2016 Villain: Senator Nicole Eaton
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2016 Villain: Senator Nicole Eaton

Nominated for: bringing Lucille Bluth-level commentary to Toronto's bike lanes.

Torontoist is reflecting on 2016 by naming our Heroes and Villains—the people, places, things, and ideas that have had the most positive and negative impacts on the city over the past 12 months. Cast your ballot until 11:59 p.m. on January 5. At noon on January 6, we’ll reveal your choices for Toronto’s Superhero and Supervillain of the year.
The Eatons have been described as “Canadian royalty,” and have indeed enjoyed prestigious positions both socially and economically for decades. Anyone over the age of 25 likely remembers the family’s eponymous department store, which went bankrupt in 1999, and even if the generations that came after store founder Timothy Eaton “quickly fell prey to all the dangers of inherited wealth,” their name still graces the mall in the heart of the city.

Though she married into the clan, Nicole Eaton exudes all the contempt for regular people and delusions of superiority you’d expect of nobility (even the Canadian kind). Thus the Conservative senator’s long-winded and factually loose Twitter rant about downtown Toronto bike lanes this summer can’t be considered entirely surprising.

She did make some novel contributions to the medium, though. Not content merely to criticize the Bloor Street bike lanes, or even to question the city’s quality, Eaton really reached for the stars. She wrote that Toronto was like a “third world country,” evincing a simultaneous knack for wildly mischaracterizing the problem at hand and using outdated, patronizing language. If we’re going to cast aspersions on our fair city’s ability to live up to the standards of the developed world, we might look to the rates of Black and other racialized students pushed out of school before graduation, or the inequality that allows people like Eaton to live high on the hog while more than half of the city’s workers are employed precariously. We might even look askance at the BMWs and luxury SUVs racing down Bloor as people trudge to the subway and ride $50 beaters on those bike lanes.

But no, Senator Eaton is more far-sighted than all that. To her, cyclists are the ones who enjoy immense privilege, riding around the city without a care in the world, paying no taxes and exerting some sort of street-rules dictatorship over drivers, while, according to her, “most of us use public transportation or walk.” Her word choice is interesting. It strains the outermost limits of imagination to picture Eaton riding the subway—let alone a dingy bus!—and she clearly fails to understand that cyclists are people who also walk, who also take transit.

After she came in for some deserved mockery, Eaton, like any good churlish and thin-skinned member of high society would, reacted by deleting her entire Twitter presence. It shows true character to, in the face of criticism, neither stand up for nor disavow one’s publicly stated beliefs, but attempt to erase them entirely.

Next time you see the good senator, be sure to thank her for her courage under fire. And if you ever see a rogue Eaton on the subway, all gussied up for a charity gala (it probably won’t be an environmental one!), please let us know.