Louie Villanueva

Calgary City Council reaches rare compromise on secondary suites

By Fabian Mayer, May 21 2015 —

Secondary suite advocates scored a victory last week when Calgary City Council passed the first reading of a bylaw that would legalize secondary suites in four inner-city wards.

Secondary suites are separate housing units inside single-family homes, usually basements with their own kitchen and bathroom and typically rented out by the homeowner. Zoning restrictions make most of Calgary’s secondary suites illegal.

According to University of Calgary Students’ Union president Levi Nilson, 20 per cent of students are renters, with a quarter of those students living in secondary suites.

“We want more available housing to be there for students, considering how tough the rental market is,” Nilson said.

The SU has been advocating for secondary suite legalization since June 2014.

“It’s exciting. It’s not city-wide, which is preferable, but it’s definitely a huge step forward and the first significant step forward on secondary suites in quite a while,” Nilson said.

If the motion passes its second and third readings on June 29, homeowners in Wards 7, 8, 9 and 11 would find it easier to build and rent secondary suites. Ward 9 Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra said passing the motion was encouraging.

“I’m delighted that we reached that compromise as a council,” Carra said.

Secondary suites have divided city council for years, with few compromises made on either side. Ward 12 Coun. Shane Keating introduced the amendments that helped the motion pass 9-6 just before midnight on May 12.

“I knew that something had to be put forward because, as it was, we were in a gridlock of no one willing to compromise on either side,” Keating said.

The amendments include a registry for secondary suites and an appeals process for unhappy neighbours.

“It gives them some assurance that their neighbourhood is not going to be degraded,” Keating said.

Nilson hoped the motion would pass without amendments, but understands the need for compromise.

“It’s a little bit unfortunate because it does add a couple more hoops to the process,” Nilson said.

Coun. Carra, a long-time proponent of legalizing secondary suites, said he can live with the amendments.

“I don’t think they are too onerous and it moves the ability to put secondary suites more broadly across the city forward,” Carra said.

Despite the apparent breakthrough, Carra isn’t confident the bylaw will pass subsequent readings.

“It’s looking good for a pass, but there’s going to be a lot of lobbying by the anti-suite lobby to break the thin majority that’s brokered this compromise,” Carra said.

Coun. Keating has opposed secondary suites in the past. He doesn’t believe this will lead to city-wide legalization of secondary suites.

“What we have to look at is that each area of the city has different requirements and they should be treated differently and I think that’s what these compromises do,” Keating said.

Councillors Keating, Magliocca, Pincott, Woolley, Carra, Colley-Urquhart, Demong, Farrell and Mayor Nenshi voted in favour. Councillors Jones, Pootmans, Stevenson, Sutherland, Chabot and Chu voted against the bylaw.

Pupkin FIlm

Film festival celebrates LGBTQ representation

By Rachel Woodward, May 21 2015 —

Entering its 17th year, Fairy Tales Queer Film Festival hopes to use film to create discussions in Calgary’s LGBTQ community about representation in media. The festival, which runs from May 22–30, shows 17 films and hosts a number of events.

Fairy Tales began as a short festival created by the Calgary Society of Independent Filmmakers in 1998, but quickly grew into an independent event. Today, the Fairy Tales Presentation Society runs the annual festival to provide a venue for members of the LGBTQ community to celebrate positive media representation.

Executive Director James Demers stresses the importance of bringing an LGBTQ presence to film, a medium in which the community is widely underrepresented.

“I think the idea behind the Queer Film Festival is the community curating stories to address the lack of three-dimensional queer characters in its own media,” Demers says. “I think it’s irresponsible to ask the community to be resilient without presenting role models or heroes of any kind, and we are relatively limited in that area.”

Demers claims representation of transgender individuals in media is shifting. He says that while popular TV shows like Orange is the New Black have become a platform for LGBTQ discussion, the characters included often fail to develop beyond one-dimensional caricatures.

“We are included, but that doesn’t mean that the queer characters are included as well-rounded individuals. Usually they’re there because they’re gay,” Demers says.

One of highlights of the festival is the documentary Do I Sound Gay, which deals with stereotypes surrounding gay men’s voices and internalized homophobia. The screening of the film will be accompanied by a performance from the Calgary Men’s Chorus.

The festival also features Boys, a Dutch film that tells the story of two teenage boys attempting to reconcile their strong feelings for one another with the disapproving attitudes of their fathers.

A number of events are also part of the festival. Demers says these workshops are intended to start debates and spread information. The Kink Party, for example, is an event meant to introduce curious members of the LGBTQ community to BDSM. The event features walking tours, demonstrations of bondage equipment and encourages attendees to meet other members of the BDSM community.

Outside of the festival, Fairy Tales runs a free year-round educational program named OUTReels that uses film as a platform to discuss social issues. Demers says OUTReels is important to help the LGBTQ community build acceptance.

“We are now living in a world where queer characters are presented as part of the cocktail, so we are often presenting in a stereotypical way,” Demers says. “There are so many difficult questions to ask about the community, and we try to [create] a discussion space where we can address those.”

Michael Miller

2015 NHL postseason predictions

By Jason Herring, May 21 2015 —

The 2014–15 NHL postseason has wound down to the final four. Two clubs from each conference will battle it out to earn a shot at the Stanley Cup.

Right now, all four teams left — the Chicago Blackhawks, Anaheim Ducks, New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning — appear to have a chance at claiming the championship.

But before they do, they’ll have to survive the third round. The Gauntlet predicts who will make it to the Stanley Cup finals.

Western Conference Final

Both the Ducks and the Blackhawks have reached the conference finals in unusually few games. Anaheim needed only nine games, crushing two Canadian underdogs along the way, and Chicago took 10, sweeping a Minnesota team that looked poised to challenge for the title.

What sets Chicago apart is the level of competition they’ve faced. The Blackhawks had to go through two strong teams who each topped 100 points during the regular season -— Nashville and Minnesota. Anaheim, on the other hand, had an easy path to the Western final, beating two subpar teams with no playoff experience since 2009.

The Ducks will be shocked when they see just how good the Blackhawks are. Anaheim has dominated so far, but they’ve dominated against two of the worst teams that qualified for the playoffs.

And Chicago has been here before. The Blackhawks are built for the playoffs and their history shows it. They’ve racked up four conference finals appearances and two Stanley Cups in the last six years.

Anaheim is a strong team, but they’re no match for Chicago’s elite depth. The Blackhawks can run Patrick Sharp as a third-line centre — a match-up nightmare for opposing defencemen.

The Ducks still have a shot. Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry have been exceptional and the team’s defence has been smothering. But the odds are against them.

Unlike previous playoff series, this won’t be a goaltending battle. While Anaheim’s Frederik Andersen and Chicago’s Corey Crawford are both capable, neither are game-changers. This is going to be a hard-fought offensive series. If Chicago plays their game right, they’ll overwhelm the Ducks.

Prediction: Blackhawks in 6.

Eastern Conference Final

The Lightning and the Rangers are similar teams. Both play fast-paced, offensive games and finished among the league’s top three in goals per game.

But the Rangers’ offence has gone cold. If New York and the slumping Rick Nash don’t start to score, Tampa Bay’s forwards will overpower them. The Lightning also spent last round lighting up the best goalie in the league, Carey Price.

New York possesses a great equalizer, however, in Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. While the Rangers haven’t scored much these playoffs, Lundqvist has allowed their opponents to score even less.

Put these two stats together and you get a battle of Tampa Bay’s potent offence versus New York’s stifling defence. It’s a tough question — the unstoppable force or the immovable object?

There’s one element that tips the scales in Tampa Bay’s favour. The Lightning boast one of the game’s best scorers in Steven Stamkos, and he doesn’t even play on the team’s best line.

Stamkos hasn’t been playing up to his potential during these playoffs, but he hasn’t needed to. The Lightning’s second line of Nikita Kucherov, Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson have been scoring at an unreal pace, with 17 combined goals in the first two rounds.

If Stamkos can start contributing at the pace he’s capable of, then the Lightning’s offensive depth will make them tough to stop. Lundqvist and the Rangers’ defence will keep the series close, but it won’t be enough to lead them to the Stanley Cup finals.

Prediction: Lightning in 7.

Samantha Lucy

Public transit needs space to expand

The City of Calgary’s proposed transit expansion has its usual group of naysayers. They’re homeowners who bemoan the changing character of their neighbourhoods, developers who prefer expressways and car owners who are worried about losing their space on the roads.

Public transit proponents, on the other hand, have little political power. They’re people who likely can’t afford to purchase, maintain and park a car. So they rely on Calgary’s public transit system to do what it was designed to do — transport the public.

Those who use public transit often don’t have the finances or organizational ability to force transit expansions through city council. But homeowners associations and developers have both the money and political influence to demand new roads unhindered by cycle tracks and bus-only lanes.

Calgary’s transit use is already lower than other Canadian cities. According to Statistics Canada, a little under 25 per cent of Toronto commuters use transit to get to work, as opposed to only 17 per cent of Calgarians.

The price of a monthly transit pass in Calgary is within a couple dollars of other Canadian cities, so it isn’t a matter of cost. Calgarians don’t use public transit because the infrastructure is either outdated or doesn’t exist in parts of the city. Our transit system won’t be widely used until there’s a foundation in place to make it a reliable and convenient option.

That’s where the Green Line LRT expansion comes in. Planned to connect the suburban southeast with north-central Calgary, the expansion will begin as bus rapid transit (BRT) but eventually turn into a full-fledged LRT system by 2029.

That’s a long time away, and Calgary’s current transit system is noticeably less than rapid. What passes for a BRT system is little more than a handful of unconnected bus-only lanes. Those without cars are left on slow, unreliable public transit, or they’re left behind.

Opponents of expanded public transit networks claim they take space away from cars. They’re right. Designating bus-only lanes on expressways inconveniences drivers and lessens the space they have on the roads. But a bus or train transporting dozens of people deserves more space than a car with only one person.

An investment in public transit is an investment in citizen mobility. It’s important that we can easily move around the cities we live in. Calgary shouldn’t be ashamed to prioritize public transportation over more highways. Moving forward on the Green Line LRT expansion is the first step to a better transit system. The rights of individual drivers should be trumped, every time, by the right of people to move freely around the city.

Kate Jacobson, Gauntlet Editorial Board

Pint-Sized Collective changes Calgary’s all-age scene

By Jason Herring, May 21 2015 —

Being a teenage music fan in Calgary is difficult. Most bands play in bars and clubs where audience members must be at least 18-years-old to attend. Calgary’s Pint-Sized Collective, along with independent underage musicians from the city, are hoping to change the all-age landscape by offering concerts where all fans are welcome.

When Pint-Sized was formed in 2010, founding members Vanessa Gloux and Nicholas Field used the name to distribute records and tapes from larger labels. The group has since expanded and now hosts all-age shows, mainly for touring punk and hardcore groups. Gloux says the collective believes it’s important to “cement a reputation of hospitality in our city for touring artists.”

The concerts put on by Pint-Sized are promoted as all-inclusive. Gloux says the policy helps create safe and accessible spaces for underground music to thrive.

Pint-Sized Collective holds most shows at smaller venues, such as Tubby Dog on 17th Avenue. // Raj Taneja
Pint-Sized Collective holds most shows at smaller venues, such as Tubby Dog on 17th Avenue. // Raj Taneja

“Our shows follow a pay-what-you-can and all-ages inclusive ethos, both as an outlet for the often marginalized under-18 audience, as well as a critique of the dominant club venue culture,” Gloux says.

Having an alternative to clubs is important so music fans feel comfortable at concerts. Gareth Lukes, owner of Lukes Drug Mart, has organized all-age shows since he was young and says they have a positive environment.

“We did a Constantines show in 2005, and I remember talking to the band after and they said it was the best show they ever played because people were excited and they weren’t drunk,” says Lukes. “That was the problem, every single night they’d play in front of people who were drunk and obnoxious.”

Pint-Sized Collectives’ concerts typically take place at smaller venues around the city, like Tubby Dog or the National Music Centre. The collective also runs a record label that releases music from a variety of local musicians.

Several underage musicians from Calgary are also taking the initiative to organize concerts, most following the same all-inclusive policy as Pint-Sized Collective. Experimental noise artist Jack Sinclaire has been organizing and playing shows in Calgary for the past six months. He says he books bands that showcase local experimental music. He views the shows as a stage for artistic expression free from discrimination.

“I think [the shows are] important because they’re very inclusive and give people the opportunity to play whatever kind of music they want without risking any harsh judgement,” Sinclaire says.

In similar music scenes, there has been a strong non-substance policy at shows. Sinclaire says this isn’t necessarily the case at his venues. While substance use is discouraged at concerts, he says that it’s still rare to see anyone get kicked out of a show.

The pay-what-you-can pricing of the concerts means that Sinclaire usually doesn’t do much better than break even after renting out a venue, but he says he doesn’t mind.

Pint-Sized Collective will host a concert headlined by Jung People, a two-piece Calgary post-rock band, at 7:00 p.m. on May 24 at Tubby Dog. The show will, as always, be open to all.

New Music: Alabama Shakes

By Sonny Sachdeva, May 21 2015 —

Six years into their acclaimed run as soul music’s new-age saviour, blues rock quartet Alabama Shakes is still unlike any other.

The group’s newest offering, Sound & Color, makes this clear. Lead vocalist Brittany Howard tears through the album with her signature soulful desperation. ENT_AlabamaShakes

Coming three years after their highly touted debut, Boys & Girls, the band’s newest record shows significant growth. The group previously seemed more like a backing band for Howard’s crooning, but Sound & Color boasts a more collective feel.

A finely tuned rhythmic sensibility continues to define the group’s work. Guitar riffs sprawl naturally into complex patterns that are irresistibly catchy.

“Future People” is a highlight. On the song, instrumentals establish a calming pattern as Howard sings softly.

Elements of the group’s original style remain in tracks like “Miss You,” where Howard’s emotion takes centre stage, climbing in indecisive waves before finally overflowing in a triumphant chorus.

The album’s lead single, “Don’t Wanna Fight,” is arguably the finest of the batch. It brings together all the quartet does best — rhythmic excellence, evocative vocals and genuine emotion — while taking a decisive step into a new era of Alabama Shakes.

Howard relinquishes control on Sound & Color, fading back into the mesh of instrumentals. Her vocals feel a little less soul-queen and a little more Bee Gees.

But it works. Alabama Shakes carves out a musical space that seemed previously untouched — an intertwined mesh of garage rock, funk, soul and disco.

No matter what style of music they make, Alabama Shakes is always able to put their own twist on it. That’s why Sound & Color is a contender for one of the year’s finest rock albums.

New Music: Death Grips

By Jason Herring, May 21 2015 —

Death Grips have angered a lot of people over the last few years. Their stunts are frequent — live dates the band fails to show up for, a sudden release for an album whose cover is a picture of a dick and a breakup every year.  ENT_DeathGrips

If their music wasn’t so damn good, it wouldn’t be an issue. No one would give a shit about their exploits, and Death Grips would become irrelevant. It’s almost frustrating when the group puts out a release like Jenny Death because it forces us to care about them.

Jenny Death, the second half of Death Grip’s double album The Powers That B, finds the hip-hop group at their most commanding. Frontman MC Ride’s raw vocals, accompanied by long-time collaborator Flatlander’s impressive production, give Death Grips an urgency they’ve been missing.

On their previous albums, Death Grips were characterized by loud, industrial hip-hop beats and MC Ride’s breakneak rapping. But the group takes a new direction on Jenny Death.

Album opener “I Break Mirrors With My Face in the United States” is an immediate departure for the group, featuring a relentless hardcore-punk instrumental. This trend continues throughout the album. “Centuries of Damn” has a Japandroids-esque rock instrumental that feels almost triumphant and “On GP” has an uncharacteristic electric guitar riff.

Despite the change in style, Jenny Death also contains tracks where Death Grips builds on their established industrial hip-hop sound. Album highlight “The Powers That B” has a heavy beat that will turn it into a seminal club banger. And even the record’s more rock-oriented tracks contain an overlaid synthesizer.

The one constant throughout Jenny Death is MC Ride’s fervent vocal performance. Ride is the centrepiece of the album, with screaming vocals that define Death Grips’ sound. What’s most remarkable about MC Ride’s performance is that it never feels out of place, even when the album explores its rock tendencies.

The album is a lyrical mess, but it doesn’t matter. Lines like “my favourite colour is ‘oh my God, bitch’” are commonplace. But the content of the vocals isn’t as important as the delivery.

With , Death Grips manages to redefine their sound with the strongest collection of songs the band has released in years.

Red Mile harrasment showcases hockey’s misogyny

Colby Stopa
Courtesy: Colby Stopa

By Emilie Medland-Marchen, May 21 2015 —

was a little girl when I played my first hockey game. I loved it, despite being the only girl on the team. It was my dream to play alongside the boys and eventually make the NHL. I still remember the day my parents told me the hard truth — girls don’t play in the NHL.

For the first time since 2004, the stretch along 17th Avenue dubbed the Red Mile returned for the 2014–15 NHL playoffs. The Flames had a more successful season than anyone predicted, securing their first postseason appearance since 2009. Although dreams of a Stanley Cup faded as Anaheim overwhelmed Calgary in the fifth game of their playoff series, the return of the Red Mile united the city’s sports community. 

But some things haven’t changed since 2004. This year’s celebrations were tainted by multiple incidences of sexual harassment. CBC reporter Meghan Grant was verbally harassed while conducting interviews along the Red Mile. Another woman was groped from behind while walking with her boyfriend. A Twitter hashtag, #CansForMonahan, made the rounds online. The insensitive hashtag echoed the popular phrase “shirts off for Kiprusoff,” a remnant of the Flames’ successful 2004 postseason.

It’s a trend expected when sports fans are enabled by liquor and hyped up on adrenaline.

But why did this sexual harassment occur eleven years after the Flames’ 2004 glory days? How did it get so bad that Flames executives Brian Burke and Ken King had to urge their fanbase to stop harassing women?

This harassment of women happens because things haven’t changed since 2004. The professional sports arena is still plagued by misogyny. We only need to look as far as the wages for male and female professional teams.

The average annual salary of a star NHL hockey player lies somewhere between $5–8 million. Women playing in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League often go unpaid, or earn somewhere between $1,000–2,000 if they can secure a win. The NHL isn’t open to women.

Some argue that it’s bad business to encourage a female league because of a lack of interest. Apparently, fans don’t want to watch women play hockey. So the sport is disproportionately male.

Hockey culture is dominated and sustained by men. Female coaches are rarely hired. Owners of teams are rarely women. Female sports broadcasters are plagued by harassment. And female hockey fans are abused on the streets when they try to celebrate their favourite teams’ wins.

This isn’t just a problem with Calgary. These issues occur anywhere a divide exists between how we value men and women.

It’s clear that female voices don’t matter in professional sports. The players, coaches, managers and media that make up the sport’s biggest professional league are almost entirely men. And the fanbase follows suit, with behaviour stemming from unacceptable opinions about women. 

It’s wrong to look only at the Calgary Flames fanbase and point fingers. We should analyze the sport as a whole. Professional sports remain one of the starkest examples of sexism and there has been little effort to change this.

There isn’t much encouragement to sponsor women’s leagues, watch women’s hockey or support the hiring of female coaches and managers. As a result, there’s little reason for fans of the sport to change their treatment of women off the ice.

The Flames’ executives were right to condemn the harassment of women along the Red Mile. But placing the blame on fans doesn’t get to the root of the problem. To change the Red Mile, the Flames must take a deeper look at their sport and how women are treated in hockey. In a man’s world, that’s no easy feat.


Genderbent play portrays origins of Good Will Hunting

By Rachel Woodward, May 21 2015 —

Everyone has wondered what kind of bromance Matt Damon and Ben Affleck struck up while writing their classic 1997 drama Good Will Hunting. Theatre Transit now presents that story as the play Matt & Ben, running from May 28–June 6.

Matt & Ben is showing at the Arts Common building downtown from May 28–June 6. // Thivierr
Matt & Ben is showing at the Arts Common building downtown from May 28–June 6. // Thivierr

The play, originally written by Mindy Kaling and Brenda Withers, follows Damon and Affleck as they write their breakthrough screenplay. Theatre Transit’s Artistic Director Valmai Goggin is directing the adaptation.

Theatre Transit’s artistic producer Carly McKee says this production goes beyond the relationship of two men and offers insight into the nature of collaboration.

“There is a real relationship,” McKee says. “Because the conversations and arguments Matt and Ben have in the play are arguments that I’ve had with myself and arguments that I’ve had with my collaborators and other people. It isn’t just a play about two movie stars writing a film.”

Just as in the original production of Matt & Ben, both Damon and Affleck are portrayed by women. Alongside her role as Theatre Transit’s artistic producer, McKee stars as Ben Affleck in the production. She says portraying a male role doesn’t change the way she approaches acting.

“It’s not even about embodying the male traits of this character, it’s about playing a character that happens to be male. You figure out their person, and the rest sort of comes,” she says. “They are best friends and I think it comes out of that. That’s not a gender-specific thing. They are best friends just the way that anyone is best friends.”

Matt & Ben will be performed in the Motel Theatre, a small unadorned performance space located in the Arts Commons building near Olympic Plaza.

McKee says this is the most elaborate set they’ve brought to the theatre. Set designer Julia Wasilewski set the black box theatre as an apartment replica in order to give the script an authentic backdrop.

The play also criticizes the cutthroat nature of the film industry. While Damon and Affleck are now widely recognized actors, the two were relatively unknown until Good Will Hunting was released.

Kaling, known mainly for her work on The Mindy Project and The Office, owes much of her success to writing this play with Brenda Withers. Kaling was working as a stand-up comedian in New York City when Matt & Ben debuted in an off-broadway production. The play has been a fringe favourite ever since.

Note: The original version of this story mistakenly claimed that Carly McKee directed Matt & Ben, and wrongly said that the set was the most elaborate ever brought to the theatre. We apologize to our readers for these errors.

Louie Villanueva

West Campus ready for development

By Fabian Mayer, May 21 2015 —

More details about the planned West Campus development have been released.

The West Campus Development Trust (WCDT) is in charge of designing and planning the new community, which will be built on the vacant land west of campus. The area is bound by Shaganappi Trail, 16th Avenue and 32nd Avenue. WCDT proposes calling the community “University District” and naming streets after former University of Calgary Chancellors.

WCDT CEO James Robertson said they envision the development as an urban village similar to Kensington or Inglewood.

“It’s designed for everybody. It’s intended to be a true mixed-use community. From young students, to young professionals, to couples and to seniors,” Robertson said.

Both the U of C Board of Governors and the City of Calgary have approved the development plans. Construction could begin as early as late 2016, with the first residents moving in by 2018.

There are no plans to include student-specific dwellings in the area, but Robertson claims housing will be accessible to students.

“We’re going to do our best to make sure that the housing that’s released is suitable to not just a wide demographic in terms of lifestyle, but also a wide demographic in terms of income level,” Robertson said.

He believes the development’s contribution to the university will be more than just financial. 

“It creates a much more exciting experience when you’re at campus with coffee shops, restaurants and places to go,” Robertson said.

As a subsidiary of the U of C, WCDT will return all profits from the development to the university. According to the WCDT’s website, it seeks to “maximize the return on the land for the benefit of the university.”

Seven of the board’s 15 directors are affiliated with the U of C, seven are involved in the development industry and there is one community representative.

Students’ Union president Levi Nilson sits on the WCDT board of directors as a student representative, but was unable to comment on the development at this time.