour shortages in far more crucial areas (like healthcare) but the hope is that new Canadians can fill the gap in house building? Considering we don’t recognize most education from abroad I guess it’s fitting we expect new Canadians to take lower skill harder labour jobs upon arriving here. The irony is these new Canadians will be building the very rent traps that will ensure the immigrants that follow may never own property.

“But Canada’s already strained housing stock will struggle to keep pace with swelling demand.”

Um, yeah, BECAUSE THE FEDS ARE CONSCIOUSLY CRANKING UP IMMIGRATION TO FEED THAT DEMAND. It kills me how they make immigration seem like some kind of inevitable unstoppable wave of people we must prepare for, instead of acknowledging the reality that immigration is a POLICY CHOICE, and if it’s moving faster than we can absorb then the feds can just turn down the taps and let us catch up a little.

But they won’t do that because of the aforementioned secular stagnation, policymakers keep sticking to the inherently unsustainable growth economy model to which secular stagnation is kryptonite, and rather than transition into a non-growth economy that could handle the so-called stagnation, they keep doubling down on growth. The question is, is that because of a total lack of imagination, or because only the growth economy feeds the profits of the elite?

“A revamped skilled-immigration system will help target candidates with the required skills and qualifications in sectors facing acute labour shortages — such as health care, manufacturing, building trades and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).”

So, rather than train or retrain under/unemployed Canadians, we’ll rely on people coming from afar to fill these gaps. I’m not anti-immigration, but I do have qualms with not expanding our native supply of skilled labour in favour of importing it.

“Adding newcomers skilled in building and construction will help boost housing supply, said Robert Hogue, a senior economist with the Royal Bank of Canada.

“Right now we don’t have nearly enough construction workers in the market to build the amount of housing we need, so this could be a significant help in the market,” he said.”

The amount of housing WE need? “We” meaning developers, investors, and banks, Canada has more vacant units than homeless people, the housing we existing Canadians need already exists, it’s just controlled by parasites. And even with housing every homeless person, we have ample vacant supply left, it’s just being sat on by investors and speculators.

“Ricardo Tranjan, senior researcher at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, agreed that immigration is necessary to generate economic growth, which can be done by building more homes.”

This was the disappointment, I guess the CCPA has gone full neoliberal now if they’re blindly supporting the environmental destructiveness of the growth economy and development. The irony is that they’re supposed to the the Centre for Policy ALTERNATIVES, not parroting neoliberal ideology. This reminds me a bit of the co-opting of the NDP and Greens to neoliberal interests, they had to in order to get more donations from deeper pockets. Being “progressive” in the developed world really only means being nice about things, it does not mean challenging neoliberalism and the growth economy, that’s heresy!

“Long-term, population growth also boosts home prices and values, which may help to bring the real estate market out of its slump”

I won’t bother repeating what I said above about home prices in an inflated market and secular stagnation, but I will add that we have come to rely too heavily on development for economic growth. The last few years housing’s share of GDP has grown 5 times faster than the rest of GDP. That’s a warning sign, a risk factor that we’re putting too many of our economic eggs in the housing basket.

And if we keep relying too heavily on housing to buoy up the economy eventually those chickens will come home to roost and the economy will crash simply because we couldn’t just keep adding people and housing forever. What happens to all those companies and workers that sprang up to build homes when there simply isn’t any more demand? Policymakers seem willfully oblivious to the fact that population growth the world ’round is slowing, the secular stagnation is a result of this.

“With the cost of borrowing spiking, most newcomers will likely rent upon arrival and try to purchase a home later on. (Skyrocketing rent prices could also make it difficult for newcomers to save to buy a home, Tranjan added.)”

That’s the whole plan, investors buy the housing and rent to new Canadians. It’s not at all about new Canadians ever owning, it’s about investors making permanent renters out of them. They even state the irony right there, that high rents (unreasonably high, primarily from our almost complete lack of rent controls) will prevent home ownership.

“The housing market is expected to crash — with home prices forecast to drop by at least 30 per cent by spring of 2023 — offering some relief for newcomers who are able to purchase upon arrival. “

This is wishful thinking at best, and at worst, either naivete or just plain propaganda. What we’ve seen so far with housing sales dipping is not so much a lowering of prices but rather a delisting of units. People are not going to sell at a loss, or even at a lower price than the peak, they are going to wait it out, we’re already seeing this. And with competition high, whether from existing or new Canadians, and distorting things like blind bidding still in place, there is little reason to believe house prices will really lower that much.

““Hopefully, cooler inflation will allow mortgage rates to ease in 2024, and open up a window that allows some now waiting on the sidelines to jump in,” he said.”

The only ones waiting on the sidelines who will get their chance are investors, because they have the collateral of existing homes to ensure the best buying price and the easiest-to-obtain mortgage. Banks will always be eager to give new mortgages to existing owners over new ones because the risk is less. It’s not potential homeowners competing with other potential homeowners, it’s investors competing with potential homeowners and other investors.

“While it’s unlikely the GTA and Vancouver will see prices drop drastically enough to ensure home ownership is affordable, it may force newcomers to locate to other parts of Canada that have historically seen less settlement, alleviating pressure from the country’s core urban centres, said RBC’s Hogue.”

EVERYONE knows this is a load of hooey, that’s why they keep pushing for ultra-density in urban centers, because they KNOW the vast majority of immigrants all move to the city. No new Canadian is going to realize the big city is all full up and then take the risk and move to some white-bread podunk small town where they know no one and no one speaks their language, follows their religion, or has the same colour skin as them. Not gonna happen, sadly they will sooner just all pile into the same cramped apartments as they historically always have been. That inequitable dynamic is precisely why COVID hit low income immigrants harder than every demographic except the elderly.

“Record-levels of immigration will strain the limited housing stock in Canada — forcing all levels of government to push harder on building more housing supply.”

To reiterate, this sounds like immigration is inevitable and unpreventable, instead of the reality it is a POLICY CHOICE BY THE FEDS. The only reason this is being forced is because of their desperation to keep afloat the growth economy and their inability (or unwillingness) to accept that the growth economy couldn’t last forever and we desperately need to transition into a sustainable circular economy. If record levels of immigration are going to cause strain then just TURN IT DOWN A NOTCH.

“Toronto will be expected to build 285,000 additional units by 2032. It’s a lofty goal to build on average 150,000 houses a year, since the largest number of annual housing starts since 1987 has been 100,000.”

So, is this policy aspirational… or completely irrational? If in our best times of ideal conditions we could only build about 100K, how in this inflationary environment of high interest rates and labour shortages will we ever manage 50% more than that? I’d like to know who ultimately is pushing this insanity? Is it a small collection of powerful players, or is there some collective neoliberal delusion going on here?

““Having so many immigrants come puts pressure on all three levels of government to continue to remove obstacles to help housing construction and to prioritize supply,” Hogue said.”

And by extension worsen all the emissions and environmental impacts of development. But the government doesn’t like to talk about that. And, again, the feds are putting that pressure on themselves, it’s endogenous not exogenous, these aren’t floods of refugees uncontrollably spilling across our borders, the feds control the taps.

“In the GTA, a record number of condo units were build in the third quarter of 2022 and new condos that started construction were up 45 per cent year-over-year, a new Urbanation report found. This provides more rental units and opportunity for those looking to enter the real estate market.

“In fact, lack of supply isn’t only to blame, he added. There has been outsized demand in the pandemic due to historically low interest rates, resulting in ballooning investor demand.”

And therein lies the rub, they have inadvertently revealed the neoliberal truth: new condos are NOT about owners, they are meant to be bought by investors to rent out. This is NOT what condos were originally intended for, if the intent is to supply renters with housing then we should be building RENTALS, not condos for investors to build equity on the backs of renters.

Now that interest rates have risen quickly, investor demand has dampened, hopefully opening the doors for first-time home buyers and newcomers.

As previously mentioned, this is more wishful thinking/naivete/propaganda. Investors have more collateral than first-time homebuyers and newcomers, who will be paying the same rates as investors. Banks will ALWAYS favour investors.

““Once the froth is taken out of the market from investors it will offer relief to those who need housing the most,” Porter said.”

Ironically, or possibly a conscious decision by the author, it ends on a note of truth, that the real problem in the housing market, the “froth” so to speak, is the actions of parasitic investors.

This disappointing and highly biased article is nothing more than neoliberal propaganda, and a textbook example of how Big Media indoctrinates the public into neoliberal ideology. People read this, and read all those quotes from “experts” (many of whom I’m sure are oblivious to the fact they are experts in an invented false reality catering to the interests of corporations and wealthy elite), and they believe it, mainly because no alternative perspective is EVER given in mainstream media. And the few publications that do offer an alternative explanation do not have the clout, reach, and air of respectability that Big Media does, and so do not resonate with the public.

Unless and until the public starts searching for truth beyond the propaganda of Big Media, we will collectively be beholden to the unsustainable destructiveness of neoliberal ideology until it is the ruin of us all. And by then there will be no websites or social media left for me to say, “I told you so.”

Adam Smith, 21st Century

Sept 10, 2022 10am-11:30am Meet & Greet in Woodbine Park

 Join mayoral candidate Sarah Climenhaga and Ward 19 council candidate Adam Smith on Saturday September 10th at 10 am, we’ll be meeting by the bandstand. Other mayoral candidates and council candidates have been invited and will be added to the event description as they confirm. #voteoctober24

For more information on who the candidates in attendance are:

Facebook event:

Sapphira: Surprise Activist Extraordinaire

I’ve been doing volunteer work and activism for a decade now, but my wife Sapphira Charles’ newfound activism is putting me to shame.  It’s been very encouraging watching her go from 0 to 100 in the space of a couple months, and becoming a voice in our community and someone to rally around.  Through her actions the last few months I’ve witnessed such a saga of both devastating racism, alive and well at home and abroad in 2020, and uplifting unity and humanity, as our communities came together in support.

My wife had never attended a protest or rally before this year, but CoVID had us all reevaluating our lives and she felt moved by all the furor around the injustice of George Floyd’s murder. Her first ever march was the Black Lives Matter march downtown on May 30, 2020. Well that seemed to light a spark inside her and fostered a newfound solidarity with her fellow black community.

Then a woman from the Beaches decided to have a Black Lives Matter march for George Floyd.  Well, being a white woman, she thought she’d best practise some due diligence and contact our closest BLM group.  This happened to be a Toronto student group of BLM (BLM across the continent is not a cohesive centrally-controlled group) who strangely told the woman NOT to have the protest. 

For some reason they felt being a white woman in a predominantly white neighbourhood that she should not lead the protest march, even going so far as to suggest a white neighbourhood was not the place for it.  They also indicated in general BLM groups are discouraging protests because of the potential for violent opposition from white power groups.  But that’s an issue happening in the US, nowhere in Canada has seen such developments.  However, feeling it wasn’t her place, she cancelled the march.

Well my wife would have none of it!  I had helped Sapphira prepare for the protest, lending her my reusable protest sign (dry erase marker on corrugated plastic, sturdy and you can reuse forever) and she was all geared up to go and totally deflated when it was cancelled via Instagram a mere 2 hours before the event. 

We both agreed that a predominantly white neighbourhood is precisely where a march is needed, and if being led by a black person was what was missing, Sapphira surely fit the bill.  So she jumped on it, communicated with the woman who was going to run it, re-promoted the event, and together we whipped up some speeches and devised some chants.  In the space of two hours she went from being about to attend her second protest march ever to leading her first protest ever.

Sapphira did really well, surprising herself and me with her orating.  She spoke strongly, with passion and intensity.  Most people would not have guessed she’s a hard core introvert who detests public speaking.  Arriving at the Kew Gardens gazebo at the end of march, a few people said some words and shared their stories, and gave thanks to my wife for ensuring the march stayed alive.  Beach Metro covered it here. But as the march was so last minute many people were clamouring for another one so they could attend too.

Photo by Shah Ruby

So began my wife’s foray into full-blown activism.  She set up another protest, started the Facebook group #BeachersforBlackLives, and we started preparing.  This time we were going to get my parents to watch our toddler son, he didn’t last really well through the first one.  Sapphira wrote a more comprehensive speech, we procured a megaphone, and she formally organized speakers this time.

The first protest maybe had a hundred+ people, the second was definitely 300+ and a smashing success.  After safely marching the same route, from Williamson Rd school, down Glen Manor, across the boardwalk, and up to Kew Gardens gazebo, the speakers related their own very personal experiences with racism, some of whom grew up in the Beaches and suffered through racist incidents here.  It was a very powerful display, and speakers couldn’t thank my wife enough for the opportunity to speak their truth to an attentive sympathetic audience.

Well, I should have known that wasn’t the end of my wife’s budding activism.  Motivated by the growing membership of the Facebook group and making connections in the racialized community of East York, she found herself being invited to talk at other events and participate in other groups.

A horrible racist incident happened in Dentonia Park, when an interracial couple were assaulted and called racist insults by a disgruntled white man.  If that wasn’t bad enough, the police refused to investigate the assault.  So another protest sprung up in front of 55 Division, and they asked Sapphira to speak.  She gave another rousing speech and further entrenched herself as a local activist.

But it doesn’t end there!  A new Instagram group sprung up, seeming to mirror the #BeachersforBlackLives Facebook group, and was holding their own protest starting at Leuty Lifeguard house.  Sapphira was a bit confused at this seeming competing group, and couldn’t understand who they were or why they wanted to hold yet a third protest march in the area. 

Upon investigating the group she found out it was a couple of young female students who used to live in the area and they had no idea there was another group or that previous protests had happened.  In fact, they seemed to start the whole thing on a lark and weren’t sure how to organize their march.  Cue Sapphira, in for the save again.

Due to my extensive experience with protests and rallies I kept asking Sapphira questions about the plans for the protest, and found the students had never really done anything like this before.  Sapphira took the reins a bit, coached them in some of the details they needed to cover, and even arranged for the police to escort the march down Queen St. 

The young women, well-meaning to be sure, never thought to request a police escort, yet were planning to block Queen St to march the entire length of the Beaches from Woodbine to RC Harris.  Despite being rookies off to a shaky start, with my wife’s help the young protesters managed to get even more solidarity out of the Beaches.

At this point Sapphira was firmly on the inside of black activism in the Beaches.  She was part of the Community Solidarity Against Racism in Construction (CSARC) conversations about the nooses left on the construction site of Michael Garron Hospital, eventually culminating in a zoom call with the mayor.

Side note, when Ellis Don erected a plaque claiming a “commitment to inclusive diversity” I immediately looked on their website to see just how “diverse” their company was and created the following graphic to expose their hypocrisy:

Sapphira also joined the steering committee planning an event in Dentonia Park to counter the racist assault incident there.  If only this story ended here, but racism reared its ugly head in our neighbourhood again.

A young black boy playing with a Nerf gun in Ivan Forrest Gardens on Queen St had the police called on him.  Eight officers stormed the small park, startling and shocking the boy and his mother.  They referred to the boy as a “suspect”, but then thankfully backed down quickly when they saw the truth. 

The real question is:  how does anyone mistake an 11-yr old boy with a neon Nerf gun as some kind of armed threat?  A police officer in my family suggested the police should look into charges of public mischief and coveting a false message by means of telecommunications for the caller.  The police have been investigating, and have identified the caller as someone local.  I’d just love to have the person outed and shamed to the point they never show their racism again for fear of the public outcry.

Another local black mom who was appalled by the story decided to hold a Nerf gun fight in the park to show just how silly the 911 call was.  My wife followed it up the next week with a dance party!  “Love in the Park” is all about dancing out our fears and embracing love, showing solidarity and respect for each other in the most universal way humans interact with music.  Global was there and she got on the 6:00 news.

Not long after came the Dentonia Park event.  My wife wanted to do some artivism for the event, some kind of banner with a message, and my suggestion was put up some treated plywood on the fence ringing the park, put a message in masking tape, have the community paint over it, and then reveal the message.  Well the event kinda took a few twists and turns, there was a lot of discussion on where to hold the event (Dentonia Park is large) and decisions about appropriate materials, and in the end it was done on Tyvek that had grommets added to it.  Not the ideal material to attach to a fence on a windy day but in the end it held up and the result was quite stunning.

Well the banners didn’t last 24 hours, the next day they were completely ripped off and found in a nearby dumpster.  The organizers banded together and put them up a second time, just to have them ripped apart and scattered this time.  At first it seemed like a hateful response to the messages of love, but it turns out the fence they used was part of a cricket field, and the posters blocked the view for spectators that would use the benches there.  So it’s impossible to say who trashed it when for what reason, but at least we have all the pictures and video to remember it by. Now Sapphira is heading the permanent art installation/mural for Reclaim Dentonia, and also a jury member for the Leuty Boathouse mural project.

The past few months has seen Beaches-East York prove that when racism rears its ugly head, and it still frequently does, we band together against it.  My wife has found her voice in the tumult, and with the help of allies they are uniting more and more people. Let’s keep up the pressure and good vibes and ensure that it’s clear the Beaches will NOT tolerate racism, bigotry, or discrimination.

Adam Smith

Mask Hysteria

Below is the letter I wrote to City Council expressing my concerns about the mask law and the behaviour it is encouraging.


I’m writing to City Council hoping to address my deepening concern that the new mask rules seem to be fueling discriminatory behaviour and that they do not conform to the recommendations of Sick Kids Hospital.

Sick Kids Hospital recommends that masks not be mandatory for children under 5:  “Masking for children depends on many factors, including age, ability, willingness and safety. In general, we will mask patients age 6 and older, but if your child is not able or willing to wear a mask, then they will not have to do so…  Masks should not generally be used for children under age 6 who are not able to understand how to wear a mask or communicate if they become distressed.”  Not only is it difficult to explain to a toddler why you want them to wear a mask, it’s impossible to get a resistant toddler to wear one.  And people are discriminating against my son and refusing him healthcare because of it.  I apologize for the length of this email, but I felt it prudent to include some examples of this growing pattern of disturbing behaviour.

On June 15, a mere 5 days after his 3rd birthday and a couple weeks before the mask rules came into effect, the receptionist of an eye doctor in our neighbourhood denied my son’s appointment because my wife could not get him to wear a mask.  For days my son had an ongoing redness in an eye that soon spread to the other eye, so by remote our family doctor got us a referral to a local eye doctor.  Upon seeing my son without a mask, the receptionist refused to let him in.  My wife tried to get our rambunctious willful toddler to wear a mask, to no avail, and the receptionist would not allow him to see the doctor.  Our family doctor said this was not appropriate, and then directed us to Sick Kids’ recommendation.

People are feeling empowered to impose their subjective extreme interpretation of proper mask behaviour on others, and it’s becoming a common occurrence to see employees of businesses exercising what they see as lawful authority over others.  There seems to be a new culture budding, where fanatical mask wearers feel fully justified in forcing others to conform not to the law, but to their personal preferred behaviour.   The bylaw states that employees must be “trained in the requirements of the policy and this By-law” but from my observations that does not seem to be the case.

An increasingly common encounter is the employee keen to pounce on anything they see as a violation and eager to deny service if a person does not conform to their interpretation of mask laws.  Like the ice cream store clerk who, despite my wife and I wearing masks, immediately pounced and tried to deny my son entry for not wearing one, until her manager told her it’s ok, he’s too young.  Or the cashier at Metro last weekend, where I’ve been shopping throughout the lockdown, for the first ever not allowing me to bag my groceries while he was working the cash.

I knew the routine.  I can’t put my reusable bags onto the counter, I must take the groceries and bag them in my cart.  But then he told me I couldn’t do that.  Confused, I asked why?  He said because if I bag my groceries I will be less than 2 metres from him.  Even though it would be barely within 2 metres, I said that’s what mask wearing is for, for situations when social distancing is difficult.  He said it doesn’t matter, this is for his safety.  I told him COVID is not like fleas, it can’t just jump off of me, we’re both wearing masks and I wasn’t even facing in his direction at all.  It mattered not, not only did he refuse to let me bag my groceries, he then dictated where I was to stand.  While I waited I read the posted store policy on social distancing and masks, and nowhere did it indicate any policy on bagging groceries.  I asked him about this, he admitted it’s not store policy, it’s HIS policy.  Then while I bagged my groceries, with my back to him, he stood aside from the cash as if getting any closer was going to infect him.

There clearly is a lack of education on the purpose of mask-wearing and an ignorance of how the virus spreads, and it would seem many people do not see masks as protecting others, but incorrectly as protecting themselves.  How else do you explain the very frequent sight of people walking alone outdoors in the blazing heat, no one else around for blocks, wearing a mask?  Or people who are obviously not cab or Uber drivers wearing a mask while alone in their car, often with the windows rolled up?  Or cyclists wearing masks as they zoom by people at +20km/hr?  There seems to be an impression amongst people that COVID can be easily caught in the air, even outdoor air, as opposed to being spread primarily by close contact with an infected individual indoors.

Governments, especially our provincial one, were quick to whip up hysteria in order to scare enough people to elicit a critical mass of compliant behaviour to quell the spread.  And quell the spread we did, the mask laws were ironically put in place after our numbers started bottoming out.  But now there seems to be no action to dispel the panic, in fact the new mask laws seem only to add to it.  People are getting all kinds of erroneous ideas in their heads and there seems to be no action to counter it, so they continue behaving in an extreme fashion while believing they are the reasonable ones.

There is a very strange combination of paranoia and power-tripping going on, and people seem to feel fully empowered and justified in this behaviour.  The lockdown has already had detrimental effects on mental health, was there any consideration given to the psychological and social consequences of enshrining into law a culture of mask wearing?  Was there any thought that this will empower the ignorant to force others to their preferred behaviour?  What happens if after the law is lifted some businesses decide to keep the requirement in place? 

Here’s an extreme but plausible example of how this discrimination could become a serious problem:  A low income single mother, who can’t find anyone to watch her child and can’t afford a food delivery service, needs to go to the grocery store.  But her toddler won’t wear a mask.  Well now every business is fully justified in denying her entry, and her and her toddler go hungry until they can convince someone to shop for them.  And as pretty much all our businesses are private, they have the right to deny entry.  Or what about someone who truly cannot wear a mask, or the other exemptions in the bylaw that require no proof they are exempt?  Businesses seem to have the right to deny ANYONE, including valid exemptions.  This is the culture I see breeding, a culture of division between hysterical mask wearers and everyone else who doesn’t conform to their ideology of mask-wearing and social distancing protocol.

The questions I have for city council are:

  • Will Council amend the law to conform to the age recommendations of Sick Kids Hospital?
  • Will Council put out more public education about the science of virus spread and mask-wearing, and also information requesting businesses not to discriminate based on subjective interpretations of mask-wearing protocols?
  • Is there to be any recourse for people denied by businesses unfairly discriminating against them or enforcing an extreme interpretation of mask laws?
  • If Toronto’s numbers continue on a downward trajectory, will council consider lifting the law before the Sept 30 expiry?

I know there’s a lot of paranoia about a second wave and all efforts are meant to prevent that.  But there’s a larger picture on the ground that is emerging, and it’s tearing at the very fabric of society.  We cannot allow mask laws to become a justification for the fanatical to impose their will on anyone who does not behave as fanatically as they do.  I hope Council will give the unintended repercussions of this law closer consideration, and will ensure it cannot be used to unfairly discriminate against people.

Thank you,

Adam Smith