Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Impark Imperfect

On Monday, October 26 I attended a rally for healthcare at the Legislature. I got there via a friend and his van. Thinking that all of the parking meters in the area only allowed 20 minutes (we would be there at least an hour and did not want to have to keep running back to the vehicle), we parked in a lot owned by Imperial Parking, known to most in Edmonton as Impark. The lot was located at 109 street and 99 avenue.

I volunteered to pay for the parking, and since I did not have six dollars in coins (yup - six bucks for an hour), I decided to use my Mastercard. I read the instructions: first I was to press any button to get started. Then, I was to pick what amount of time I wanted. Then, I was to insert my credit card and have the appropriate amount charged. I have done this before and thought I knew what to expect.

I went ahead and pushed a button. I was then prompted to insert my credit card. I thought, "OK, maybe I'll be asked what amount of time I want after I insert." I wasn't. The machine went ahead and charged me for a full day of parking: $34. Thirty four dollars down the drain. I managed to calm down, went to the rally, and then at one p.m. sharp (we had arrived at 12:08 p.m. according to the ticket) left and went on to other errands we had to do that afternoon. My intention was to call Impark to dispute the ticket, but by the time I got home and took care of some time-sensitive work issues, it was too late to call.

So, I called first thing Tuesday morning. I explained to the the very polite person at the other end who told me that I should have called immediately - since it was an all day ticket I could have continued to use it or given it to someone else to use. And of course, she had never ever heard of anything like this happening before. I told her that when we returned to the lot, there was a crowd of people around the meter shrugging their shoulders and making other actions in frustration.

Now, I sort of see their point, however, I did not such thing and what happened to me was wrong: my credit card should not have been charged without giving me the option of picking what I wanted to pay. Nor does it say anywhere on the ticket that if there is a dispute with the charge to call immediately -- just the usual disclaimer about damage and theft. I did not know I had a limited window in which I had to make the call. I feel very ripped off.

Needless to say, when I attended the Keep Alberta Nuclear Free rally at the Legislature on Tuesday, we avoided the Impark lot and used a meter -- some of them are only good for 20 minutes but others are hourly. We paid $2.50 for one hour, right in front of the lot. I don't plan on using an Impark lot again in the near future and I am encouraging others to do the same. I don't believe the onus should be on the consumer when something goes wrong.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Bush Go Home

On October 20, former U. S. president George W. Bush was in Edmonton as part of a cross-Canada speaking tour. This was not the first time he was in Canada. Last March, he made an appearance in Calgary. There was a protest outside of the venue where he spoke, and numerous people from Edmonton went down there to join the ruckus.

The peace group I am with, the Edmonton Coalition Against War and Racism organized a protest outside of the Shaw Conference Centre, along with the Palestine Solidarity Network. Around 600 people showed up for the un-welcoming party - more than in Calgary, and certainly more than the mainstream media reported.

Everything remained peaceful for the most part, despite security guards trying to show their bravado before things got rolling. The half dozen or so of us who got there early to start to set up in front of the Shaw were told that the entire sidewalk was private property and that we had to move our protest across the street in front of Canada Place, or else we would be arrested and charged with trespassing. The members of the Edmonton Police, dressed in full riot gear, clarified that there was actually a portion of the sidewalk that was public. Using their bicycles as a barrier, we crossed over to the front of the Shaw. The bicycles were later replaced by yellow metal barriers.

When entering and leaving, the crowd of mostly white, upper middle class, 30-ish audience members were booed. Mayor Mandel also emerged after the talk, and spoke with reporters. The person next to me commented that she wondered if he would go to see Hitler speak.

Despite a few glitches, like not having power, we were able to set up a sound system. I belted out "Masters of War" because no one says it better than Bob Dylan. Later, I sang "I Only Ask of God" in English, after which a Latin American family came up to me asking if they could sing it with me in Spanish. We positioned them in front of another microphone and went for it. The People's Poets also sang words of solidarity.

Here is my photo set from the event. This short video gives you an idea of what was going on for most of the afternoon/evening. As well, here is the video of me singing "Masters of War" (note: the volume is very high and I had no monitor).

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Getting Ready for Bush

On Tuesday afternoon I was interviewed by the Edmonton Journal concerning that evening's planned protest against George W. Bush. The article was on the Journal's website for a few hours, until it was replaced with the one about the event itself. I think I said some things that were still pertinent after the fact.

All Protesters gear up for Bush event in Edmonton
By Richard Warnica,
October 20, 2009 3:02 PM

EDMONTON - Though controversial and oft critically loathed, the presidency of George W. Bush was nonetheless unquestionably crammed with historical moments.

Bush, who is speaking tonight in Edmonton, presided over a world-changing terrorist attack, started two wars and arguably set the stage-with his own historic unpopularity- for the election of the first black president of the United States.

And oh yeah, one time, he almost got hit by a shoe.

For many nobushniks, the shoe-throwing Iraqi journalist, who missed the then-president in two attempts, has come to symbolize their own distaste for Bush.

And as the former president has taken his first tentative steps back on the global stage, shoe-wielding protesters have followed him at every turn.

Tonight, inside the Shaw Conference Centre, Bush is scheduled to speak in front of a sold-out crowd of 2,000. Outside, meanwhile, protest organizers promise there will be shoes.

In a uniquely Canadian twist, though, the footwear will not be flung, said Paula Kirman, an organizer with the Edmonton Coalition Against War and Racism, the main body behind tonight's rally. Instead the shoes will be stacked in a pile and later given to charity.

"We're intending this to be a peaceful protest," Kirman said.

Kirman expects at least several hundred protesters to show up for the event, beginning at about 4 p.m. In addition to the shoes, there will be speakers and live music.

"He is just responsible for so much inhumanity," Kirman said. "We want to send a very strong message to the Canadian government that war criminals should not be allowed in the country."

Inside, ticket holders will be treated to anecdotes from the former president as well as a question-and-answer session with former L.A. Kings goaltender and hockey commentator Kelly Hrudey.

© Copyright (c) The Edmonton Journal

Monday, October 19, 2009

Healthcare Rallies and Local Events

Healthcare cuts continue to be a huge issue here in Alberta. I have attended two more rallies in the last week or so. One was to Save Alberta Hospital, and we marched and rallied around Alberta Hospital Edmonton. Here is my photo set and a video. This was the first time I ever ran through a cabbage patch during a rally!

On October 16, the United Nurses of Alberta marched from West Edmonton Mall to the Misericordia Hospital to protest healthcare cuts. Here are photos and the video.

In addition to activism, I've also been having some fun at local events. On Saturday, I went to the Old Time Country Fair in Churchill Square. This was my first time at the event. It attempted to recreate an old-fashioned carnival with games, jugglers, stilt-walkers, horse-drawn carriage rides, food, and balloon fairies. Take a look at the photos. My highlight was riding in the horse-drawn carriage around City Hall.

On Saturday night, I went to Storefront Cinema Night. This was the second year for this block festival, and this year it was expanded to two evenings. Friday night was the family program, while Saturday was the "main event." Three blocks of Stony Plain Road were shut down with movies projected in the windows of several of the businesses in the area. Live hip hop artists provided live entertainment, bonfires kept everyone warm (and it was a nice night, thankfully), and a "throwie" board in the parking lot of Jasper Gates Plaza attracted some attention. People threw coloured LED lights onto a magnetic board, creating a very colourful result. Take a look at my photos.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Climate Change and Relevance

This post is written as part of Blog Action Day 2009.

Climate change is one of those issues that has my friends divided. Many of them believe this to be a threat to our world, while others think it is media hype as our temperatures wax and wane based upon pre-determined cycles. They feel there is nothing the human race can do to change anything when it comes to our weather.

My ecologically inclined friends (and I count myself in amongst these numbers) on the other hand, think that we have a huge role to play in what happens to the world via our carbon footprints. We are the ones who try to ride or walk instead of drive, recycle, and consume less in general. We hope and sometimes pray our efforts will have an effect on the melting polar ice caps and other environmental carnage the world currently faces.

I believe this comes down to a question of life values concerning materialism and consumption (and ultimately capitalism itself, as some of my more radical friends may suggest). Let's just set aside the argument of whether or not our actions can affect climate change. Do we still have an obligation to be responsible about those actions? Absolutely! There is no benefit to growing landfills, pollution, poisoned rivers, and other environmental disasters caused by our relentless quest for oil and possessions.

Climate change may seem like a big issue that is far from our abilities as individuals to make a dent. In fact, what is truly needed are governmental policies to foster protection of the earth. Countries need to follow existing policies, like the Kyoto Accord, which Canada tends to ignore. However, as individuals, we can at least try to make a cleaner, better world around us.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

October 2009 Boyle McCauley News

Today's Edmonton Journal had a feature story about Boyle McCauley News' 30th anniversary - check it out here!

The October issue of Boyle McCauley News is online - check out what we have in store this month:

* East Meets West Cultural Event A Success
* Celebrating Our Senior Volunteers
* Letters To The Editor
* Free Guitar Lessons
* Cop’s Corner: Calling the Police
* Inn Roads Coop Celebrates 25 Years of Community Building
* Residents to Be Relocated
* Looking Back
* Shop Talk: New Businesses in McCauley
* Portrait of a Life in McCauley
* Community League Updates

Download a copy of the paper as a PDF here.