Promises, promises

$300 textbook grant

Kate Holloway (Lib Trinity-Spadina): The grant is a textbook and technology grant, to help with expenses at the beginning of the school year.

Tyler Currie (PC, Trinity-Spadina): It is the sort of sexy announcement one makes right before an election. Sandra Gonzalez (NDP, Toronto Centre): What is a mere $300 going to do?

Dan King (Green, Trinity-Spadina): No point in under-educating our people, and then bring in foreigners for high-level positions. So, we would be supporting this plan.

Environmental concerns

KH: 2014 is the target date for the closure of the coal-fired plants.

PT: The coal-fired plants need to be phased out, and in that process of phasing out we would like to install scrubbers to reduce the amount of pollution.

RM: We are against nuclear expansion —the waste is not clean, it’s dangerous, and expensive. We want to shut down the coal-fi red plants by 2014.

DK: The Greens are not in favour of closing down the plants, if it means unreliable energy for Ontarians. We need to gen erate a new Renaissance for wind energy.

Financial aid and OSAP reform

KH: This is something that I would definitely advocate for. TC: OSAP will be definitely be reviewed. In addition, John Tory’s plan is that medical students do not pay back loans until they complete their residency.

SG: We need to re-examine the qualifications for receiving OSAP. A family in Toronto can be stretched to the limits by the current system.

DK: We need to go back to a system where there are more student grants, and less student loans.

Transit and fare increases

KH: The fares are way too high, and responsibility needs to be accepted at all levels of government. We want to expand the subway system.

Pamela Taylor (PC, Toronto Centre): Our plan is to take 2 cents from the gas tax, and over time this will translate into $800 million for transit, roads and bridges.

RM: We want to share the costs of transit with the city of Toronto and other suburbs 50-50.

SG: We would also like to extend subway service up to York University.

Tuition fees

KH: There will be no tuition freeze, but I personally would eventually like to work with university students to ensure the fees are capped.

TC: Our platform is to allot $600 million for postsecondary education. We do not want to have an increase in tuition fees.

Rosario Marchese (NDP Trinity-Spadina): We need to accept responsibility and freeze tuition fees.

DK: Freeze tuition fees, but we also need to create a detailed plan to lower them.

Mixed Member Proportional voting

PT: I think [MMP] is a dangerous system. The public will not be able to select which members from the lists would be chosen as MPPs. Secondly, Ontario does not need more MPPs.

SG: This is a great reform. As a woman from a Hispanic background, I do not feel represented, and both women and diverse voices need to be a part of the democratic process.

DK: To have a system where only 50 per cent of the population find it important to participate in the democratic system indicates that we need change.

The Lame List

What Would You Do?

Two birds, one stone: pseudo e-democracy meets everything you already knew about global warming. It can’t help that the massive screen must have soaked up a whole lot of energy.


It’s an eco-metaphor -— get it? Visitors traced their footprint on biodegradable cellophane or tinfoil, and then wrote down what they would do to save the environment. Best comment? “Stop wasting cellophane and tinfoil.”

Abomasum (the chocolate stag):

I don’t mind getting free chocolate, and the sculpture itself was pretty awesome, but was no one else expecting to be able to take a great big chomp out of that deer? Maybe claim an antler? Instead, I got a square delivered in a plastic cup. Sigh.

Scotiabank Hubs

Sure, festivities of this scale need sponsors, and it’s good of Scotiabank to step up, but they totally ruined the Trinity-Bellwoods experience with their tents and contests to win TVs.

A lot of the independent projects

Many of the uncurated projects were great, but a lot of these were happening anyways, or just plain sucked. I’m sorry, but reading religious texts with a flashlight in the backroom of a church isn’t art.

Over-reliance on screenings, and screens in general

Many of these were just a cheap way out for locations that weren’t interested enough in coming up with something original. This definitely lowered the bar.

Limited Subway Service

Most of the people using the TTC in the wee hours of the morning are doing so because they’re not from downtown. If you’re going to have the subway run to Broadview and Christie, why not have service along the entire line?

PC gets an A

As it did last election, the Canadian Federation of Students’ Ontario caucus has released a “report card,” grading the province’s three major political parties based on their education policies. While the majority of politically aware students won’t be surprised to find the NDP receiving top marks, eyebrows may go up at seeing the Progressive Conservative party outshine the Liberals.

Dave Scrivener, VP external at the University of Toronto Students’ Union, said that he hopes the report card will cause the major parties to reconsider their education platform before the Oct. 10 election.

CFS has a reputation for aligning with the NDP on a wide range of issues, especially regarding postsecondary education policy. The NDP won high marks for promising lower tuition and higher provincial funding to universities.

Asked whether CFS-O considered these promises likely to be kept, David Molenhuif, the national executive representative for CFS-Ontario, replied:

“[Students have] seen broken promises from all three of the big parties in Ontario…nevertheless, if a party’s willing to commit to something, the expectation is that they will fulfill that promise.”

“Should they not…it’s up to the voters,” he added.

A widely circulated CFS-Ontario press release (it’s even posted on Facebook) draws attention to certain “highlights” of the report. It bashes the Libs for “unapologetic support for higher tuition fees and illegal ancillary fees.”

CFS-Ontario gave the PC party an A- in “system design.”

Molenhuif explained that this criterion was based on a party’s stance on the education system’s structure—primarily on how to handle the transfer of credits between schools. CFS-Ontario gave the PCs a high mark here to praise the Conservatives’ promises to streamline the credit transfer system.

The Ontario Conservative platform calls the province’s system of transferring credits “unacceptable” and cites the systems in British Columbia, California, Australia and the European Union as examples for Ontario to emulate.

Molenhuif added that the system design category reflects CFS-Ontario’s campaign against the perception that a degree from a more expensive school was more “valuable.”

“You can get a better education at Lakehead than McGill,” he said, explaining that CFS-Ontario wanted political parties to recognize student-to-faculty ratio as a key indicator of a university’s quality.

The report was compiled using data from two sources for each party: that party’s platform, and their answers to a CFS-Ontario questionnaire. Representative questions from that questionnaire included “Do you agree that education is a right for every willing and qualified student?” The education questionnaire also asked candidates if they support a $10 minimum wage.

The house that Jack built

With a high-pressure throne speech from Prime Minister Harper looming, political momentum in a pivotal Outremont riding and a possible federal election this fall, The Varsity caught up with NDP leader Jack Layton at his literal “green house” right off U of T campus.

The Varsity: You mentioned the Liberals in a slightly distasteful way during the last election. Do you really feel that they’re a worse option than the Conservative party, given the current administration?

Jack Layton: Well what we said was that the Conservatives were fundamentally wrong. And of course Mr. Harper is proving that these days with his policy on the war, on the environment and his policies are increasing what we call the prosperity gap in this country where there’s a growing rift between the very well to do and the rest. We felt that the Liberals after their 13 years in power had been telling people one thing and doing another for too long. And we offer people an alternative to those two parties. And that’s what we’re continuing to do today.

V: What’s more important to you – pushing the Liberals to form a more progressive administration, or cementing the NDP as a viable third option for Canada?

JL: Well what’s most important for me is that we have policies for our country that are being implemented that are right. That match with our values. And the two traditional parties have not been doing that. We saw our greenhouse gas emissions increase dramatically, worse than any other country in the developed world, under these two parties. We saw the gap between the rich and poor grow, under both of these parties’ administrations. And we saw ourselves taken into a war, essentially according to a George Bush style foreign policy by Martin and accelerated by Mr. Harper and supported by about a quarter of the Liberal caucus, including their deputy leader, Mr. Ignatieff. So these parties are on the wrong track and they’re taking the country on the wrong track. So what we’re trying to do across the country, and our now 30 members of parliament across the country, is show that there’s a team ready to do things differently.

V: Do you want to be Prime Minister?

JL: Of course. That would be an enormous privilege, but it would allow us then to, I think, establish a direction for the country that conforms to where most people want to see us go.

V: Given your momentum in the Outremont riding, which is a huge coup, do you want to call another election?

JL: Well I’d always rather see positive results than have another election. Positive results for me would mean that Mr. Harper would change direction on the fundamental policies that we’ve been talking about here. If he does that in the speech from the throne – terrific. Do I expect that he’s going to do it? I see no signs of it whatsoever. I mean, he doesn’t even understand what to do with a $14 billion dollar so-called “surprise” surplus…. We don’t need to be taking the entire surplus and putting it against the debt because actually it’s a false surplus, when you think about it. We’ve been underfunding our education system, the infrastructure of our universities and colleges is collapsing, people are crammed into classrooms – there needs to be an investment. And also education’s become unaffordable. Or our cities: we’re forced to have to look at closing transit lines, canceling bus routes. That is madness, to be doing that. And paying down a debt that is already the lowest, well one of the lowest, in the developed world when you compare it to the size of our economy. Mr. Harper is not being prudent.

So we’ll see what he does. I never say what we’re going to do, our caucus never says we’re going to vote against something that we’ve never even seen – I don’t think that makes any sense at all. And I would like Mr. Harper to change direction. But I’m not holding my breath.

V: Mulcair spoke out against the Bloc demands of Harper’s upcoming throne speech. Does the NDP have a more realistic set of expectations?

JL: Well the way I’d put it, is that we want to see a fundamental change of direction on the war, we want to see a fundamental change of direction on the environment, and we want to see some real action on the growing prosperity gap, the issues that your average working family is grappling with. We want to see those things in the budget, or in the speech to the throne, I should say. And if we don’t see this change, well it’s hard to see how the NDP could support Mr. Harper. We haven’t up to now; it’s been Mr. Duceppe that has kept Mr. Harper in power, in terms of the budgets that he has supported. And also, a group of Liberals who have chosen to support an extension of the mission in Afghanistan, giving Mr. Harper the four-vote majority he needed.

V: In terms of Afghanistan, given Karzai’s support of keeping troops in Afghanistan, how do you defend a complete, immediate withdrawal?

JL: Because we can’t really play the role that Canada should play, if we’re involved in a search-and-destroy, combat-orientated mission, which now involves aerial bombardment by the Americans in villages, and use of heavy weaponry and tanks and missiles. We can’t credibly play a role as a catalyst for a comprehensive peace process, for instance, which is what we think Canada should be doing in Afghanistan. We can’t do that as long as we are one of the four or five countries involved in the battle in the south. So to change Canada’s role and have it be really productive, in terms of the generation of ultimately a cease-fire, and real significant process on reconstruction and aid, you can’t continue on with the current combat mission. So we see these things as essential. And of course when we first suggested that there should be a comprehensive peace process, which would mean bringing the combatants to a table, we were ridiculed. But now it’s very interesting to hear Mr. Karzai today suggesting that this is essential as a way to move forward. Now this is something that we’ve been urging for over a year, and I think more and more Canadians are coming to the conclusion that really there’s no military end in sight here. So we can come up with the combat mission, but really we’ll be doing it 10 years from now. Maybe 20.

V: You’ve highlighted the environment as one of the most pressing issues, not in Canadian politics…

JL: Facing humanity.

V: How does one balance green behavior with an economy and unions, especially in Alberta and Calgary’s private industries?

JL: Well the only way to ensure a strong economy is to take very dramatic action to preserve the ecosystems of the planet. Otherwise we’re going to have very severe economic costs. And we’re likely facing severe economic costs already, because we’ve set in motion a series of transformations to the global ecosystems that will not be possible to reverse. It’s now a question of slowing it down to give the species, including ourselves, time to adapt. And hopefully limiting the damage compared to what’s otherwise predicted. So we’ve got to get moving, really moving fast. And you know, one of the great myths is that the unions would be opposed to this. Our candidate in Fort McMurray, which is where the oil sands are, is one of the guys who drive one of those humongous trucks that you always see, that’s about 10 stories high. He’s been doing it for 25 years. He believes there should be a moratorium on any new projects up there, because he says we’re doing it all too fast. And we’re using too much of our fresh water, we don’t have enough workers to do the work so they’re flying in workers from all over the world. To scrape the surface of the earth up there and get access to this sticky sand. And then they’re using heat, which means burning fossil fuels, to make it viscous enough that can then be put in pipelines, and shipped down to the States where it can then be refined into gasoline. Well why don’t we refine it here, first of all? It’s gonna stay there sometime until we need it in the future, why try to take it out so fast right now? We’re in a way giving up our birthright. And finally, you’ve got to have a plan for the development of a project like this. And housing prices there are through the roof. We can’t get enough workers there to do the service jobs for that huge economy. There’s not enough infrastructure even for transportation. And to make matters worse, Stephen Harper, and Paul Martin before him, were subsidizing the big oil companies with our tax dollars, to do this. Well that makes no sense.

V: Cities weren’t highlighted in the provincial platforms. How do you envision Toronto’s economic and environmental future? How do you feel about the Canadian cities campaign initiative for one per cent of the GST?

JL: Well I used to be the president of the Canadian Federation for Municipalities, which is running that campaign. So I’m a big advocate of federal dollars going to our cities. For instance, that’s where I suggested the surplus just announced last week, should go, at least in very significant measure, towards that infrastructure. Which to me includes educational infrastructure as well, which is by and large found in cities. I’m impressed with Howard Hampton. He’s been talking about transit, he’s been talking about freezing TTC fares and taking over 50 per cent of the cost of running a transit system. Now that’s a really good urban program. And he’s talked about housing… So he’s I think on the right track. No surprise there because he and I talk a lot about the kinds of policies that are needed. To our way of thinking, the cities are where the solutions are going to be implemented. And they’re where the problems are confronted, day-to-day, on the ground. And Ottawa’s become far too remote and ideological when it comes to this sort of thing. They don’t seem to get it.

…So I always think of the tax dollar as five or 10 minutes of someone’s time working behind a counter at a fast food joint. You know, they work for an hour, they get a minimum wage, and two bucks is taken off that minimum wage for taxes and what have you. And that’s 15 minutes of their time. So when we spend a tax dollar we think of it as the time of Canadians that we’re investing.

V: Can you envision a time when the NDP is the head of the federal administration?

JL: Of course. And that’s what we’re working towards. We’ve been the government in quite a few provinces and we have a record of managing the public’s money very well. There was a tough time when Bob Rae was premier but look where he is now – he’s with the Liberals.

Getting it right at the ballot box

Why do we continuously see governments that break their promises? Why are tuition fees rising, even though 80 per cent of Ontarians believe that post-secondary education is already too expensive? Why is our government failing to take on climate change, despite the overwhelming support for decisive action by the vast majority of Canadians? To put it bluntly, why are our voices being ignored by our elected officials?

The answer to these questions is simple: our electoral system is broken. Currently, we elect our representatives through a system called First Past the Post—or for those policy wonks, SMDP—a winner-take-all system where your vote doesn’t count unless you voted for the winning candidate. For most of us, that means our vote doesn’t count most of the time. In other words, the most cherished principle of representative democracy is consistently broken. The idea that every citizen has an equal voice, and that every citizen has the right to representation, is simply not refl ected in our current voting system. We have a democratic defi- cit, and it starts at the ballot box.

In the last provincial election, the Liberals got less than half the popular vote, but they were rewarded with 70 per cent of the seats in the legislature. In that election, millions of Ontario voters went to the polls demanding a different way forward; instead, the system created a phony majority government. In effect, approximately two million Ontario voters, or half the voting population, cast a wasted vote. The same broken system exists at the federal level. In 1993, the federal Progressive Conservative Party earned 16 per cent of the nationwide vote and received only two seats in the House. In 2006, the Bloc Québécois won 51 seats with 1.6 million votes, while the NDP received 2.6 million votes and won 29 seats. The results speak for themselves: every Bloc vote was worth more than four NDP votes. Clearly, when we operate in a system that systematically ignores the expressed will of the voters, it’s time to rethink our approach.

In 1865, political scientist Ernest Naville remarked that “the right of decision belongs to the majority, but the right of representation belongs to all.” In an age of political revolution, it was a timely statement. Yet today in Ontario, over 100 years later, Naville’s statement has yet to be realized. We need to create a system of government that is truly representative and can legitimately claim to have a mandate from the people.

Fortunately, times are changing. Last year, 103 randomly selected Ontarians came together under the Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform to devise a better system. Following the lead of 75 other advanced democracies, the Assembly is recommending that we bring proportionality into our voting system. More specifically, they’re suggesting that we adopt a mixedmember proportional (MMP) system. Under the new system, you’ll get to cast two votes: one for your local MPP and one for the party of your choice. With the new system, your vote will never be wasted—every vote counts.

The opportunity for change is rapidly approaching. On October 10, Election Day, you can make history. The new proposed voting system is going to referendum, finally allowing the majority of Ontarians to have a say over how we elect our politicians. Support for MMP is growing from across the political spectrum. Hugh Segal, Stephen Lewis, Ed Broadbent—even Sylvia Bashevkin, the principal of University College—have lined up in support. More importantly, grassroots organizations from across the province are working hard, getting the message out, and mobilizing for change.

With the momentum building, now is the time for action. Get involved with the UTSU campaign on electoral reform, or visit voteformmp. ca. This is our best opportunity to fix our distorted, broken, and archaic voting system.

A vote in favour of MMP won’t fix every problem. It won’t automatically make our schools better, clean our air, or take guns off the streets. It will, however, return us to the principal of majority rule. It will bring more women and minorities into the legislature, and it will force governments to produce policies and legislation that our society demands. By voting for MMP, we’ll create a better government, and that sounds like a pretty good deal to me.

A dangerous shift in control

In October 1992, our political, academic, and media elite united behind a fundamental change to the foundations of our democracy. But after a mostly one-sided campaign, Canadians, displaying greater foresight and a better sense of reality than their leaders, voted “No” to the Charlottetown Accord.

Fifteen years later, the elite are again united behind a fundamental change. And I suspect that after this mostly one-sided campaign, Ontarians will exercise similar good judgment and vote “No” to proportional representation.

The basic argument in favour of a Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) system is well known: the percentage of votes a party receives will roughly equal its percentage of seats. In this way, MMP is said to give voters more “control.” But that control is mostly illusory.

Who we send to the legislature is, of course, important. But what really matters is what those people do when they get there. This is something that supporters of MMP neglect to discuss. Instead they have list after list showing the difference between vote share and seat share in Ontario elections in the 1950s or between women in Parliament in New Zealand (32 per cent) and in Ontario (25 per cent). To supporters of MMP, electoral systems are merely about who the politicians are.

Here in the real world, electoral systems are concerned with how our province is governed. In Ontario, as in any democracy, government is about compromises. Under our current system, the voters decide these compromises; to get elected, parties must appeal to a wide range of citizens by creating platforms that are at once coherent and unifying. In an MMP system, by contrast, parties get themselves elected by carving out core bases of support and then defending that group’s unique interests. Compromise gives way to politicians horse-trading in back rooms. This is a dangerous shift of control from voters to politicians— one that could do irreparable harm to Ontario’s democracy.

The shift will have important ideological implications as well. Currently, parties cannot run on ideas that are vastly unpopular amongst the majority of the population. If they did, they would force too many people out of their “big-tent.” Under MMP, more “ideologically pure” parties will form and elect members. Because the support of those parties will be required to maintain coalition governments, they will be in a position to demand legislation that the majority of the population opposes. Instead of being governed by big parties with moderate positions on all issues, our province will be governed by patchwork coalitions with extreme positions on at least some issues. Which extremes on which issues? That will be decided by the politicians.

Voters will lose authority under MMP in numerous other ways. One of the great virtues of our current system is that no matter how powerful politicians are, every four years they must answer to about 110,000 individual Ontarians. To maintain the confidence of their constituents, these politicians must knock on doors, go to barbeques, speak in schools, attend community festivals, and generally remain in touch.

MMP’s party list members would face no such constraints. While opponents of MMP are probably wrong to suggest that the list candidates would be a bunch of party hacks, it is true that they would be free to coast for four years at Queen’s Park before riding the coat-tails of their party to re-election. MMP shifts power from voters to politicians and from individual representatives to party leadership.

MMP is not guaranteed to deliver all the practical benefits its supporters promise. It will not make more people vote: in New Zealand, voter turnout improved by three per cent in the first MMP election, but fell nearly 10 per cent below pre-MMP levels in the second and has still not recovered. It will not eliminate the problem of liking the party but not the local candidate: what if you like the party but not the list candidate? It will not eliminate strategic voting: supporters of parties that rarely get topped off with list seats will cast their second ballot strategically. It will remain true that in politics we can’t always get what we want.

MMP assumes that if we send political parties to Queen’s Park in the right proportions, everything else will take care of itself. Fortunately, voters recognize that it’s not the politicians that matter in a democracy, but the compromises we make with each other. On October 10, we must refuse to cede control of our democracy.

Losing our religion

Ready, set…suck! Yup, it’s that time of year again. The time when Torontonians are rewarded with rising seat prices for their loyalty to a perpetually inefficient product. No, I’m not talking about the seemingly annual TTC fare hikes. I’m speaking, of course, of the start of the NHL season for our Toronto Maple Leafs.

Starting in October, die-hard and fair-weather fans alike will once again don their blue and white jerseys and swear to anyone within earshot that this will be the year the Leafs bring home the Stanley Cup; our losing season last year was an aberration, but this year will be different. Leafs fans will point to some new addition to the lineup, or a key trade, or a healthy Matt Sundin as evidence of ensuing glory. Then, when April rolls around and our heroes find themselves out in the cold, the old familiar excuses and clichés will circulate—“we’ll get ´em next year!”—and the cycle of mediocrity will continue, while ticket prices continue to skyrocket.

All of this begs the question: are the Leafs still relevant, or are they a relic of a bygone era, an anachronism in a time when the Raptors and Toronto FC are increasingly capturing our collective imagination? New York has the Yankees, Dallas has the Cowboys, and Los Angeles has the Lakers. A sports team should play a special role in representing the city’s phallic pride and testosterone, especially now that we are no longer home to the world’s tallest free-standing structure. Thanks, Dubai.

Historically, hockey culture in Toronto has played a vital role in pumping lifeblood into the city’s heart, especially during the glory years of the 1940s and 1960s. In the firewagon days of the 1980s, the Leafs sucked, but always played with passion and thus were endearing—a sort of Bad News Bears on ice. These days, with the omnipresence of corporate sponsorship gutting sports culture of its romanticism, when nostalgic names like SkyDome and Maple Leaf Gardens are replaced by the sterile ones like Rogers Centre and Air Canada Centre, the Leafs have become little more than a successful business venture. Between 1998 and 2006, the Leafs franchise increased its revenue by 147 per cent, while player expenses increased only 65.3 per cent. Sticking it to loyal fans who will pay to see the Leafs play no matter what isn’t sadistic—it’s good business.

Although Toronto teams like the Blue Jays and Argos have enjoyed recent success, they have never quite dominated our sports culture the way the Leafs have. But the Raptors and Toronto FC offer an exciting alternative to the Leafs, showcasing two sports—basketball and soccer—that better represent the city’s multiculturalism and diversity.

As a die-hard hockey fan, I cringe at the suggestion that some lesser sport will take the place of hockey. However, if all the Leafs have to offer are high prices and certain failure, maybe that isn’t such a bad idea.

Culture Vultures

Now in its second year, Toronto’s annual allnight art expo brought out hundreds of thousands of nocturnal revellers with installations that left The Varsity both inspired, and a little underwhelmed (not to mention sleep deprived).

Event Horizon (Front Campus)

This was, by far, the fakest UFO crash I’ve ever witnessed. While the actors in character and the emergency response vehicles were well-done, the subject of the whole installation— the downed alien spaceship—just didn’t look cool or real enough. If you looked closely you could tell it was made out of painted wood, which doesn’t fly in space—or with me. A great idea, it’s too bad they couldn’t quite land it. —JORDAN BIMM

Deeparture (Isabel Bader Theatre)

This piece was completely compelling. I normally find video art installations to be fairly uninteresting, but watching a deer and a wolf in such an artificial environment really captured it for me. The focus of this short was not on the power dynamic between predator and prey, but on forcing the audience to reconstruct their perception of the “natural” environment in which we usually see these animals. I loved it. —MM

Three Readings (Hart House Squash Courts)

Did I miss something here? Entering squash courts and expecting them to look like a lecture hall, I found only a speaker producing the sound of… a squash game? Seriously? What could have been a clever re-assignment of space (culture jam style) was a disappointing installation that didn’t make me think of anything except my irritation at sound art. —MM

The Ghost Station (Lower Bay Station)

If you were willing to wait in the long line-up, it was totally worth it to see this hidden piece of urban Toronto folklore. Seeing so many people taking an interest in their city made this one of my favourite exhibits. —MM

Aurora Readiness Centre (Faculty of Architecture)

When you walk in and see helpful pamphlets on how to survive a nuclear attack, it is at once a comical and depressing experience. Then there’s a 1960s civil defense video, produced by the city of Toronto, that only heightens those feelings. (Duck and cover!) Patrons were invited to contribute paintings of their own about the nuclear world, making this a great experience for viewers and another of my favourites. —MM

Nightless City (Church & Wellesley) In fine fashion, this was a huge street party— complete with red lights and leather-clad window-dancing sadomasochists. The “gaybourhood” is always a good time if you’re out on the town, but it was exceptionally fun for Nuit Blanche. The lines to get into clubs were long, but the best part was out on the street anyway. Whip me and pour hot wax on my chest: this was a great time! —MM

Transmutations (H. G. Phelan Playhouse)

If you were one of the lucky ones who got to see the work of Atom Egoyan’s master class, congratulations! The performances on the verandah outside were respectable, but not overwhelming. I felt the performers were hampered by the video that was playing in the background, and would have preferred more scene work from the actors and less focus on a poorly integrated video. —MM

Night School (Hart House)

Most of the installations were lackluster, although Slow Dance With Teacher was a lot of fun. Who wouldn’t want to hear soft rock favourites blasted in the Great Hall? The rest, though, were conceited, and relied on free food early in the night to attract crowds. I had high hopes from the great exhibition here last year, but I was disappointed this second time around. —MM

Emergency Room Recruitment Centre (UC Art Centre)

Visitors were asked to write something they consider an emergency on a bandage that was then tied around their head. EERC gets top marks for trying to make visitors into artists, but when audience participation doesn’t reach critical mass, the situation is just awkward.— JC

Balloonscape (The Eaton Centre)

A fun idea, if underwhelming, this blob of tied-together tube balloons was smaller than I expected, though a photo of it now has pride of place as my desktop background. —JC

Femmebomb (Lisgar & Queen)

The parts of the Beatrice Lillie Health Centre that peeked through its one-night-only cladding of pink fabric and crochet looked more ominous than usual. Beyond that, though, neither the use of the domestic arts as a medium nor its subsequent association with the feminine seemed entirely meaningful. —JC

Incursion (Dovercourt & Queen)

Easily one of the highlights of the night, Craig Walsh proved the success of a simple concept done well. A film projected onto the inside of a storefront window, viewers on the street thought they saw gigantic fish overtaking an everyday landscape—exactly the visually mesmerizing incursion Nuit Blanche is supposed to be about. —JC

Abomasum (Trinity-Bellwoods Park)

What was more intriguing, the chocolate stag sculpture or the crowd, vegetarians among them, ravenously eyeing this big horned bonbon? Cries of “Kill it!” “Why do you have to do that?” and “Butcher the hecklers!” made the wait for my own taste of chocolate venison entirely worth it. —JC

Canard Development Group (Courtyard at McKinsey & Co., 110 Charles St. W.)

This representation of a mobile sales office (a red tarp held airborne by big yellow helium balloons) was perhaps a little too abstract. The fact that the office existed “off the grid” was admittedly a nice pun, but the installation only held the viewer’s attention for a minute or two at most.—RD

Metropolis (Charles & St. Thomas)

It was a downer that this installation was completely fenced off, because spending the evening running through what appeared to be a playground of bomb shelters just north of Victoria College was a surprisingly attractive prospect.—RD

From the Ground Up (Gardiner Museum)

The Gardiner Museum was a complete madhouse, deservingly so considering the free admission and the traditional Chinese acrobats spinning a red table in the air. Also adding to the spectacle was artist Ben Oakley’s brilliant electrical-tape mural, Mansion Cabin.—RD

Secular Confession Booth (35 Hazelton Ave.)

This innovative idea garnered some serious buzz in the daily papers leading up to Nuit Blanche and got people talking—about their darkest secrets. Occupying a small, softly-lit Yorkville chapel resonant with ambient music, a reassuring shadow behind a curtain listened to a seemingly endless series of revelations from anyone who had something on their mind.—RD

String of Diamonds (Trinity College Field)

U of T’s own feel-good visionaries Newmindspace put together a visually stunning string of blue lights that lit up the sky above Trinity College Field, turning it into one of the best places to take a breather between exhibits. Once the wide-eyed public got their collective second wind, they had the option of joining the impromptu rave going down in the adjacent parking lot.—RD

DSM5 (Royal Ontario Museum)

It’s good to finally see the ROM getting some use out of their expensive Crystal, as it was used as the backdrop for this performance by DVJ artist Charles Kriel, attracting a huge group of revelers to the museum’s doors for the rare spectacle of “a rocking dance party meets cultural institution.” A bizarre combination to be sure, but whoever said museums were just for stuffy old artifacts?—RD

ThunderEgg Alley: A Dumpster Diver’s

Paradise (Alley behind College & Spadina) Forgot to book a room (the only room) at the most exclusive dumpster hotel in town? Haul your aching bones up onto the dumpster’s outer wall and peep longingly at the folks inside, languidly lounging in white bathrobes on the very comfortable-looking bed. Swintak’s installation was executed beautifully, complete with professional, somewhat forbidding concierges and a cleaning staff who worked in between 10-minute sessions. Hanging out in the trash has never been so fun. —JANE BAO

Everybody Loves You 2 (Dundas & McCaul)

Passers-by entered this pink-and-red heartshaped structure, uttered those three little words, “I love you,” which were then broadcast on a flat-screen. With deliveries ranging from shy and giggly to surprisingly sincere, Daisuke Takeya’s exhibit was cute, but didn’t exactly evoke—as its introduction suggested—“ a rather funny Japanese pop manner.” —JB

Eat the Food! (Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art)

MOCCA served up tasty wall paintings, portraits, and video installations about food— how we grow it, and how we consume it. Shelly Rahme’s Greasy Strata, a mound of shortening topped with three layers of potato chips, was particularly tempting, but patrolling security guards ensured that hungry patrons went outside to purchase freshly-made delicacies instead.—JB

Alluring Contradictions of Consumption (AWOL Gallery)

Lotion bottles, luxury watches and other goods adorned the dress of a figure drawn on plexi-glass. Though attractive from afar these became dizzying up close, overwhelming the distorted female figures. Carrie Chisholm used transparent materials to great effect, highlighting how images are skewed and commodified through consumerism. Overflowing garbage bins outside the gallery (unintentionally) added to the effect. —JB

The Gateway (Dufferin & Queen Bridge)

Parkour, the French art of jumping between buildings, was supposedly on display at this installation. Opting for a theatrical rather than an athletic show, the bits of jumping—from a billboard to a wall, running along a bridge, then over a fence and down the wall—were impressive, but ultimately too few and far between the uninspiring narrative of a man in dressed in orange stalking the jumpers.—JB