Tag Archives: Toronto

Boris Johnson and Watermelon Smiles

Former Toronto Mayor Mel Lastman once worried aloud that he’d be cooked in a pot of boiling water if he were to travel to Mombasa while in Kenya supporting the city’s losing 2008 Olympics bid. Politically, Megacity Mel didn’t rise up out of Toronto.

Boris Johnson is now the United Kingdom’s Foreign Secretary.

DSCF1118

Toronto Love

by Jeremy Tompkins

Originally published by VC Magazine, Winter 2014/15

I’M A SUCKER for Toronto. I was jonesing for the place before I was a resident. The best concerts were here, the brightest lights too. Admittedly, Toronto is not the only city I’ve loved. There was a serious and sensual affair with London, Ontario as the 1980s became the ‘90s. Rules were broken. We bonded. We’ll always be tight. But, like many young trysts, that one came to an explosive end. Afterwards, certain appendages were dipped into other great cities short-term; Barcelona and Paris, Saigon and Hong Kong, Los Angeles and Boston. Toronto though is as close to a home as I have known.

Civic pundits like to make the obvious connection between Toronto and New York. “We’re Manhattanizing,” they say. Except no, we’re not. We’re Toronto-izing. There’s no questioning the city’s rapid change. There are more cranes in our skies than anywhere outside of China and Dubai. The Greater Toronto Area is adding more than 100,000 net residents every year. In another four years there will be a whole new London inside of us. This frenetic pace has made life both less polite and more interesting. Toronto is growing up. No one knows for sure when (or for how long) its star will burn brightest.

DSCF1118

Queen Street art by DEADBOY

Toronto is a younger metropolis than many of its global competitors. Londinium was founded in the first century AD by the Romans. Toronto’s predecessor, the Town of York, was established in 1793. Unlike Montreal, Toronto was not an indigenous city before the Europeans showed up. It started fresh and is still figuring things out. Barcelona has more fun. Boston is smarter. Toronto’s sunshine count means it will never be as glamorous as the City of Angels. But her best days are in front of her. Despite the cold, people keep showing up. It’s safe and livable. The world loves Toronto even if Alberta doesn’t.

Why shouldn’t Toronto feel the love? Every year the city distributes billions more in tax revenue to Canada than it receives. It’s a cash cow. Ontario and Canada are better off with such a formidable business capital. And therein lies the challenge. When you look at Toronto’s continental competitors, you see government management that is more educated, accomplished, and understanding.

To an unfortunate minority, Toronto will always be Timmins plus 2.5 million people. Today though, when you search for more populous cities (proper, not metro) across North America there are only four. Without exception, those four places are guided by supremely capable individuals. Mexico City’s mayor was also its attorney general and a law professor. The chief magistrates of New York and Los Angeles both hold master’s degrees in international affairs. They care about their communities and world. They have goals. Bill de Blasio distributed food during the Nicaraguan Revolution, in Nicaragua. Rahm Emanuel was an advisor to two United States presidents. His previous job was White House Chief of Staff. Elitism you say? Joe and Joanne Public have just as much right to take public office – but they might want to show up with more than a potty mouth.

Since 1998 when little Toronto was amalgamated with its five surrounding boroughs to form big Toronto, its representation has appeared less by contrast. Mel Lastman, furniture impresario and the first megacity mayor, stepped into the job after serving in the same position for North York from the 1970s to 1990s. Self-made but big-mouthed, he once complained that parents were giving birth then shirking their responsibilities, before it was revealed that his other woman and other kids were living in poverty. In 2001, he publicly worried that a trip to Kenya in support of Toronto’s Olympic bid might see him wind up in a pot of boiling water surrounded by natives. If only we were so lucky

DSCF1119

How does Toronto’s leadership stack up?

David Miller was an upgrade of sorts. He was educated in economics and law but then quickly became a career politician. He had big dreams for the city, but neither a funding plan nor the stamina to hang around to see them built. Toronto infrastructure appears to share qualities with Egyptian stele; the replacements mess with message. Miller used Toronto as a springboard, not the other way around.

Rob Ford was only the latest and most vulgar indicator of the city’s apathy for its democracy. His stint at the eponymous Redskins football camp was his most notable scholastic experience, and didn’t even lead to him getting off the bench for Carlton University’s football team. He quit school after his first year. In the name of community service, Robbie teamed up with his businessman-and-politician father and the Toronto police to launch an anti-drug campaign at a public housing complex near his home.

He was arrested in Florida the next year for impaired driving and just happened to have marijuana in his pocket. This comedy routine would be Oscar-worthy if it weren’t for the hypocrisy. The news didn’t get out and Robbie became a city councillor. Despite doing and saying impolite things across three terms, he also picked up the phone and called his constituents. He honestly likes people and is as likeable as the late Chris Farley’s Tommy Boy. He was just as unprepared to run a complex organization. But the joke is on us. We voted him in.

Because John Tory is now mayor, and not Robbie’s big brother, Toronto may have finally gotten the joke. Though equally as privileged as the brothers Ford, Tory is also educated. He has advised political power at the highest levels. He was a chief executive at one of Canada’s largest companies, even if his dad did first lay the groundwork. Unlike the Fords, he’s also conciliatory. It’s not surprising he won. What is surprising, however, is how close Doug came to beating him. Allegedly, Doug was the drug pusher to Robbie’s drug user. Much of the Ford clan is connected to a network of violent and dangerous criminals. Where Robbie wants to be your friend, Doug doesn’t care. RoFo is jokes. DoFo is scary. And he’s not going away. Hopefully Toronto’s indifference for its own future will.

Author’s note. This article would be libelous if it weren’t true. The most substantive original reporting was completed for The Globe and Mail newspaper by Greg McArthur and Shannon Kari and published May 25, 2013.

In Canada, we do it politely

THE ELITES IN Canada can get away with murder because nobody will call them on it. The democracy of the US is exactly homologous. There the elites get away with murder and nobody will call them on it. For example, the financial crisis of 2008. Not a single one of the bankers and investment councilors went to jail. No one pays, except the homeless people.

St. George, the patron saint of England, slayed the dragon. St Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland. St. Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland. St. George station alone, among others in Toronto, is designated special by its heraldry.


There be dragons

Where is Joan of Arc? Where is St. Mary? No BréBeuf and no Bethune. Why no Brant? Because in Canada, we do it politely. Toronto’s University subway line was an acknowledgement of the city’s multi-ethnic nature. In the Isles. Pope Pius XII made St. Clair the patron saint of television. Toronto has two stations named for the saint of TV. DM

Further Reading
George Packer, The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013)

Why doesn’t RAYMOND CHO return phone calls?

DEAR COUNCILLOR CHO,

Councillor I have wondered about you much since I arrived in Scarborough Rouge River from the St. Patrick area downtown. I chose the area, like many people I suppose, because of the great space to price value. But our ward/riding could use more engaged and consistent thinking. I’m not not sure you are the man for the job. (There’s no woman running.) Just looking at the transit issue, and my questions to you about this, you will understand my confusion.
  1. Before I arrived in your ward, you declared your support for a Sheppard subway which wasn’t going to touch your Toronto ward, over a Sheppard LRT which would have.
  2. I called and asked about this, and then you appeared to change your allegiance to the LRT. You might remember at the time you said “I think we can help each other out.”
  3. You confirmed your support in council in the tiring debates of 2012 and 2013, and looked pretty good in your one-on-one with Doug Ford. You had me laughing. And the LRT won, hurrah for dedicated transit (Messrs. Ford: a form of transit that won’t take away car lanes, by the way. You guys know this but you are being coy. LMAO!)
  4. Then you said you were going to run for the PCs with that Hudak character. What? You knew this guy is anti-transit, never mind LRT vs. Subway. Aren’t you supposed to be some education whiz or something. Maybe you should read more about the company you keep. What about our LRT man!
  5. At this point I called in a question, which was fielded by your considerate office receptionist. She is very kind and patient, and said “yes, this is an important issue.” She said. “I’ll make sure Councillor Cho gets the message.”
  6. I never heard back from you on this Councillor Cho? Councillor Cho, are you there? Councillor Cho?
  7. I suspect the reason you didn’t call back is because there is no answer. What can you really say? “Yes, Jeremy I did initially prefer the subway, then I liked the LRT, now I just don’t care. I just want to get elected. It’s just a pay cheque.”
And about that provincial election Councillor Cho. If you lose, do you still get to be Councillor Cho? Do you think that’s fair? Which transit position do you take then? (Sheppard Subway, Sheppard LRT, Bloor-Danforth extension, Scarbourgh LRT) Or, do you have to wait to see who is in charge?
Thanks, JT

Christopher Hume walks by “towers towers towers,” and fails to see them

RE: (http://www.thestar.com/news/2013/10/09/hume_subways_subways_subways.html)

DEAR MR. HUME,

I moved to the Sheppard & McCowan area from St. Patrick Street downtown in 2010 partly because there was an LRT under construction along Sheppard. So you can you can appreciate that I was incredibly disappointed when Mayor Ford told the TTC to stop building the line, and none of council was knowledgeable enough to realize he didn’t have to the authority to do so.

As you correctly suggest in your video, the area does need improved and dedicated transit. I live at XXXX Sheppard Ave, East, a XX story tower (one of two towers in the development) and would benefit from either subway or LRT.

I find your video disturbing because it intentionally avoids featuring the towers like mine and like the others in the subway’s catchment area.

  • There are quite a few towers, to start, at Eglinton and Kennedy.
  • Where is the Scarborough General Hospital at McCowan and Lawrence in your video?
  • Why do you not explain how it will be so much easier for Torontonians to access the east’s many great parks by getting on the subway? (Bendale and Hague and the Hydro corridor are all right there)
  • Incredibly you don’t spend any time looking at the density clustered around the Scarborough Town Centre / Civic Centre. To avoid towers here you have to basically close your eyes
  • Even at McCowan you seemed to miss the towers like mine and like Nanak House at 360 Pitfield

This lack of density is also problematic even on the Bloor line…even in the west. If you were to take a ride out to Old Mill and Royal York you’d be able to see all sorts of single family house on the line that “seem to qualify as density” in this part of the city. The East may be poorer than other areas on Toronto’s subway lines but it is no less dense or deserving of transit.

I like your writing but expect you to be a little more objective as a reporter. Perhaps you could come back out here and ask somebody who lives in the area (like me or say Mr. Balkisson, one of the 3 candidates campaigning for the Scarbough Rouge-River provincial riding) to help with your filming. You might even want to show how the Bloor East subway extension could be improved by extending it not just to Sheppard but in fact to Finch where there is a rather large mall (in Westwood Woodside Mall) and many of these towers you seem to be looking for.

Sincerely,
JT