It’s time to become a global city
You’ve heard this debate before: Canada suffers from an inferiority complex in relation to our neighbours to the south. With a tinge of irony, loyal defenders wake from this calmness by arguing vehemently that this isn’t a sense of inferiority, but rather the charm of a confident modesty that doesn’t require chest-thumping.
Regardless of which side you find yourself on, whereas this honourable subtlety may be a defining trait for our nation and an admirable quality in our citizens, it is also a smothering shroud that Toronto limps under while comparable metropolitan cities across the globe attract greater attention…and investors. It is time to emerge from this shadow.
This is not to suggest that we should individually throw on cocky swaggers, or brag loudly about the success of our beloved sports teams (okay, currently a bad example).
It does, however, suggest that our elected politicians walk-the-walk for us. While they should certainly continue to search for efficiencies within the GTA, it is time for a vision that does a better job -- borrow from the best of what other "global" cities do, while also trumpeting Toronto as the city for them to admire, visit and invest. With any luck, it’s a snowball effect that could bear significant fruit.
This thought is not a new one, and I admit the slight paradox between claiming we need to expound our virtues abroad, while applying their virtues here. But the constant punch-to-the-stomach feeling I have had following conversations with citizens from sister metropolitan cities remind me that we have not been effective in either regard.
My career has sometimes found me sympathizing with George Clooney’s character in Up In The Air, which is the full extent you will ever hear me complain about the opportunity to spend time in most of North American and European major metropolitan cities.
Yet, in these travels, I can’t help but notice areas where Toronto could learn, where our politicians/boards could recruit, and where the best unexploited opportunities exist for us. Of course, it is not always apples and apples. Different tax structures, revenue sources, population realities, class differentials, and other incredibly different challenges exist. But while City Hall continues to portray itself as a skit from Royal Canadian Air Farce, there is an opportunity cost that we are all missing.
What we lack, of course, is the mayor and council to pull this off successfully, and that is something I’ll be looking to see in this fall’s candidates. In the coming months, I will share some direct conversations with citizens and elected officials in international cities. A couple recent Star articles have begun this analysis, including one involving a city we could learn a lot from.
Do not get me wrong – there is much that we do right, which is what we should be creatively portraying abroad. However, in terms of further improving our city going forward, if imitation is indeed the highest form of flattery, it may also be the key to a better Toronto.