Motormouths -- Both government and civilian talk the talk about air quality, while walking the walk is strictly for pedestrians.
Ontario Environment Minister Laurel Broten, she of the two-storey garage fiasco, is married to a man who collects cars. Buying cars, she says, is the way a small-town boy shows he's made good. City boys prove themselves by revving the motors in their souped-up Civics (now there's an ironic name). Fouling the air is not only a rite of passage, but a right.
Policy is driven by drivers. Every year, Exhibition Place welcomes a three-day beer-sponsored smog- and noisefest called the Grand Prix, and shiny new motor vehicles park in front of City Hall to promote sales while council stalls on cycling initiatives.
On this summer's first official smog day, I saw more vehicles idling than I ever have before. Apparently, a smog advisory is interpreted as an instruction to make more of it. When approaching the operator of a sitting pollution factory, one must affect a deferential and careful tone, as though addressing a simple but potentially violent child who is playing with an axe.
There is little to discourage vehicular emissions producers from aggressively filling public air with the poison from their private machines. Money confers the privilege of indulging in deadly behaviour that is more of a threat to the world than second-hand cigarette smoke could ever hope to be.
The names of the stinking mechanical beasts overrunning the streets I grew up on reflect the sense of entitlement and grandiose arrogance their drivers feel. Take the GMC Yukon. You can commandeer a whole territory in order to get to a nightclub.
If you're still feeling insecure, there's the Yukon XL. Toyota's Tundra proudly evokes the havoc that the choices of wealthy southerners wreak in the Arctic. Huge Land and Range Rovers are on an Odyssey bumper-to-bumper with Pathfinders and Trackers tailgating the Discovery of Infiniti.
Saturn is specific, while XTerra proclaims a boundless extraterrestrial highway beyond the burning sky and choking earth. Not just off road but off planet! Suburbans boldly pledge allegiance to anti-urban sprawl.
Most telling of all these monikers is Escape. But, as the old gospel song goes, "there's no hiding place down here."