Is the FMC trying to frustrate the public?

By ARNOLD A. AUGUSTE, Publisher/Editor

Just when I thought I had finally found a very good reason to applaud the name change of the Carnival festival, some mainstream media people began referring to the unfortunate shooting incident last Saturday as being connected to Caribana.

We can’t win.

Isn’t it interesting that for the weeks leading up to the festival, the new name, complete with the name of the festival’s major sponsor, was being thrown at us from every which way like a bad smell, but since the “incident” that name hasn’t been fully mentioned once? When it is not being called Caribana it is being called the Caribbean Carnival. I don’t recall that being the new name, do you?

These folks sure do look after their own, don’t they?

Reminds me of poor Ben Johnson who was a Canadian star until he messed up and then he suddenly became a Jamaican. Up to this day!

Time to wake up, people.

Actually, I was just about 100 or so yards (how much is that in metres?) from the shooting but, for the record, I didn’t see anything. O.K.?  Just saw a bunch of people running and heard someone shout out that someone had been shot. Of course, I had to go see for myself.

I couldn’t help feeling sorry for the FMC’s CFO, Chris Alexander, whose expression after being appraised of the situation by the cops said it all. This is the last thing they need.

And, speaking of need, did the FMC, the organizers of this year’s festival, need to occupy sections of both Ontario Place and the CNE – on both sides of Lakeshore Boulevard? Apart from the fact that it must have been doubly expensive, what exactly did they expect to accomplish? Whose idea was this?

For one thing, Lakeshore had to be completely blocked off at Strachan even to pedestrian traffic. In the past, those who just wanted to walk up the Lakeshore to view the parade for free as has been the custom for 44 years, were able to easily do so. This year, they found the road blocked off and had to make their way down almost to the water’s edge at Ontario Place, and around a huge parking lot – which, by the way, while fenced off, was almost completely empty – before they could get back to the Lakeshore.

Someone said it was the FMC’s way of frustrating those who wished to see the parade for free; that they wanted to wean the public off the freeness and force them to pay to go into the CNE to see the parade. My response was to ask whether the public in question was the same public which has already been paying some $483-million to see the parade, according to the city’s own figures.

The FMC’s Alexander has been on TV salivating at the prospect of having some 30,000 people pay $15 each to sit in the bleachers to watch the parade. Which means that the folks who are already paying $483-million to see the parade will now, if he has his way, have to pay, according to Alexander’s figures, another almost half-million dollars. How did that work out, Chris?

Alexander also boasted about the parade route being extended. That was just a ruse, a sop to the revellers and a feeble attempt to convince us that the public was getting something extra for free, something they didn’t have before. Actually, what they got for free – which they didn’t have before – was a lot of confusion and frustration.

There was also no need to move the judges’ platform and the VIP tents over to Ontario Place either. How much extra has that move cost the already cash strapped FMC? And, why was that large parking lot fenced off and kept empty? It could at least have accommodated maybe a couple hundred vehicles. And, at Caribana prices, that would have been a tidy sum for Ontario Place.

Speaking of fences. Again, I have to express my disappointment with the organizers who have chosen to use these high fences to keep folks away from the masqueraders. It isn’t working, people. All it does is make us look like a bunch of animals in the zoo.

For one thing, the only people who are being restrained by these fences are the folks who would have also stayed behind the older, much lower fence. Those who want to jump the fence are not deterred by these ‘prison bars’. I have seen young men, young women and even children scale them with ease. Ask the bandleaders and the masqueraders.

Actually, there seemed to have been more people crowding the space between the revellers and the fence than last year and that, I believe, is because the fence seemed to have been moved further back from the road leaving more room for those wanting a closer view. So, if the fence was moved back, either to give the masqueraders more room or to further frustrate the ‘non-paying’ viewers, it sure is not working.

It just goes to show that the people who are running this festival either don’t know enough about carnival or they are taking their orders from people for whom carnival is not part of their culture. Or, that they just don’t care about the people – both the masqueraders and the viewers – once the bands leave the paid area. And as long as the city continues to make its hundreds of millions of dollars.

Well, here’s a news flash: Frustrate the people enough and they will stop coming, especially the out-of-town folks, the ones on whom you depend to bring in all that money into the city’s coffers. Already, the police have said that the crowd was smaller this year, despite the fact that we had some of the best carnival weather we have had in a long time.

Don’t forget the story of the goose and its golden eggs or the greedy dog and how it lost its bone.

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