“Toronto is the centre of the universe. Let’s just admit it and move on”—the Star’s not afraid to go there
An opinion piece with an opening like that is destined to raise a few eyebrows—and some blood pressure outside of the 416—but the Toronto Star went there. The paper isn’t just being obnoxious, though. It presents an argument by a trio of University of Toronto academics, who say that all cities have been ignored during the election campaign so far. T.O.’s specialness is beside the point.
The University of Toronto, along with participating universities from across Canada, recently released “Who Cares about 15 Million Urban Voters?” This report shows that 15.3 million voters, $17.5 billion in personal income, $910 billion in GDP, and more than 74 per cent of all new jobs created in the past year are in Canada’s metropolitan regions.
These regions are home to 68 per cent of the nation’s population, 90 per cent of immigrants, and 96 per cent of Canada’s visible minority population (and 67 per cent of the eligible voters). Cities are generating employment growth, GDP and tax revenues beyond their share of the population.
When it comes to Canada’s cities, Toronto is the first among equals, so it gets a bigger share of the glory and suffering. As Canada becomes more urban, wealthier and more populous, the whole country will become increasingly like Toronto (gasp!) in the sense that more places will face the challenges Hogtown faces now. At the moment, cities suffer from flaws in our democracy—electoral neglect and spending imbalances, to say nothing of the fact that P.E.I. has half the population of Etobicoke, but more seats in the House of Commons—so what will happen when the whole country is more city-like?
While the entire Star op-ed sheds some much-needed light on urban issues, the ignorance of cities’ needs is not just the fault of electoral gerrymandering and disinterested political parties. Toronto’s mayor is rather conspicuously absent in this election, unlike the mayors of other large cities in Canada. We don’t expect Rob Ford to be the next Naheed Nenshi, but he could at least vote to help Toronto businesses get some money out of the feds to make up for G20 losses.
(Image: Neil Ta, from the Toronto Life Flickr pool)