Circus At The Levant

“Being a Jew isn’t like being Black or being gay or being a woman, or even Israeli where many Jews come from. Being a Jew is a choice, like being a Blood or Crip.

Jews are the medieval prototype of the Occupy Wall Street movement; a shiftless group of hobo’s that doesn’t believe in property rights for themselves – they’re nomads – or for others.  They rob people blind.

Jew is a culture synonymous with swindlers.  The phrase Jew and cheater have been so interchangeable historically that the word has entered the English language as a verb.  He ‘jewed’ me.

Well the Jews have ‘jewed’ us.

This scourge has come to Canada as false refugees, here to jew us again, to rob us blind, as they have done in the Middle East for centuries.”

In September 2012, the star of a Canada’s “most controversial news channel” took to the air, refused to be cowed by those who’d surely “blow (their) hate crime whistle,” and proudly read what is arguably the most racist, offensive monologue the news channel has aired to date.

And for a network whose very existence depends on fomented outrage, that’s saying something.

Impossible, you might think. Surely if any network, particularly one billing itself as “Canada’s home for hard news and straight talk,” aired such a repulsive screed, Canadians, who’d never stand for such intolerance, would be up in arms, calling for the censure of the network; the termination of the news personality in question.

Or at least, being Canadian and all, would politely request an apology.

Indeed, you’d be right. The excerpt seen above has been altered ever-so-slightly: The word Gypsy replaced with Jew; gypped with jewed; Europe with Middle East.

Are you still repulsed?

The network in question, Sun News, and the personality, Ezra Levant, certainly had no qualms about what aired.

In fact, it wasn’t until Kory Teneycke, former spokesperson for Prime Minister Stephen Harper and current Vice President of Sun News, was pleading to the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council for his networks’ inclusion in basic cable packages across the country – a full six months after the segment aired – that Levant expressed any reservations about that episode, prompting a surprise on-air apology, followed by a farcical you’ve-been-a-naughty-boy! finger-wagging from Teneycke for good measure.

Should you think the apology was at all sincere and unrelated to Sun News’ application to the CBSC, consider that shortly after the original broadcast, a joint op-ed from three respected, influential Jewish figures – former CEO of Canadian Jewish Congress Bernie Farber,  Holocaust survivor Nate Leipciger, and president of Ve’ahavta: The Canadian Jewish Humanitarian and Relief Committee Avrum Rosensweig – appeared in the National Post, condemning Levant’s “contemptible screed;” Noting that, just as the Jews were targeted during the Holocaust, so too were the Roma.

“There is even a Roma proverb that speaks of Jews and Roma trudging to the gas chambers together,” wrote Farber et al. “Andje jekh than hamisajlo amaro vushar ande’l bova: ‘Our ashes are mingled in the ovens’.”

What was Levant’s response to Farber, a man Levant has never shied away from sparring in the past? Absolute silence.

Though, after the apology, Levant was back to lobbing insults, calling Farber a “self-hating Jew,” a “censor and a liar”, and “too stupid to really be Jewish.”

You see, Levant likes to style himself the ultimate defender of all things Jewish; the decider of who qualifies as a ‘real’ Jew, the exposer of traitors and pretenders, labeling anyone who dares cross him, a “jew-hater.”

And, as evidenced by his attacks on Farber, not even fellow Jews are safe from Levant’s  nonsense.

In 2010, Levant penned an atrocious, ripped-from-the-furthest-corners-of-the-conservative-conspiratorial-blogosphere column for The Sun chain of papers titled Moral Hollowness At Work in which he, in great detail, slandered philanthropist Geroge Soros – a favorite boogyman of the American far right fringe – alleging, among other things, that Soros, a Hungarian Jew who survived the Holocaust, was secretly a “Nazi collaborator (who) turned on other Jews to spare himself.”

After Soros threatened both Levant and Sun Media with a hefty lawsuit, both a retraction and apology were issued, reading, in part:

“A column by Ezra Levant contained false statements about George Soros and his conduct as a young teenager in Nazi-occupied Hungary. The management of Sun Media wishes to state that there is no basis for the statements in the column and they should not have been made.”

This is what Levant does: He deliberately mischaracterizes, misconstrues, and misrepresents – and often entirely fabricates – facts to suit his narrative.

His most recent misreporting stems from a confrontation that erupted between pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian demonstrators at a rally in Calgary on July 18th; a gathering initially meant to express solidarity with the people of Gaza.

To hear Levant tell it, “Pro-Hamas thugs … took over the streets of Calgary,” streets where “Arab extremists (chase) Jews and Gentiles;” where “Queen Elizabeth’s laws don’t rule … Sharia law does.”

It was “a throwback to anti-Semitic ground troops of Germany in the 1930s!” That’s right. An otherwise uneventful rally, according to Levant, could have been mistaken for Hitler’s Brownshirts carrying out street violence against Jews.

How on earth could Calgary, in a few short minutes, have transformed from a beacon of tolerance to a scene straight out of Gaza and/or Nazi Germany?

First at fault: Nenshi.

Apparently Levant learned nothing from his previous attempt to smear Calgary’s Mayor: His campaign to paint Nenshi as an intolerant Muslim who targeted Christians was so mind-numbingly absurd that even The Calgary Sun refused to climb aboard.

Still, on Twitter, Levant recycled the accusations against the Mayor, claiming Nenshi ‘harassed’ the noble Artur Pawlowski — Canada’s own Westboro Baptist preacher: a rank homophobe who claimed the historic floods of 2013 were a result, in part, of God’s “weeping for the perversions of homosexuality;” who protested this summer’s World Pride in Toronto with a giant “Satan Loves Fags” banner — yet hadn’t condemned the “violent Arab thugs.”

On air, Levant called Nenshi “a disgrace,” a man who “never shuts up about anything” but “hasn’t said a word” about July 18th.

In truth, however, Nenshi, who announced on July 15 that he was off to a family wedding, wasn’t even in Calgary in the days leading up to, during, or following the rally. And upon his return, he did, in fact, speak on the issue.

Of course, had Levant acknowledged either of these things, he wouldn’t have been able to rally his troops to spend days hurling slurs and accusations at the Mayor on Levant’s behalf.

Second at fault: The Calgary Police.

Granted, CPS’ approach, or lack thereof, at the rally was bungled from the get-go, and the police admitted as much. However, Levant’s assertions of political influence, calling the police liars, alleging bias, willful blindness, and a hand-off approach out of concern for maintaining diversity  is not just untrue, but grossly irresponsible.

Alas, responsible journalism is a lousy means of inciting backlash.

While there’s no excusing the violence that occurred at the July 18 rally, as the police rightly noted: both sides were at fault.  What transpired was the result of a small segment of agitators from both sides looking for a fight.

There’s a reason Levant failed to delve into the profiles of some of the Pro-Israel protesters as did those on the pro-Palestinian side: It would kill his narrative.

For example: Two of the pro-Israel demonstrators involved in the scuffle – including the man in the orange shirt featured in the ‘evidence’ photos Levant himself helped circulate – are well-known provocateurs Merle Terlesky and Jeff Willerton: a pair notorious for an altercation at Calgary’s 2006 Pride parade, where, waving “No Pride In Sodomy” signs and shouting homophobic slurs at marchers, Terlesky was punched to the ground.

But facts be damned, Levant’s got an axe in desperate need of grinding and persecutory delusions screaming for validation; So on Thurday, July 31, Levant will host his own rally, a “REAL Canadian” rally.

A “rally to take back Canadian streets from violent thugs!”

The successful, peaceful, pro-Israel rally which was held in the days following the contentious rally was an inadequate repudiation of the violence, it seems.

And not-at-all lucrative.

Just as freedom isn’t free, outrage doesn’t come cheap, and Lord knows Levant isn’t about to fund this traveling circus.

As Levant admits in his call to action/invitation to the rally/plea for donations: “This isn’t about Israel or Gaza at all.”

Indeed. This is about Levant; about feeding his ego and growing his brand, not to mention his bank account.


 

Secondary Suites And The Right To Affordable Housing

In December 2007, at the height of Calgary’s housing crunch, a report emerged from the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation that confirmed what many had long suspected: the cost of renting a two bedroom apartment in Calgary eclipsed that of all major Canadian cities, marking the first time since the CMHC started tracking the data that Calgary tenants paid more than their counterparts in Toronto and Vancouver.

What’s more, the cost of that two bedroom apartment had grown by 83% over the span of a decade, from the $595 paid on average in 1996, to the $1,089 required to rent an equivalent unit in 2007.

A poll conducted in 2008 found that due to this dramatic cost increase (combined with a critically low vacancy rate), half of those sleeping on Calgary streets were employed, including 200 working families – 190 of which included one or more children.

Even those fortunate enough to have secured affordable accommodations before the vacancy rate plummeted to 0.5% were’t immune.

Some Calgarians found themselves among the 2500 tenants unilaterally evicted as landlords raced to convert entire rental complexes into more profitable condominiums, while others faced seemingly obscure rent increases, leaving them little option but to pay hundreds of dollars extra per month in order to stave off eviction.

Such was the experience of Marni Armstrong, whose landlord hiked her rent by 150%, from $600 to $1500 per month in an effort to force her and others from their units so to hasten the process of condo conversion.

Despite widespread calls for the Province to implement rent controls, a measure overwhelmingly supported by homeowners (78%) and renters (92%) in both Calgary and Edmonton, the Stelmach government flatly rejected the idea, even refusing to consider it as a temporary measure.

Because of the Tories’ reluctance to intervene, hundreds, if not thousands, of Calgarians were effectively priced out of the market during the housing crisis, forced onto the streets despite having steady, if not multiple, sources of income.

Skip ahead to 2011, and evidently, little has changed.

According to the most recent data from the CMHC, the average cost of renting a two bedroom apartment in Calgary sits at $1,069 per month, virtually identical to the 2007 market. A 2011 report released by The City of Calgary Community and Neighbourhood Services Social Research Unit outlines the continual need for affordable housing alternativesin the city.

On affordable housing and homelessness, the report states “homelessness is not only a housing problem, but it is always a housing problem.”

“In order to rent a two-bedroom apartment in Calgary in the Private Rental Market without overspending on shelter, a person would need to earn a minimum wage of $20.62 per hour, which is an hourly shortfall of $11.82 over the current Alberta Minimum Wage of $8.80. Stated another way, 2.3 people would need to work full- time for a full-year at the current Alberta Minimum Wage of $8.80 to affordably rent a two-bedroom apartment in Calgary.”

It estimates nearly 40,000 renters in Calgary who “simply cannot afford to pay average market rent [leaving] them at considerable risk of becoming homeless.”

Though Calgary’s city council cannot change decisions made at the provincial level (rent control, minimum wage), they posses the ability to expand the market of safe, affordable housing for both renters, and home owners, simply by making secondary suites legal throughout the city.

The measure currently being considered by city council, and endorsed by influential organizations including the CMHC, Calgary Chamber of Commerce (CCOC), Calgary Real Estate Board (CREB), Canadian Home Builders’ Association – Calgary Region (CHBA), Commercial Real Estate Development Association (NAIOP), Urban Development Institute (UDI), Fraser Institute, Calgary Homeless Foundation (CHF), and the YWCA of Calgary, would be beneficial to all Calgarians, irrespective of age, race, gender, or income.

As noted by the CMHC, legalizing secondary suites is “a relatively inexpensive, low impact way to provide safe, affordable housing to Calgarians [which] affords the opportunity for renters to live in locations … close to their places of work, educational institutions or important services.”

Calgary home owners, both current and prospective, would also benefit from the legalization of secondary suites because rental income from legal suites can assist in paying down, or count toward qualifying for, a home mortgage. In essence, secondary suites make housing more affordable for all Calgarians, regardless of socioeconomic status.

Much of the opposition toward the broad legalization of secondary suites arises from the disconnect between the reality and perception of what constitutes a livable income, as well as attitudes toward those on the lowest end of the bracket.

A Salvation Army report examining Canadians’ attitudes toward poverty found over half of those surveyed believe a family of four “can get by on $30,000 a year or less, including 21 per cent who think $20,000 is enough.” According to Statistics Canada, a Canadian family of four earns, on average, $84.800 annually – more than double what is believed to be the absolute minimum.

On those living in poverty:

- 49 per cent believe if the unemployed really want to work, they’d find a job

- 43 per cent believe all you need to escape poverty is “a good work ethic”

- 41 per cent believe those in poverty “take advantage” of assistance programs

- 28 per cent believe those in poverty have lower moral values

- 23 per cent believe people live in poverty because they’re lazy

The fact is, people who live at or below the poverty line include  students, seniors, and those with struggling with physical, mental, or emotional disabilities. They include single parents, working families, and immigrants new to the Country. Many living in poverty aren’t unemployed, but underemployed – possessing an extensive range of skills and training, but only able to find work in low paying positions.

For these people, having access to safe, affordable accommodations is often the vital first step toward escaping life on the brink.

Affordable housing should never be considered a privilege, but a basic human right.

Calgary prides itself on being a world class city, welcome to all who wish to enjoy the vast array of culture, diversity, and opportunity the city provides.

How attainable this ideal will be for future generations will depend entirely on the ability to afford the opportunity to call Calgary home, and the looming decision on secondary suites could prove to be the deciding factor.

Cross-posted at rabble.ca

Calgary City Council will decide the fate of secondary suites THIS COMING MONDAY, March 7. It’s time to  Take Action, Calgary!

Contact Mayor Nenshi and/or your local Alderman and tell him/her to support the legalization of secondary suites – ALL contact information can be found HERE

Together we can keep the city moving forward, beyond outdated policies, and toward a Better Calgary.