Corruption, commissions and casseroles

Toula Foscolos
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Year in review 2012

Most publications have a knack for encapsulating an entire year into a few catchy headlines. 'Best of' lists pop up everywhere and seem to fulfill a need for people to narrow things down to manageable bites. Because, after all, how else does one make sense of a year so as to move on to the next one?

Toula Foscolos

2012 was a crazy mish-mash of extraordinary world events, interspersed with silly moments that branded themselves into our popular psyche. The Occupy Wall Street movement emerged in late 2011, but only gained true momentum this year. The OWS slogan, ‘We are the 99 per cent,’ addressing the growing income inequality and wealth distribution in the U.S. between the wealthiest 1 per cent and the rest of the population, quickly became one of the biggest catch phrases of the year.

Despite its lack of clear goals and demands, the movement managed to spawn, and in actuality, mirror global unrest and dissatisfaction with the status quo. It wasn’t long before the rest of the world was experiencing its own mass protests.

Anyone who thinks that Quebec’s student protests owe nothing to the OWS movement is in deep denial. In many ways it’s a direct result of the deeply rooted anger and cry for accountability that found its way onto our own streets this past year.  What started off as a simple student strike kicked off months of widespread protests and demonstrations against a proposal to raise university tuition in Quebec, ultimately aiding in bringing down an already-unpopular Liberal government.

Nothing preoccupied, prodded and disturbed our collective conscience as Quebecers this past year, than this most fundamental of debates; is education a right or a service to be paid for? And if so, who pays?

Nothing in this past year managed to elicit more frustration, more excitement, more bile, more earnest discussion, more discomfort, more smirks, more hand-wringing, more political pandering, and more soul-searching than the daily (sometimes frustrating, sometimes inspiring) parade of red squares and pot-banging we were treated to. Only history will be able to assess the long-term effects of this protest movement, but for many it will undoubtedly be remembered as Quebec’s not-so-quiet revolution.

Which brings us to our next defining chapter of the year – corruption and the Charbonneau Commission. Launched in late 2011 by the Charest Liberals, and chaired by Justice France Charbonneau, the ongoing commission has as its sole goal to see how, exactly, public contracts in the construction industry are awarded and managed. What has since been unearthed isn’t pretty.

Aside from the outrage, disbelief and disgust its revelations have managed to elicit from taxpayers, it has also been successful in toppling a non-stop series of corrupt mayors, including Gérald 'Mr. Magoo' Tremblay, who continues to claim he was unaware of anything.

In general, it’s been a year that saw many politicians and public figures behaving badly and a lot of trust in authority eroding. From the Bev Oda $16 orange juice scandal, to Toronto’s gaffe-ridden mayor Rob Ford being found guilty in a conflict of interest case and being forced to resign, to the former director of the CIA General David Petraeus being humbled by his own roving eye and silly faith in the secrecy of Gmail accounts.

Kony 2012, Gangnam Style, YOLO, and Fiscal Cliff were buzz words I hope I never have to hear again, while Joe Biden’s 'that’s Malarkey!' uttered in exasperation during the vice-presidential debates will continue to be in my arsenal for years to come.

The supreme failings of Jerry Sandusky and Lance Armstrong served as a collective reminder to honour our heroes, but to question our relentless need to put flawed people on a pedestal – and insist on keeping them there – despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Robocalls became part of our vocabulary, as the telephone scandal that saw Canadians provided with deliberately misleading information during the 2011 federal election became one of the biggest political scandals in Canadian history.

Highly divisive and often nasty political campaigns dominated the year, as elections took place in Quebec and across the border in the United States. In the end, Pauline Marois became Quebec’s first female premier; a historic moment that was quickly marred by a tragic shooting during her victory speech. Barack Obama was re-elected for his second and final term in office.

Like every year, 2012 was one of stark contradictions. It was the year that scientists tearfully announced the discovery of the elusive 'God particle,' the Higgs-Boson. It was the year the world stood in awe as the Curiosity rover successfully landed on Mars, and a few months later, Felix Baumgartner's space jump showed us that the sky isn’t even the limit anymore.

But just in case you want to congratulate yourselves on our awesomeness as humans, it was also the year that Honey Boo Boo (whose family is the epitome of white trash) becomes the most-watched TLC reality program and Luka Rocco Magnotta’s (dubbed the Butcher of Montreal) horrific crime made international headlines.

Kony 2012, Gangnam Style, YOLO, and Fiscal Cliff were buzz words I hope I never have to hear again, while Joe Biden’s 'that’s Malarkey!' uttered in exasperation during the vice-presidential debates will continue to be in my arsenal for years to come.

The Newtown shooting broke hearts around the world and reanimated the heated debate on gun control in the United States.

Perhaps Darwin, (the IKEA Monkey) found in a shearling coat gazing out the window of a Toronto store, was a fitting end to a strange year. Like life, the incident was absurd, adorable, and utterly random. Like Darwin, we’re all just trying to navigate our way to a place we call home, trying to look as put together as we possibly can, hoping no one notices that we have absolutely nothing figured out.

Let’s hope 2013 holds some surprises of its own, to keep us on our toes.




Organizations: Occupy Wall Street , Charbonneau Commission

Geographic location: Quebec , Montreal , Newtown United States

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