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City

My Toronto

Welcome to Preville on Politics. I’m your host, Philip, and I’ll be taking you into thenooks and crannies of politics in Toronto, whether at the municipal,provincial or federal level. That’s terribly broad, I admit, but I couldn’tbring myself to narrow it down. The way I see it, Toronto is, first andforemost, a government town.

Consider the numbers: City Hall employs 45,000 people, while both thefederal government and Queen’s Park each employ 20,000 people here, makinggovernments one of the city’s most important economic sectors. (Note thatthe second, third and fourth largest cities in the country—Montreal,Vancouver and Calgary—are not provincial capitals; their 20,000 provincialbureaucrats are located somewhere else.) If you add to that figure all theteachers, professors and health care workers, plus everyone at the CBC andTVO, government writ large is by far the city’s largest employer. Thenconsider all the grants doled out to medical researchers and artists andwriters and the film and television industry.

But it’s not really about jobs or money. It’s about the fact that downtownToronto is the seat of power for both a massive city-state and the country’slargest province, and it is (usually) very influential federally. Thecompetition is fierce, both between parties and between levels ofgovernment. Toronto is a densely populated political jungle with highconcentrations of bureaucrats and blue-collar workers and political staffersand party apparatchiks and bagmen and senators and constituency presidentsand public-sector union officials and vice-presidents of governmentrelations, all constantly trying to figure out what the other is up to andstick their fingers in other people’s pies. There’s no end to theshenanigans.

The irony is that government and politics don’t really register as part ofToronto’s self-perception. According to Toronto mythology, governments arethings that must be stopped from building expressways. Toronto thinks ofitself as a major financial centre, and a media and cultural hub, and aglobal village of diversity, and the centre of the hockey universe. And itis all these things, but it is also a fierce political animal, and it oughtto stop pretending it’s not.

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