Toronto Life’s top long-reads of 2023
A ranking of our most popular feature stories of the year
It’s been a year of big dramas. At the start of 2023, Torontonians were fixated on the string of violent attacks on the TTC, a story that was eclipsed only by Mayor John Tory’s bombshell resignation in February. By April, we watched with bated breath as the Leafs advanced to the second round of the playoffs for the first time in 19 years (and then faced a devastating game-five loss in overtime). Come June, we hit the polls and elected Olivia Chow as the city’s new mayor, making her the first woman and the first racialized person to lead the city since amalgamation. By the time municipal politics calmed to a simmer over the summer, the Ford government’s scandals were reaching a boiling point. The Greenbelt fiasco came to a head in August, with an explosive auditor general’s report leading to the plan’s eventual reversal. The spectacle was soon matched by the Queen’s Park theatrics around the redevelopment of Ontario Place, which will forge ahead after the city and province joined forces to make a historic new deal in December.
It’s enough to make your head spin. And of course, Toronto Life covered it all. But our readers also took a much-needed break from the headlines by sinking into our juicy long-reads—shocking true-crime tales, heartwarming memoirs and candid interviews with home-grown superstars. This year, our most popular stories included a deep dive into a police officer’s elaborate scheme to steal a dead man’s estate, an exploration of the TDSB’s descent into chaos and an investigation on the most charming fraudster in real estate.
Here, our readers’ 10 favourite feature stories of the year.
No. 10 Who Broke the TTC?
Toronto used to have one of the best transit systems in North America. Now it’s overcrowded, underfunded, unreliable and dangerous. The inside story of what went wrong and who’s to blame. | By Stephen Spencer Davis | July
Before she became a global phenomenon, Shania Twain was dreaming big in Toronto while flipping burgers, hawking jeans and fronting cover bands. Today, the queen of country pop is touring the world with a new album, but she’s still nostalgic about the city that made her. | By Stéphanie Verge | July
No. 8 Meet the Parents
Alisha Rollinson underwent 10 rounds of fertility treatment and miscarried four times in four years. She was shattered, exhausted and losing hope when the unthinkable happened—twice. | Interviews by Alex Cyr | March
No. 7 Epic Fail
In 2022, the Toronto District School Board consolidated two high schools into one crumbling, crowded building. Within weeks, stressed-out students were brawling in the halls. Teachers refused to come in to work. Parents yanked their kids out of class. Inside York Memorial’s descent into chaos. | By Danielle Groen | June
No. 6 Where to Eat Now
After two years of takeout and home cooking, Toronto diners were keen to splurge on prime cuts of beef, seafood towers and caviar, so much caviar. And while a Scarborough taco counter, a North York food hall vendor and a Tel Aviv–born fast-casual kitchen made our annual ranking of the city’s best restaurants, most of the other places are for that special night out. There’s more than one French bistro, a two-person-minimum omakase spot and a restaurant that identifies as a palace. | By Liza Agrba, Alex Baldinger and Rebecca Fleming | June
No. 5 House of Lies
Bruxy Cavey was a hippie cleric who preached to the masses in T-shirts and cargo shorts. On stage, he spoke about righteousness, decency and the sanctity of marriage. In private, he was grooming young women for sex. | By Meagan Gillmore | April
No. 4 The Guru of Mount Nemo
On a quiet country road outside Toronto, a charismatic martial arts teacher built a megamansion for his entourage of disciples. For 15 years, he preached peace and love. Then, one morning, the police stormed in and secrets came spilling out. | By H. G. Watson | February
No. 3 The Inside Job
Robert Konashewych was a young police officer with expensive tastes, two girlfriends and a mountain of debt. Heinz Sommerfeld was recently deceased with a large unclaimed estate. Problem, meet solution. | By Katherine Laidlaw | October
No. 2 Big Little Lie
Noam Tomaschoff grew up as an only child in a tight-knit family of three. At 31, he discovered that his parents had been keeping a shocking secret—and the surprises just kept coming. | Interviews by Andrea Yu | August
From a young age, Courtney Wallis Simpson had big plans, and she was ruthlessly ambitious when it came to achieving them. To finance her lifestyle, she hatched a series of property schemes that would cost her victims—more than 100 of them—millions. | By Sarah Treleaven | June