Will Toronto become two cities?
In the streets of Toronto, in the subway and buses, the shopping and strip malls of the city, this international, multicultural make-up of our residents is already a fact of life. Clearly, this will only intensify over the next 20 years. The question is whether we are doing the right things today to be ready for tomorrow.
Consider the following.
In the city of Toronto, close to half of our residents are visible minorities (43%). But you would be hard pressed to see any visible minority faces in the leadership profiles of our city - whether you looked at Bay Street, in Queen's Park, or at the city's largest voluntary sector organizations and its many agencies, boards and commissions. In Toronto City Hall, only four councillors are visible minorities.
Further, immigrants and visible minorities are disproportionately affected by trends that impact all of us. The recession, for instance, has left its mark on all of us, but more so on recent immigrants. While we all seem to be disengaged as an electorate, immigrants and visible minorities often find it difficult to even become engaged.
Have we then already become a new modern version of a “Tale of Two Cities”?
The residents of one city enjoy inherited privilege and natural social networks that help them in many ways. In the other city, residents are on the outside of this circle, wanting to get in, but not quite managing to do so. It is cold comfort to them to know that their children may well succeed where they now fail.
The future of a majority minority city is alluring for many reasons: An intensified, international outlook to the world, new markets, new talent, new customers, new ideas, new tourists – all this for the asking. But can we rely on these positives for tomorrow without addressing the economic, social and political gaps that exist today?
Here are a few things we can do today to be ready for tomorrow:
- Ensure that new voices are being heard at City Hall, including finding alternatives to the way we elect city councillors (Better Ballots);
- Allow landed immigrants to vote in local elections so they can learn and experience early on what it means to be a participating citizen (I Vote Toronto);
- Reward Toronto employers who hire skilled immigrants (Immigrant Success Awards);
- Ensure that city institutions are governed by qualified appointees who are more reflective of the people who live in the city (DiverseCity onBoard).
Many argue that time will take care of these issues. But time is what we don't have. We are less than two decades away from a new reality. We would be better advised to work at collapsing natural time frames so that we ready for the Toronto of tomorrow.