Toronto's Great Raccoon War has only just begun: Menon (Toronto Star)

Toronto's Great Raccoon War has only just begun: Menon (Toronto Star)

Decades from now, long after his time as mayor is over, we will remember John Tory (open John Tory’s policard) as the man who lost The Great Raccoon War.

It all started in 2015, we will tell our great grandchildren. Mr. Tory stood at a podium inside City Hall, flanked by inscrutable cronies and a stuffed prop. A prototype weapon rested on the tatty carpet to his left: a bigger, smarter green bin armed with anti-bite technology and dial-lock capabilities.

“We have left no stone unturned in our fight against the Raccoon Nation,” said Tory, channeling General George S. Patton before the allied invasion of France in 1944. “Defeat is not an option.”

And so a declaration of war was passed by public works. To boost morale, the city released a propaganda video, night-vision footage of enemy fighters in paws-to-latch combat with this new defense system. But if you listened past the royalty-free jazz, you could almost hear Tory’s overconfident voice narrating: “Look at that furry fool, just dangling from the top like an unspooled yo-yo. People of Toronto, we have secured the future safety of all chicken wings and apple cores. It’s over.”

No, you fool, it has just begun.

The ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu once said, “There is no greater danger than underestimating your opponent.” I think it was Lao Tzu. Maybe it was a Japanese monk or a German farmer or any other battered soul who has commenced hostilities with raccoon warriors in recent years and lost.

People of Toronto, help me understand. We test-drive a new bin from a California waste dealer a few times and that’s that? The raccoons will give up and move to Buffalo because of a dial and their lack of opposable thumbs?


Prehistoric man didn’t make fire on the first try. The Wright brothers were not airborne on their first attempt at powered flight. And sometime in 2016, after the enemy has time to scheme in treetops and hatch a midnight counteroffensive, they will solve this new challenge. Citizens in occupied neighbourhoods will once again awake to the sight and smell of organic slop on their driveways.

The enemy is cunning. It is devious and resourceful. Its brain is evolving way faster than ours. It will stop at nothing to eat your disgusting leftovers. And since the enemy now believes the old green bins fall inside its legal territory, the new ones will only make it angrier and braver and more unpredictable.

This is not an act of war. It is an act of idiocy.

You think a ransacked bin is a hassle now? Just wait until the enemy is sneaking down your chimney or into your attic. Just wait until you get inside your car one morning, glance in the rearview mirror and freeze with terror as the enemy slouches forward in the backseat, baring fangs and making veiled demands: “Yo, got any salmon in that messenger bag?”

That’s assuming you even have the energy to leave the house.

In 2004, when the original green bins rolled into our lives, remember how the steel latches were supposed to be “raccoon-proof”? Now we’re putting our misplaced trust in dials? Oh, this mechanism should prove a real joy when it’s -40 with the wind chill and you’re waist-deep in snow, trying to twist the icy dial, listening for clicks like a robber trying to crack a casino safe.

When the raccoons beat the dials, as they did the latches, the city will retrofit our green bins with combination locks. When that fails, the locks will give way to nesting bins, like those Russian dolls, with our organic produce going inside the smallest container in the centre. Then the nesting bins will get swapped out for smart bins with voice and fingerprint recognition. The lids will only open after the homeowner inputs a CAPTCHA and answers a series of skill-testing questions that no raccoon could possibly answer.

Eventually, it will take about 45 minutes to get rid of a banana peel.

As in any war, there will be collateral damage. Our old green bins, for example. Are they recyclable or earmarked for a landfill? Since we’re now going after Raccoon Nation, I’m also assuming all other city problems have been solved? If not, perhaps we could melt down the old green bins and use the polymer goop to fill potholes.

Godspeed, Mr. Tory.

We will be watching from behind patio doors, brooms and dustbins in hand, as the enemy outsmarts your best intentions and army of bureaucrats. We will regale our great grandchildren with these dark memories, provided our new raccoon overlords even allow us to speak by then.

Defeat may not be an option. But it is inevitable.