How Toronto Lost Its Groove: “As many of the world’s other megacities, including regional rivals like Boston and Chicago, prepare for an era of breakneck global urban expansion, Toronto persists in thinking small and acting cheap. Should the rest of Canada care?”

And why the rest of Canada should resist the temptation to cheer

BY JOHN LORINC

November, 2011

THE CITY OF TORONTO is stumbling toward the end of 2011 mired in a deep civic funk. Mayor Rob Ford, a renegade small-c conservative from the suburban ward of Etobicoke North, bulldozed his way to victory a year ago on a simplistic pledge to slash municipal waste. His mantra: “Stop the gravy train.” While he has yet to identify instances of reckless spending, he has ordered city officials to extract almost $800 million from Toronto’s $9-billion operating budget, the sixth-largest public purse in Canada. This punishing and potentially ruinous process may entail shuttering libraries, firing police officers, and scaling back everything from snow removal to grass cutting to transit. Municipal services — such as public housing, environmental advocacy, and even zoos — that don’t conform to the mayor’s narrow vision of local government may be eliminated, privatized, or significantly reduced.

Toronto’s woes, however, go well beyond the mayor’s fiscal populism. The Greater Toronto Area — a 7,100-square-kilometre expanse of 5.5 million residents who live in a band of municipalities extending from Burlington to Oshawa to Newmarket — finds itself increasingly crippled by some of North America’s nastiest gridlock, congestion so bad it costs the region at least $6 billion a year in lost productivity. Sprawl, gridlock’s malign twin, continues virtually unchecked, consuming farmland, stressing commuters, and ratcheting up the cost of municipal services. Without reliable funding, transit agencies can barely afford to modernize, much less expand, straining the GTA’s roads and highways to the bursting point.

READ THE REST OF THE STORY @ THE WALRUS…

John Lorinc has won several National Magazine Awards and contributes regularly to The Walrus. His third book, Cities, came out in 2008.
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One thought on “How Toronto Lost Its Groove: “As many of the world’s other megacities, including regional rivals like Boston and Chicago, prepare for an era of breakneck global urban expansion, Toronto persists in thinking small and acting cheap. Should the rest of Canada care?”

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