The Ottawa Citizen from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada on May 29, 1998 · 26
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The Ottawa Citizen from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada · 26

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Friday, May 29, 1998
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The City editorial Page C4 THE OTTAWA CITIZEN FRIDAY, MAY 29, 1998 OUR TOWN V. y . ' 6f ' - ' ' " - ?; - ' ; ' ' A vl ( v ' I - .- ... . - 1 ifc For almost 20 years, Ghislaine Turcotte has been one of the National Gallery of Canada's most active volunteers. She has organized lectures and concerts and helped in fundraising and promotions. As the editorial below points out, she is part of one of the biggest cultural success stories in Ottawa. Ottawa Citizen photograph by Wayne Hiebert The art of enhancing cultural life The National Gallery, 10 years in its new home this month, has not simply changed the landscape of Ottawa. It has changed the cultural life of the city by popularizing art. The gallery's old office building, the Lome Building on Elgin Street, almost hid Canada's art treasures. From the beginning, the gallery's new $162-million permanent building on Sussex Drive has been an attention-grabber. Its location beside the Ottawa River and below Parliament Hill was ideal. Its design by Moshe Safdie was a striking departure for Ottawa, a building of dramatic light and open space in a city of grey, restrained public buildings. They opened the doors and people came, one million just in the first year. The National Gallery of Canada is today one of the biggest draws for visitors to the capital. It is the most popular museum in Ottawa, last year attracting 772,385 visitors. It has 13,000 members. Its travelling exhibits draw 200,000 spectators a year. Some of the special exhibits, Degas and Renoir, have been huge successes with the public and have elevated the gallery's reputation abroad. The 1995 Group of Seven exhibition was the gallery's best-attended fall event ever. There has also been controversy, most notably the purchase and exhibition of Barnett Newman's simple, huge painting of stripes, Voice of Fire, which outraged some politicians and taxpayers who felt Canadian tax money should not be squandered on American modern art of dubious quality. Still, the public keeps coming back, turning the intersection of St. Patrick Street and Sussex Drive into a magnet for Canadians interested in art. The gallery is an institution that must balance the need for public outreach and communication with a wide number of people against the need to collect the best art regardless of current tastes. It's not an easy task. The public debate about what should and should not happen at the gallery is a healthy sign of general interest in culture. As the gallery notes in its report for !997 "The National Gallery, like the artist, must dare to be imaginative, original, provocative." Its current exhibit of Picasso's works has generated wide attention in the media and art circles but smaller crowds. The gallery cannot please everyone all the time. One of the gallery's most inspired moves was to drop its general admission charge in 1993 and Nepean's folly One test of a bylaw is to consider whether enforcement will look silly. When Ne-pean bylaw officers are required to apprehend a 15-month-old caught playing road hockey, the situation speaks for itself. Nepean and its fellow lower-tier municipalities have banned such innocent childhood pastimes as ball hockey and even hopscotch from the streets in a misguided attempt to protect children. That's their parents' job, not the municipality's. Besides, what better and cheaper way to create that traffic calming that everyone wants than to have children playing road hockey? only charge for special exhibits. Taxpayers have already paid for this new home for the gallery. It's fitting that the beauty of the country's best art is free for all to see, especially students. Like most federal government institutions, the gallery has struggled with budgets over the last few years, currently running on about $31 million a year. It spends about $3 million a year on acquisitions. Tight finances have forced the gallery to turn to private sources and that's not a bad thing. The $500,ooo-gift from Midland-Wal-wyn to hold the Picasso exhibit is an unusually large example of corporate support for the arts. The gallery's small acquisitions budget has been augmented by donations of paintings by private art collectors, some worth many millions of dollars. In 1989, for instance, the gallery acquired 84 paintings by James Wilson Morrice worth $15 million, from G. Blair Laing, of Toronto. Much of the gallery's future success will depend on whether it can increase private support and be less dependent on whatever powers happen to be ensconced on Parliament Hill. The gallery has been a major catalyst in the regional economy, filling up restaurants and hotels and ringing up retail sales in the Rideau-By-ward Market area. The Renoir exhibit alone generated $31.5 million in consumer spending, including $7.2 million on room rentals and $10.7 million on food and drink. The gallery's greatest value, of course, is that it takes care of and displays to Canadians some of the world's greatest paintings, sculptures and photographs, 40,000 pieces in all. In the last decade it has become the leading cultural landmark in the capital. We should never take it for granted. Air show celebrates tools of oppression By Bill Skidmore On the morning of May 19, 1986, two South African fighter planes entered Zam-bian airspace. Flying just over the treetops to escape radar detection, they headed towards Lusaka, the capital. On the city's southern outskirts they attacked. First, they bombed a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) transit centre, a temporary residence for refugees seeking asylum. Seconds later, they hit a private dwelling, home to several refugees seeking asylum. Then they hit another private dwelling, home to several refugees from Namibia, a country then occupied by South Africa. Although several buildings at the transit centre were damaged, no one was wounded. Fortunately, most of the those staying there had left earlier that morning for the city. It was a different story at the second target. There, the attack came as a Namibian family gathered, along with some friends, to discuss a family problem. One man was killed, while several adults and children were wounded. I knew some of the wounded, since I was then working for UNHCR in Lusaka. Our immediate task following How to contact us For suggestions about photographs for this page, inquiries about freelance articles or comments on our editorials, call City Editorial Page Editor Randall Denley at 596-3756. The e-mail address is rdenleythecitizen.southam.ca and the fax number is 726-1198. the attack was to find shelter for residents of the transit centre. Not only was their housing damaged, but we feared the centre might be targeted again. So tents were found, belongings gathered, transport arranged, and a camp set up on a farm near the city. Upon arrival at the site, we met in a field to plan the camp setup. I was in the middle of a group of more than 50 people when, without warning, conversation abruptly stopped and everyone but me scattered. I remained where I was, completely perplexed by this behaviour. Then I heard the jet. Terror swept through me. I had not time to think, no time to plan my escape. I just raced for the trees, hoping I wasn't running into the path of the oncoming plane. But the jet that roared past was from the Zambian air force. We all laughed, a reaction that comes from knowing both terror and then immense relief within a few short moments. Those wounded in the morning raid knew no such relief. That night I visited them at the hospital. One person lay in bed crying, while a second victim lay rigid on his side, his eyes expressionless. A young girl was dressed in bandages that covered the numerous small wounds to her body. This weekend, thousands will attend the National Capital Air Show and military trade exposition in Ottawa. They will be drawn there primarily to see the performance of F-14S, F-i6s, F-i8s and other attack aircraft. They will see the A-10 "Warthog," described by the U.S. Air Force as the most "deadly ground attack fighter ever built." Adults and children alike will cheer and applaud as these planes swoop overhead. An announcer will describe the manoeuvres of each plane. And special guests will be in the stands this year: the highest ranking air force generals of the Americas, in town for their yearly meeting. These planes are indeed awesome; elegantly designed, swift, capable of acrobatic turns. But as we become fascinated by the display of technology, we lose sight of its purpose. These planes are used to intimidate, or when that fails, to attack and kill people. The pilots, normally some distance from those they target, don't witness the consequences of their actions. They don't see the bodies pulverized or burned or sliced to pieces. They don't linger to listen to the screams of the wounded. Nor do they spend the next few years with the survivors, helping them recover from the physical and emotional trauma of their ordeal. We, as civilians, are even more distant from the carnage. For us, air shows are "family entertainment." We marvel at and celebrate the weapons on display, with little thought given to the great harm they inflict. We share this enthusiasm with our children, and in doing so help teach them that our use of such weapons is acceptable, or even necessary and honourable. Those who defend air shows from such criticism, often insist that we need these weapons to maintain our freedom. We are, after all, the good guys, living in a world made dangerous by others. We, and our allies, do not use such weapons with aggressive or malicious intent, but only to preserve our security and the democracy we hold dear. Were this true, perhaps we could occasionally justify the use of mighty weapons like the ones displayed at air shows, although even then their destructive force could only only be re garded as a tragic necessity, rather than than something to celebrate. But it isn't true. Consider our closest and most important ally, the United States, held by many to be the world's pre-eminent defender of freedom and democracy. Yet the U.S. military and the CIA have conducted scores of foreign interventions this century, including the subversion of elected reformist governments. They have also trained and equipped the militaries of numerous countries, including those that have tortured and massacred their own citizens. U.S. companies produce and sell more military products, including attack aircraft, than those of any other country. The primary motive here is not the pursuit of freedom and democracy, or the legitimate defence of American security. The refugees in Lusaka were attacked for daring to resist an oppressive regime in South Africa that wished and had the means to preserve economic and political power for a select minority. In a similar vein, western nations, and most particularly their elites, wish to protect and extend their global economic dominance. Those who resist the enormous disparities in wealth, and the ideology that justifies them, can be taken care of. After all, we have the means. You can see for yourself this weekend at the National Capital Air Show. Bill Skidmore teaches human rights courses at Carleton University. He also supports the work of the Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade, which is holding a vigil in response to the air force generals' meeting this Sunday, 8p.m. at the Westin Hotel. For more information call 231-3076. Randall Denley Garbage schemes ; smell bad j Regional government's latest plan to "improve" the local garbage collection system is flawed in so many respects, one hardly knows where to begin. Is the' worst idea that government is plunging into a business of which it has no experience and little knowledge, is it the fake competition with the private sector or is it the plan to spend a fortune collecting table scraps? Let's start with the table scraps. All the ideas stink but this is the one whose odour you will notice most. ; Starting next summer, the region will phase in a program to pick up your kitchen slops. They'll even provide a nifty $70-container to two-thirds of local households so they can collect the slops and store them for two weeks. Among the things the region suggest you save are meat scraps, old fish and cat litter. Keep your windows closed in warm weather. This town is going to smell. Special garbage trucks will pick up the slops and take them to a private site. The region will consider piling kitchen slops on the ground to allow them to rot, or compost, as it's known these days. Staff note that there are some concerns about this open-air composting. Certainly, the rats will be delighted. More likely, the private sector will build a composting plant. An $80 million composting and recycling plant has been built in Edmonton and a $36 million one in Guelph. It costs $60 to collect a tonne of organic waste, which produces $10 worth of compost. Apparently it's considered a business proposition. - The extra cost of the kitchen slops program is pegged at $1.3 million, although one can certainly see where it could go higher. The estimate being released is for the mid-point of the four-year phase-in of the program. Staff can't put a figure on what the final total cost might be. All this is to keep you from putting garbage in the garbage dump. The region's ambitious composting plan feeds the public's recycling fetish. In the minds of many, the blue box program is seen as saving the environment. It does nothing of the kind. All it does is prolong the the life of the Trail Road dump. Regional politicians are deathly afraid of the day when they'll have to choose a new dump site and so will do anything to postpone that controversy. While they were on the topic of garbage, councillors decided to slip through a major service reduction. Blue box collection will be still be weekly but only metal and glass will be collected one week, paper and cardboard the next. Get used to a bigger pile of junk in your garage. The region hopes to drive the price of the next garbage contract down by becoming a player itself. To achieve this, it's prepared to make a mockery of the competitive bidding process. While the private sector bidders are bound by detailed contract guarantees set by the region, the region itself suffers no such disadvantages. It won't have to provide $5 million in liability insurance or $750,000 in bonding and a further $750,000 letter of credit per zone, as the private companies must. Instead, the region will provide non-binding estimates of its costs in competition with the private sector. Councillors will choose next fall between the private sector bids and the regional estimates, although there are no guidelines for how to pick. There will naturally be concerns about what the real cost of the region's adventure in garbage collecting is, since there are no guarantees. Staff don't provide much reassurance by proposing to report back after two years. Two years? How many millions of dollars will we have blown by then? The region correctly notes that there is a lack of competition in the garbage business. That's too bad, but a government-run simulation of competition is hardly the answer. There are two schools of thought as to the intent of the region's plan. Some see it as an attempt to keep private sector bids down, bearing in mind that private firms wanted a 10-per-cent increase to extend the current contract for two more years. Others think that the region wants to expand its empire and bring us more of that famously efficient government-delivered service. Critics of a one-government model will find plenty of ammunition in the garbage quagmire the region finds itself in. It took over the service in 1996 with the idea that a centrally administered contract would mean big savings. At the time, Laidlaw dominated the local garbage business but there were three other haulers who had contracts within the region. Now the region has split the contract into five residential and four apartment zones, to try to replicate the competition that existed. The region's willingness to get into the business itself is a measure of its desperation.

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