PEARLS BEFORE HOGTOWN
As a lifelong Toronto resident, I was disappointed by John Lorinc’s essay (“How Toronto Lost Its Groove,” November), because it wasn’t balanced. Anyone living outside Toronto would think we were going to hell in a handbasket. But the city has a thriving arts scene, more than enough festivals celebrating its culture and diversity, great parks and public spaces, and marvellous opportunities. That said, I do think Lorinc provided important historical context for the issues we face.
The trouble with Toronto is that we are over-managed and under-imagined. As a result, we elect mediocre leaders whose bottom line thinking has sabotaged Toronto’s so-called world-class status (it was bottom line thinking at Queen’s Park that forced amalgamation in 1998). What Toronto needs is a balance of dreamers and managers to effect change—even if it means raising taxes. Perhaps we’ll get our chance in the next election.
Lorinc makes it sound as if the rest of Canada owes something to Toronto. Has he ever read the Constitution—namely, about the separation of powers between the provincial and federal governments? He compares Toronto with other world cities like New York and Barcelona, but fails to point out the made-in-Canada political system we live under. Furthermore, public space is expensive, and Lorinc neglects to mention the true costs of planning, operating, and maintaining these so-called “magnificent” locales.
Why should someone living in Moosonee (which has limited municipal and sparse provincial services; there are no doctors living in town, and reaching the closest hospital requires a plane ride) pay for a transit system or a waterfront that’s of no use to them? Why should Aboriginal people in Canada living on a reserve in the Yukon (with developing world–like housing conditions, which the federal government is constitutionally obligated to pay for) want public funds diverted to downtown Toronto? Lorinc’s piece only validates why there is contempt for Toronto outside its borders.
Eric Babet (online)
In response to Eric Babet’s post: “made-in-Canada” is exactly the problem. The Constitution’s disregard for cities is a relic of nineteenth-century Canada, a time when the country was mostly rural and most of our big cities were no more than small towns and, as such, subservient to the province. It does not reflect our current reality—large cities with their own unique needs—nor the fact that cities are now the engines of our economy. The GTA constitutes roughly 17 percent of the Canadian population but accounts for over 20 percent of its GDP. It is without question a major contributor to the country’s economy and tax base.
You ask why those living in Moosonee should pay for a transit system or a waterfront that is of no use to them. Why should Torontonians pay for services in Moosonee that are of no use to them? (And remember that Torontonians contribute a hell of a lot more tax revenue per capita than Moosoneeans do.) Well, because that’s what living in a society entails: collective tax revenue redistributed for everyone’s benefit.
Eric H. (online)
Great read from The Walrus on how Toronto lost its groove. Sadly, it will take more than Taye Diggs to get it back.
“How Toronto Lost Its Groove”—something to print and read on the TTC.
Article in @walrusmagazine that I like to call “Why I Hate Toronto.”
GAME OF LIFE
As a Canadian who has lived in New York for a decade, I’ve tried to use hockey as a metaphor for life in the north (“The Meaning of Hockey,” November). More often than not, it goes something like this:
Canadians are accustomed to losing, to forgoing medals and instead being content with personal bests. That doesn’t make us a nation of losers, per se—rather, a nation that has come to terms with not winning. We have internalized the absurdity of measuring life as a win-loss record. We understand that life, in the end, is one long sudden-death overtime you cannot win. The very idea of victory is something we reserve for storybooks and bad movies; our hopes are private and small. Sure, this mindset produces fewer “winners,” but it also produces fewer “losers” at the bottom of society.
I contrast this with Americans, who expect to win, even at sports they’ve never heard of. They want, and expect, to win at everything—sports, money, resources, war, politics—and they generally do. But winning all the time gives you a false sense of entitlement and a skewed concept of life itself. Life as most Canadians understand it is a series of tiny overtime losses—nothing to fuss over.
New York, NY
This article contains a great deal of brilliant analysis and some interesting riffing, but I take issue with two points. First, Stephen Marche tells us that no one—not even Don Cherry—can distinguish between acceptable and unacceptable violence. I beg to differ: no doubt Howie Meeker could.
Second, Marche calls the 1972 Canada–Russia series the greatest of all time. Yes, it was the series with the highest stakes and the greatest drama—but at the same time, it is sadly tarnished by the volume, and intensity, of goonlike behaviour by Canadian players, which is not to absolve the Soviet organization of blame. The violence culminated with the slash that broke Valeri Kharlamov’s ankle, an apparently deliberate act intended to take out Russia’s greatest player. Some of us can indeed distinguish between the acceptable and the unacceptable in that instance.
For two even greater series (both Canada Cups), we need look no further than 1976, dominated by Bobby Orr, effectively skating on one leg; and 1987, remembered for the artistry of Gretzky and Lemieux.
This appeared in the January/February 2012 issue.