Urban guru Richard Florida joins the chorus of voices warning that the London riots could happen in Toronto

Urban guru Richard Florida joins the chorus of voices warning that the London riots could happen in Toronto

(Image: Ed Schipul) 

We were somewhat skeptical when the Toronto Star’s Christopher Hume made the argument two weeks ago that Toronto could see London-style riots in the near future. But with other city sages also putting forward similar arguments—including Richard Florida, the head of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto and senior editor at The Atlantic, in this weekend’s Globe and Mail—the idea that the city’s class divisions could someday prove catastrophic is starting to seem a little more serious.

From Florida’s recent column:

In Boris Johnson, London has an urban-oriented moderate for a mayor who cares deeply about the quality and diversity of his city. For example, London’s bike-sharing program is known as “Boris Bikes.”

In contrast, Toronto’s Rob Ford might well be the most anti-urban mayor ever to preside over a large global city. He has sought to remove bike lanes, shunned gay pride and is seeking to impose deep cuts on a wide range of city services. Mr. Ford rode to the mayoralty on a wave of populist, Tea Party-like support from lower-middle class, working-class, car-driving and new-immigrant voters mainly from outer wards who resent what they view as the privileged lifestyles of the downtown gentry, urban hipsters and unionized public-sector workers.

In short, Florida argues that the divisions that exist in Toronto—between rich and poor, downtown and suburb, etc.—are of the same kind as those that contributed to the chaos we saw in London earlier this month. Like Hume, his point is not that rioting is imminent—but that it is possible.

Look out – Canada, too, could catch the riot virus [Globe and Mail]