July - August, 2001
Did we really get the story straight about the City of Toronto forking out cash on 160,000 smokes for the homeless in our hostel system?
Could this be the same city that makes it all but impossible for anyone to earn a living running a bar or restaurant in the politically correct era of 2001?
Before he mercifully ran out of our money, Health Board Chairman Coun. John Filion sent out inspectors to colour code T.O's eating establishments. Silly, sanctimonious socialist that he is, Filion's yellow sign, posted as a warning against restaurants with minor infractions, created business bedlam. Tourists in from Yonkers did not take the time to study the city's manual on colour codes and therefore could not tell the difference between the red sign flagging customers about rodent and cockroach infestations and minor yellow.
Then came June 1 and a new bylaw banning smoking in restaurants, bowling alleys and dinner theatres.
While restaurant/bar operators and their patrons were looking over their shoulders for the inspectors, the city's purchasing department was calling in quotes on 800 cartons of du Maurier cigarettes. Guess to the pencil pushers in purchasing, du Maurier smokes have less tar and nicotine than Players, Benson & Hedges et al.
Feeling bleeding heart toward the downtrodden among local hostels, purchasing department mandarins let it be known that they may extend their one-year contract with du Maurier for an additional two years.
Enter John Jagt, the city's director of hostel services, who says there's nothing new about the program which gives cigarettes to hostel residents in the Seaton House annex program who are sick and can't get their own smokes.
"We've got a lot of old fellas who don't get out much, and we also use them for prizes at bingo, and card games, that kind of stuff," Jagt told the in-yer-face and in-your-books Toronto Star investigative reporter Jack Lakey.
If it weren't for Lakey, the gentry would have thought no one, other than the other Jack at Toronto City Hall, smoked anywhere in T.O.
Dr. Sheela Basrur, Toronto's medical officer of health, waxed surprised upon discovery of the city's generosity toward smoking hostel residents.
"Good gracious, I had no idea," she told Lakey.
Good gracious, as Basrur seems sympathetic to the local protest scene, we think she should put meaning to her words by resigning her post in protest.
If the medical officer's good gracious routine isn't hypocritical enough, there's Coun. Brad Duguid, who truly tries to live up to the sound of his name.
As the chair of city council's community services committee, which is responsible for hostels, Brad is out there doing good for hostel smokers. That's because it's in keeping with the hostel system's harm-reduction strategy. "We also have shelters where we'll provide people with a little alcohol as well, because they are less likely to get into something harmful like cooking wine," he said.
Let's make drug education mandatory for Mr. Do-Good.
Seaton House, where the city purchased smokes are headed, is Toronto's largest shelter for homeless men, housing on any regular night as many as 600, ranging in age from 18 to 90. Contrary to regular neighbourhood bars, Seaton House residents can smoke in a room that's ventilated to the outside.
Thanks to social engineers such as Sheela Basrur and city councillors like Filion and Duguid, you can't light up in your favourite bar after a grueling day at the office, or watching your council in action over Roger's cable.
But if you happen to be homeless, the City of Toronto will keep you in smokes.
Just what is it that the municipal meddlers at Toronto City Hall are trying to tell the rest of us?