Your city, my city – which city?
|Pino Di Mascio.|
As I look forward and think about the kind of city I want Toronto to be, I can’t help but wonder what the geographic extent of that city will be. Where does it begin and where does it end?
I was born downtown, started school in the St. Clair/Dufferin area and grew up in Malton. My parents eventually moved to Brampton and then Woodbridge but I found my way to North York, the Annex and now Roncesvalles. I can ride my bike to work at Queen/Spadina but need my car to attend meetings in Vaughan or Whitby or Oakville. My kids have the luxury of walking to school but need be driven to birthday parties in Mississauga’s industrial parks or ski lessons in Barrie.
My city is both intimately small and extensively large at the same time. It is much more than the immediate neighbourhood in which I live and greater than the municipal corporation to which I pay my property taxes (which by the way are far lower than they should be or than others in neighbouring municipalities pay). We all need to come to grips with this reality – even those whose daily geography is quite small and compact.
Our ccity is a collection of many communities and many places with diverse populations and diverse issues, all spread over a vast land area of concrete, natural areas and countryside. The challenge is in how we interpret this landscape. Will we embrace the regional aspect of our city or will we see ourselves as a collection of kingdoms and moats?
Making regional connections at a municipal level is not easy. It requires being able to promote local needs but not resorting to parochialism. So, more downtown bike lanes are a good thing but they won’t make for a great city if we don’t invest in youth programs or improved services in our inner suburbs. Transit City is essential, but so are the Spadina and Yonge subway extensions and better GO service. Ongoing intensification is the most sustainable land-use planning policy we can implement, but if it doesn’t stop sprawl and the loss of farmland in places like Caledon or southern Simcoe County, how do we benefit?
As I wonder about the city proper and who will lead it over the next four years, it’s very important to me for those people to have a clear regional vision. We shouldn’t be exploiting the divisions that exist within the city the way previous municipal elections and municipal councils have done. Instead we should be celebrating our diversity by finding common ground on which to build a great city. This also means working cooperatively with our municipal partners outside of Toronto. Imagine that – a political landscape lacking in blame and and full of collaboration.