My New Year’s Resolution

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Photos courtesy of the Varsity Blues Media Centre

Arts in Review 2010: Best in Film

The American

The American is the second film from noted Danish photographer and music video auteur Anton Corbijn. As such, it’s a beautiful piece of work, full of great shots of the Italian countryside and evocative shots of George Clooney doing such mundane things as sit-ups and modifying sniper rifles. While it was mis-marketed as an action thriller, the film is slow and contemplative, evoking European art-films as much as the Hollywood action films it takes its basic story arc from. Here’s to hoping George Clooney keeps putting his bankable name behind artful and intriguing projects such as this. – AJ

Black Swan

Natalie Portman is intensely erotic (there, I said it) as a ballerina in an insane pursuit of perfection in Darren Aronofsky’s best film yet, a berserk fusion of melodrama and body horror, the type of over-the-top material that runs the risk of falling flat on its face at every moment but somehow doesn’t. The psychosexual tension, the over-the-top emotion, the literal onstage transformation in the conclusion…please don’t ask me why I found it all so moving. Sometimes trying to explain something can destroy its magic. – WS

Enter the Void

The most uncompromising film yet from Gasper Noe (and this is the man who made I Stand Alone and Irreversible), Enter the Void is a gorgeous, hideous, neon-drenched, first-person trip straight to hell (or, in this case, the memories of a low-level drug dealer and the slums of Tokyo) that feels like a fusion of film, installation art, and one of those rides at Disneyland with rumble chairs. But, y’know, with prostitution and abortions. – WS

Exit Through the Gift Shop

This street art documentary (mockumentary?) by the artist currently known as Banksy is more than just a street art documentary. It’s the entire history of an art form, from subversive beginnings to commercialism, made by an artist clearly worried about how long his outlaw reputation will be able to last with newfound mainstream exposure. And when you think about it, whether or not “Mr. Brainwash,” Banksy’s co-lead, is a fictional character is really beside the point. – WS

I Am Love

Visually vibrant and deeply erotic, Luca Guadagnino directs one of the most engrossing films of the year. Starring Tilda Swinton as a Russian émigré living in Milan and married into a traditional Italian family with a successful textile company, I Am Love weaves together a compelling tale of love, food, and family that can’t be missed. – TC

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

You don’t need to like video games, manga, kung fu, anime, summer blockbusters, comic books, TV sitcoms, teen comedies, or any other gen-Y cultural detritus to love Scott Pilgrim vs. the World – you just need to have grown up surrounded by it. It’s an endlessly entertaining and inventive film that captures the spirit of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s comic book series while bringing in Edgar Wright’s own Tarantino-meets-Monty-Python sensibility. – WS

Shutter Island

A veritable showroom of cinematic tricks and techniques, Shutter Island is among this year’s best psychological thrillers. Yet another product of the tried and true Scorsese-DiCaprio combo, this film is one of the few that genuinely keeps you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end. – TC

The Social Network

David Fincher’s take on the founding of everyone’s favourite website, The Social Network manages to be as dark as it is manic, with superb performances from Jesse Eisenberg and Armie Hammer to boot. If you haven’t seen this yet, please do — then update your status so people can comment on it. Mark Z. won’t mind. – TC

Toy Story 3

If a live-action film about real people were as brutally honest about abandonment, rejection, aging, death, and the passage of time as Toy Story 3, it might be unwatchable. This is one of the very best Pixar movies, another one where the comic, tragic, and even action elements are perfectly modulated (no, seriously, Pixar consistently makes the best action sequences). And it will have special resonance for anyone who was Andy’s age when the first Toy Story was released. – WS


One of three movies directed by prolific Canadian filmmaker Bruce McDonald this year, and the last film starring Tracey Wright, Trigger follows two past-their-prime female ex-rockers through a Toronto night with some of the best dialogue of the year. Also, Trigger made the best use of Allan Gardens in a Canadian film this year (sorry Chloe, with your Liam Neeson handjob). – AJ

Arts in Review 2010: Best in Books

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

by Stieg Larsson

Sometimes there are books you feel a duty to read out of fairness before passing judgment. Friends, it’s a noble thought, but let me tell you: I have read Eat, Pray, Love for this purpose, and it wasn’t worth it. Everything you think about that book is true — judge away. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, on the other hand keeps you reading and reading — even though your subway stop was three back and you’re late for work. Yes, The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest was the one released in Summer 2010, but Dragon Tattoo is by far the best book in the trilogy, and the promise it holds is why you’ll slog through the other two. – JC

Super Sad True Love Story

by Gary Shteyngart

I never became emotionally involved in Super Sad’s characters, and when you don’t really care what happens to someone, it’s hard to travel 300-plus pages with him. The book was entertaining enough — hey, it’s not Freedom — but in reading some of Shteyngart’s lesser prophecies, I couldn’t shake the feeling that the author was making the joke just because he could — as if Shteyngart was reading over my shoulder, saying “See what I just did there?” Having just kind of slagged it, why have I included it here? The truth is, after finishing it, I’ve thought about this book a lot, and felt compelled to talk to a lot of people about it. The sociability of a book’s ideas is a different yardstick to measure by, but often the one that counts in the end. For a satiric work that prophesies America’s apocalypse, it’s absolutely essential. Super Sad is true and scary — so it must be doing something right. – JC

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet

by David Mitchell

David Mitchell is a wonderfully skilled stylist, but what puts him in the top league of writers is that he is purposeful in building on every aspect of the novel where lazier writers might fall back on two or three and pay lip service to the rest. Plot, characterization, historical accuracy, dialogue, and setting — check. Writing in English the words of a Japanese midwife speaking Dutch as she would have spoken it in 1799 is one summersault in the air too many for most writers. Yet Mitchell seems to pull it off with such ease that we forget he’s the one doing it. Thousand Autumns is what a novel is supposed to be. – JC

Light Lifting

by Alexander Macleod

All seven stories in this Giller nominated collection of short fiction are equally riveting. Macleod skillfully captures a variety of narrative voices, but his prose really triumphs in the description of physical exertion, which is portrayed in vivid and intricate detail. Physical activity becomes intertwined with sorrow, fear, love, and hope in Light Lifting, and Macleod explores these emotions with remarkable sensitivity. – BK

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

by Junot Diaz

Oscar is an overweight science fiction nerd, an ardent lover of women, and an absolute romantic failure. The novel initially centers on his sexual frustration, but the focus shifts to his mother and sister, who, like Oscar, suffer from an ancient family curse. Diaz blends an erudite narrative voice with Spanish, street talk, and a smattering of geek-speak. The result is a portrayal of love and identity that is at once vibrant, funny, and tragic. – BK

Great House

by Nicole Krauss

Great House has none of the whimsy of Krauss’ best-selling novel, The History of Love, but it is just as richly imagined. Krauss delicately weaves together the narrative threads of four different characters who cannot escape the sadness of their past and who are all connected by an oversized desk that comes to symbolize their pain. – BK

We’ll get to them eventually: More of 2010’s important reads….

Mordecai: The Life and Times

by Charles Foran

Like many admirers of Mordecai Richler’s fiction, I find the author himself an intriguing personality. He was beloved as a writer, but notorious for the same irreverence and caustic wit that make his characters so damn likeable. One can see how this paradox alone would provide a solid basis for a fascinating biography. – BK


by Kathleen Winter

Set in a remote village in Labrador, Annabel explores the life of a child who was born a hermaphrodite and raised as a boy named Wayne. Despite his parents’ attempt to suppress the truth of his birth, Wayne cannot help but sense his sexual duality. Annabel has been nominated for a prestigious trio of Canadian awards (the Giller, Writers’ Trust and Governor General’s awards) and has garnered much critical acclaim for its exploration of gender and identity. – BK

Eating Animals

by Jonathan Safran Foer

As a longtime vegetarian, I am probably predisposed to like Eating Animals, which offers an unflinching portrayal of factory farming and commercial slaughterhouses. But I’m also curious to see how Safran Foer, a brilliant and popular fiction writer, tackles this very real, very unpalatable subject. If his novels are any indication, Eating Animals will be a bright, well-crafted read. – BK

The Four Fingers of Death

by Rick Moody

The year is 2025. Montese Crandall is hired to turn a novel out of B-movie horror schlock The Crawling Hand. It’s supposed to be funny. The New York Times called it “fast-and-loose-and-ambitious-as-Pynchon” and “rock-’n’-roll-dystopian.” I don’t know what “rock-’n’-roll-dystopian” means, but it sounds awfully dangerous and fun. – JC

Parrot & Olivier In America

by Peter Carey

It is written by Peter Carey (Oscar and Lucinda; True History of the Kelly Gang; My Life as a Fake; etc.). Olivier bears close resemblance to Alexis de Tocqueville. He is accompanied to America by Parrot, an English orphan and aspiring artist. Reviews have led me to believe that what ensues is a 19th-century road trip / feel-good comedy about best buds. – JC


by Tom McCarthy

For the longest time — until I started writing this right now, actually — I’ve had no clue what this book is about. What I do know is that you should never trust someone who says she doesn’t judge a book by its cover and I’ve felt this cover watching me as my back was turned every time I’ve stepped into a bookstore this fall. As it turns out, it’s about the life of a man named Serge, who is born in 1898. Generally speaking, the book’s theme is communication, or something. In its review, The Guardian compared McCarthy to James Joyce, and C was short-listed for the Man Booker. Not that any of that matters, because I’m going to read it anyway. – JC

Winter relief

Santa has come and gone, but Winterfest 2011 may help delay the looming stress of returning back to school. The almost week long event will feature club and pub nights, barbeques, sports events and more, during the first week of classes.

Events run from Tuesday to Saturday, with two events a day. On Tuesday, there will be sports (flag football, ultimate frisbee) set up for everyone to play on Front Campus at UC with a free accompanying barbecue. Tuesday night will feature the annual Winterfest pub crawl that will visit the Bedford Academy, the Duke of York, the Fox and Fiddle, The Madison, the James Joyce, the Brunny, and Pauper’s Pub.

“[The pub crawl will] cater to all partiers even if they aren’t necessarily clubbing types,” said Paul Humphrey, Social Commissioner of University College Literary and Athletic Society. “It also gives people a chance to check out some bars they may not have been to yet.”
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Wednesday will feature both an open mic night at Brennan Hall at St. Mike’s and a live viewing of the Raptor’s game project in Kruger Hall. Thursday night will feature a club night at XS Nightclub at John and Richmond.

Humphrey, former president of Party for a Cause, describes last year’s club night as “amazing” and hopes this years inclusion of musical act Planet Otnorot and DJs Intrinity, Couture, and Dynasty will make this year’s even better.

Friday will feature a self-explanatory pancake kegger. The week will wrap up on Saturday with a giant game of capture the flag in Queen’s Park at noon and a semi-formal in Old Vic’s Alumni Hall that night.

“It’s a beautiful space, and we’ll be sure have it extra decked out for the occasion,” said Humphrey. “We’ll also be providing some great food and bar service all for $15.”

U of T welcome back events first began in the 90s but disappeared in the early 2000s. Winterfest began in 2006 and has grown into a week organized between colleges.

“It’s a unique opportunity for college and division councils who often work on separate or even competing events, to work together and do something for all our students,” said Humphrey.

Humphrey added that this event shouldn’t be confused as a “second frosh week,” as the appeal is intended to be much larger. “Frosh week is catered towards new students, most of whom are still underage,” explained Humphrey. “Winterfest on the other hand caters to a wider community including upper years.”

“Winterfest is all about everyone coming together at the start of a new term to reconnect with their friends and their campus life,” explained Humphrey. “And most importantly remind them that despite the cold and class, U of T DOES party!”

Stunted transit

Mayor Rob Ford’s plan to cancel Transit City, which would have seen seven light rail lines built along Toronto’s busiest bus routes, in favour of replacing it with a paltry, though worthy eastward extension of the Sheppard subway line, is foolish and bears little resemblance to the responsibility which he preached during his campaign. Though Transit City’s overall budget would be larger than Ford’s subway plan, it would do far more with far less money per kilometer of transport. No transit proposal currently on the table is better suited to the age of municipal austerity and restraint, which Ford promised prior to his election this autumn.

Despite the fact that the replacement of Transit City with the Sheppard extension would be bad policy, such a move would be consistent with Toronto’s traditional narrow-mindedness on transit issues. Though municipal and provincial politicians have long paid lip service to the idea of linking the city together with new rapid transit lines, these plans have long been treated as luxuries rather than the necessities that they are. Toronto is like a small town trapped in the body of a large city. Its thinking has not yet expanded to meet the scale and scope of its challenges.

It is this narrow-mindedness that has kept Toronto from expanding and improving on the enviable transit system that it had built by the mid 1970s. If Toronto had followed through on half the proposals made by transit planners since this period, it would have at least two additional lines. One would run along Eglinton from Scarborough to the airport, while another would replace the King or Queen streetcars to provide much needed relief to the overcrowded Bloor and Yonge-University-Spadina lines. The Sheppard subway might be extended both eastward and westward to provide a fourth east-west connection. A third north-south line might be in the works.

The fault for Toronto’s arrested transit development is not solely a consequence of its narrow-mindedness, but because the municipal government is chronically underfunded. While Toronto is required to run a balanced budget and generally manages to do so without imposing too many significant cuts, it has little capacity for spending beyond ordinary operational expenses. This leaves the funding of large capital projects, such as transit, at the mercy of the federal and provincial governments. Unlike most cities of similar size in other countries, Toronto has little capacity to raise money, either through borrowing or taxes.
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As Alan Broadbent argued in Urban Nation it is time that we let large Canadian cities like Toronto raise their own money for big projects by allowing them to raise a greater variety of taxes and to issue bonds; something which even small towns in the United States take for granted. The need for greater spending capacity at the municipal level does not mean, however, that the federal and provincial governments should be allowed to shirk their responsibilities towards big cities. Unfortunately, the current financial climate makes an infusion of federal or provincial money unlikely, despite it being long overdue.

If Toronto cannot expect the support it needs from other levels of government and is prohibited to seek it alone, then it cannot hope to construct the transit infrastructure which a city of its size needs. The result is continually increasing car traffic, which contributes to the decreasing air quality of the city as well as to climate change, but also valuable hours of productivity lost to commuting. Though budget hawks like Mayor Ford are right to ask whether Toronto really has the means to make its transit plans into reality, they would do well not to ignore the consequences which not doing so might have.

Likewise, pro-transit activists are right to seek improvements to Toronto’s transit infrastructure, but they cannot ignore the challenges that improving the aging system will present. Chief among these challenges is that Toronto might need to get creative to make up for shortfalls in federal and provincial funding. This means opening up new transit development to partnerships with the private sector, including real estate developers who would benefit from subway lines being built near their developments. While the city should be careful not to allow private participation to distort transit development, it should not close off the possibility of cooperation outright.

Torontonians face an increasingly stark choice about their transit future. Either we can continue to run an atrophied and outdated network, supplemented by stop-gap measures like Mayor Ford’s Sheppard extension and the new subway trains due to enter into service this winter, or we can get serious about transit and start to create a modern, efficient, and interconnected system to bind Toronto together. Neither will be easy, but it is clear that the first choice can have nothing but negative consequences, except perhaps for the city’s chequing account. And if that is all that matters to Torontonians anymore, then we must be reminded of the difference between a corporation and a government.

When opposing interests collide

The potential takeover of U.K. satellite broadcaster BSkyB by media magnate Rupert Murdoch has provoked quite a stir in political and media circles. Many key industry figures have penned letters to Vince Cable, Liberal Democrat MP and business secretary, to condemn this as a move toward further diminishing media plurality and have urged a halt to the acquisition.

Murdoch, perhaps best known in North America as the founder of Fox News Channel and the CEOU of Newscorp, has long sought to consolidate various media outlets around the world under the umbrella of his multi-platform company, News Corporation, in order to spread a conservative political agenda and act as a mouthpiece for right-leaning governments. While his quest to monopolize most, if not all, of U.K. media has not yet reached the same proportion in the United States, the success of Fox News is but one example of the mainstream media’s deteriorating state of affairs.

The rise of corporate media has led to a merger between journalistic and government interests, whereby the “journalists” and the political leaders whom they are supposed to be challenging are virtually identical. Although we are seeing more web-based, progressive organizations like WikiLeaks fulfill the duties of the media by exposing government secrets and wrongdoing, the website, along with its founder, Julian Assange, are under attack by the U.S. government and perhaps not surprisingly by the mainstream press, whose livelihood is so dependent on the political and financial elite targeted by WikiLeaks. Even some of the most widely respected news organizations, like CNN (owned by TimeWarner) and the Washington Post, who are often praised for objective, non-partisan reporting, have shown a willingness to repeat statements from government officials that accuse Assange of endangering lives, putting national security at risk, and being careless in releasing hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables (the latter of which is categorically false). This dangerous alignment between government officials and journalists poses a serious threat to the democratic process and above all, shield corrupt factions in government from accountability and justice.

Although WikiLeaks consumed much of the recent news coverage, the pathetic way in which it was treated by reporters and assailed by political pundits is perfectly illustrative of the media’s pattern of subservience to those in power. Last year’s proposed healthcare reforms ignited a debate in the country that, for the most part, consisted of inaccuracies, lies, and damned lies (remember “death panels?”) Instead of having a serious national discussion about meaningful structural reform to the health care system, perhaps one that could mirror Canada’s universal healthcare, according to media watchdog FAIR, proponents of such reform were virtually shut out from the discussion. Why? Once the Obama administration had nixed the possibility of implementing a single-payer system early in 2009, media outlets began reducing coverage on this issue, to the detriment of public awareness. The merger of government and journalistic interests is further intensified when former government officials, like torture aficionado Marc Thiessen, landed cushy jobs as political contributors or columnists at news organizations and were given a platform from which to argue propaganda on behalf of their previous employer. It has been widely documented that at the height of the Iraq War, corporate executives of various news outlets, such as Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, among others, suppressed stories and reports that were deemed critical of the Bush administration’s policies. It is, for this reason and many others, that we have seen alternative sources of information, such as WikiLeaks, gain more credibility and legitimacy among the public, to the chagrin of many establishment news outlets.

In order to preserve the democratic process, it is imperative that the media be dedicated to exposing conspiracies and government malfeasance, independent of any political party or moneyed interest. However, as the corporate-owned organizations continue to balloon in size and scope, our understanding of the world’s pressing issues will continue to be filtered through the narrow lens of these corporations, whose interests are more profit-driven, and less about journalistic integrity. It is no surprise then, that investigative journalism has drastically declined over the years, mostly due to the corporate media’s reliance on cost-cutting measures. It is certainly cause for concern when a handful of wealthy individuals exert tremendous influence on public opinion, which in turn, can have significant political and policy consequences. The public embrace of independent voices and the growing support for WikiLeaks represents a desire for more transparency and a rejection of the media’s corporate domination.

The Swiss People’s Party are the real black sheep

The Swiss People’s Party, known as SVP (or UDC in French), is an extreme right-wing, nationalist organization which opposes immigration and its country’s recent entry into the Schengen agreement, a shared European free-travel zone.

The party made worldwide headlines in the run-up to the 2007 national election with its infamous black sheep ad, which featured an illustration of three white sheep standing on a Swiss flag, one of which is kicking a single black sheep across a line. The ad, which reads “for increasing security,” had blatant racist undertones and promoted a party that wants strict border controls and mass deportations of foreigners.

But the SVP is not some fringe group of isolated racists. In that 2007 election, the party scored 28.9 per cent of the popular vote, making it the single largest party on Switzerland’s National Council.

The black sheep ad is back, now with an even more blatant message.

In late November the party convinced a majority of Swiss voters to approve a constitutional plebiscite requiring the automatic deportation of foreigners convicted of serious crimes or profiting from fraud.

The advertisement featured a redesigned black sheep ad, next to one of four concocted examples of criminals with foreign-sounding names. Igor is a rapist. Ismir is a fraudster. Maurice is a paedophile. Faruk is a murderer.
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The ads were plastered on billboards throughout Switzerland, advertised in newspapers, and mailed to households across the country.

This isn’t the first time the party used emotive imagery to get its referenda passed.

In November 2009, the SVP successfully campaigned for a ban on the construction of minarets. The country was flooded with an illustration featuring minarets tearing through a Swiss flag while a black niqab-clad woman hatefully glared at the viewer.

The SVP has published other offensive ads. One against naturalization features hands of varying skin tones prying into a tray of Swiss passports. Another features menacing black crows standing over the shape of Switzerland’s borders.

Illustrations of immigrants as conniving animals are not that different from Nazi posters depicting Jews as rats.

Over the past two decades, the party has risen from nine per cent support and is expecting to surpass 30 per cent in the coming federal election this October. With few parties ever reaching 25 per cent support, the rise of the SVP has many outsiders concerned about the rise in xenophobia.

Compared to its European peers, the country has only suffered mildly from the recent global recession. Little of the continent’s sovereign debt crisis affects the non-EU state.

About one-fifth of the country’s residents do not have citizenship, and a third of the population is of non-Swiss origin. Though these numbers are higher than in neighbouring countries, Switzerland is arguably the hardest European country to obtain citizenship from, requiring 12 years of residence and interviews with neighbours.

Although the country welcomes asylum seekers and refugees, they make up less than two per cent of the country’s population of 7.7 million. In a country with cosmopolitan cities and influential banks, many immigrants are skilled financial and hospitality workers from financially stable countries.

A country with three dominant linguistic and cultural groups, the Swiss Confederation has managed to form a solid national identity since its establishment in 1848. Unlike federal confederations like Belgium or Canada, independence movements in Switzerland are nearly unheard of.

The Swiss can easily think of symbols that define the country as a nation: banks, fondue, watches, chocolate, Alps, emmental, trains, cow bells, yodelling, army knives, and St. Bernard rescue dogs, to name a few.

Hardly any of these symbols are used in SVP advertising. Instead of appealing to national pride, the party is working to inspire fear in its citizens, making them vote using emotion instead of reason.

While the recent proposal on mandatory deportation of criminals could be blamed on a higher conviction rate among foreigners, there is little evidence that the correlation also applies to serious crime. The ballot contained an alternative proposal that would have offered judges discretionary power.

The 2009 minaret ban also made little sense. Muslims only make up five per cent of the Swiss population, and most come from Turkey and Balkan countries, areas with relatively liberal forms of Islam where niqab wearing is uncommon. Prior to the ban, the whole country only had six mosques, four of which had minarets.

SVP has used emotional propaganda to advance its political objectives. Using ads unimaginable in Canada, it creates an “other” out of foreigners, making Swiss citizens fear and mistrust a large number of the people they encounter every day.

The party’s rise is reminiscent of the fascism of the 1930s, when multiple European states urged citizens to cling to their national identity with a fervour that resembled or even incorporated religion. Dictators ruled, regular people reported their neighbours for thought crimes, and genocide was committed on a terrifying scale. One hopes the Swiss, and European voters as a whole, turn to a more rational political discourse in the coming months and years.

The party’s over

The time has come to trudge through the cold to classes, leave the hibernation of holidays, and catch up on all the news you may have been ignoring. As most of us were choosing outfits and chilling champagne on New Year’s Eve, Prime Minister Harper was busy highlighting his government’s 2010 accomplishments. While US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron delivered more sombre addresses to their nations, bluntly commenting on the year in review and outlooks for the future, Harper waxed poetic about the great Conservative achievements of 2010. However, 2010 was not a banner year in Canadian history. And at the rate we’re going, with the current leadership in place, 2011 will likely be no better.

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In Harper’s statement, the grand successes of 2010 include: his government’s Economic Action Plan, which created over 440,000 new jobs from July 2009; hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in Vancouver, and the G8 and G20 summits in Huntsville and Toronto. In conclusion, the prime minister commented that “This has been a momentous year for Canada, and we can all be proud of the many successes achieved, both here at home and around the world.” However, determining whether such events measure as successes is a subjective matter.

Some of the accomplishments Harper highlights are certainly commendable. Yet his statement is the tip of the iceberg in terms of Canada’s year, and what lies beneath is significantly less perfect. In November, the Senate rejected Bill C-311 to cut greenhouse gases, as Canada continues its dismal performance in combatting climate change. And all of the talk about tackling crime does not include any mention of support systems to prevent people from becoming criminals in the first place.

Remember the prorogation of Parliament? Around this time last year we were exchanging lame jokes about proroguing due dates. The government decided to suspend Parliament for two months, until after the Vancouver Winter Olympics. That’s part of what hosting the Olympics meant for Canada.

Perhaps the truly frightening aspect of 2010’s prorogation was how it exposed the apathy of the Canadian public. In a Harris-Decima poll conducted at the time, 46 per cent were indifferent to the government’s decision, 34 per cent were unhappy with it, and 15 per cent were happy. So the government can go on doing and saying what it likes, and most of us won’t care enough to find out what that is, let alone form an opinion on it.

Then we have the G8 and G20, hardly jewels in the Canadian 2010 crown. Can Canadians be proud of what Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin called “the most massive compromise of civil liberties in Canadian history,” which “amounted to martial law in Toronto?” The list of G8 and G20 expenses is fairly embarrassing: $1.9 million for a “fake lake” pavilion in Huntsville; $14,000 for glow sticks, because Canada is home of the best raves; $2.2 million for one day’s worth of car rentals; and one of the biggest points of contention, a security bill of almost $1 billion. Pittsburgh hosted the G20 in September 2009 and only spent $18 million US in total, with none of the vandalism to businesses that Toronto suffered. The greater expense for Canada is partially due to hosting both summits, but also to a clear lack of organization and accountability.

In October 2010, Canada lost its bid for a position on the UN Security Council for the first time in 60 years. Apparently the international community is concerned with more than the hosting skills of a nation. Minister of Foreign Affairs Lawrence Cannon blamed the loss on Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff’s statement that Canada would not win the seat because Canada did not deserve it. Realistically, that statement probably did not reach voters. The comment of NDP Foreign Affairs Critic Paul Dewar best sums up the loss, that the Harper government has “formulated a foreign policy based on domestic gain and talking points.” Canadian withdrawal from the UN Kyoto Protocol, its unabashed pro-Israel stance, cutting aid to Africa, and moving away from UN peacekeeping probably lost the seat. Yet Cannon dismissed that idea, saying “I do not in any way see this as a repudiation of Canada’s foreign policy.”

For many Canadians, 2010 has been more of a year of embarrassment more than of pride. If we performed so well internationally, where is the recognition? If we are so concerned with our place in the international community, where is the foreign policy? The refusal of the Canadian government to acknowledge or take responsibility for the realities of the year is frightening. As we begin 2011 with the possibility of another federal election few will really care about, may we, as voters, reflect on the year behind us and vow to make our voices heard in the year ahead.