The latest print edition of Toronto Life is now on newsstands, featuring a cover story penned by me. I had no say in the cover’s design, but I quite like it. Though City Hall is a stunning and iconic piece of architecture, I have never liked the message it sent: two towers huddling into each other, their backs turned on the city, coddling and protecting the council chamber—it’s all too private and insular for a public institution of any ambition. So the potty, though some might find it harsh, strikes me as apt.
Here’s your executive summary of the cover story. Question: Why is the city in the mess it’s in? There are two correct answers:
1. Because the Harris-era Tories left the city with a structural fiscal shortfall after amalgamation and Queen’s Park must act to restore funding, et cetera.
2. Because the city, faced with years of Harris-imposed fiscal shortfall and knowing that it doesn’t have the money to provide the full slate of services it once did, decided to pretend that it could provide them anyway while trying to wrangle some of the money back from Queen’s Park. Over ten years they stretched resources as thin as possible, starving some departments of staff and resources. The result is low staff morale, poor oversight of outside contractors, question marks about the influence of organized labour and other problems.
The first answer is the standard one. The second answer—about the decisions the city has made to cope with the shortfall, the ill effects of those decisions and the morass in which they have left the city—is the one I’ve tried to provide.