Illustration by Kyra Kendall/Torontoist.
Torontoist is ending the year by naming our Heroes and Villains—Toronto’s very best and very worst people, places, and things over the past twelve months. From December 13–17: the Villains! From December 20–24, the Heroes! And, from December 27–30, you can vote for Toronto’s Superhero and Supervillain of the year.
In singling out the suburbs for “Villain” status this year, we realize we’re playing a potentially divisive game. And so let’s be clear about what and whom we aren’t pointing fingers at, here.
Suburbanites. We don’t dislike people who happen to have homes in the suburbs. They have their reasons for living where they live. As downtown hipster bloggers, we can’t possibly imagine what those would be—but we know our own lifestyle choices aren’t for everyone. Besides, if every single person in the GTA wanted to live downtown, the rents on our Queen West apartments would shoot up and we wouldn’t be able to spend so much money on vegan yoga sex parties and fair-trade skinny jeans.
Cars. We believe there’s enough room on Toronto’s streets for everyone. A few more bike lanes would be nice, but it’s not the fault of the average driver that new cycling infrastructure is always so slow in coming. It’s unfortunate that the issue has been framed in terms of a “war on the car,” when what it’s really about is carving out a small but workable buffer zone on the shoulders of roads for our vintage nineteen-seventies fixies, so we don’t ever scratch their paint.
Calls for reduction in municipal spending. We didn’t realize our liberal tax-and-spend proclivities were so badly out of control. Taxes are as inevitable as death, supposedly, so there’s no getting rid of them. But the City could TOTALLY stop spending. It wouldn’t affect us. Our parents pay for everything, anyway, and we don’t need public transit because who ever goes north of Bloor? Nobody we know.
The suburbs were Villainous in 2010 not so much because of any one particular thing IN the suburbs, but because this was the year they all decided to gang up on downtown. Every single suburban ward voted overwhelmingly, in Toronto’s municipal election, for an outcome everyone knew would be contrary to the wishes of most people living anyplace within walking distance of a restaurant with artisanal charcuterie on its menu. And that’s, like, everywhere that matters.
The new municipal regime seems bent on curtailing all the things about Miller’s mayoralty that brought cheer to our dour, cynical, hearts: the environmental initiatives, the light rail plans, and the progressive social programs—all of which spread benefits far beyond the limits of downtown. And yes, there were some decisions that benefited downtown disproportionately, but even the new guy, after a decade on council, seemed hard-pressed to produce specific examples of those. It’s telling that during his campaign he had to rely on the same short list of talking points, again and again.
We live in a democracy, and so it’s inevitable that elections sometimes won’t go our way. But what’s galling in this case is that the reason things shook out the way they did had only partly to do with the issues. This isn’t to say that the suburbs were wrong to vote the way they did, or that they didn’t have plenty of reasons for doing so—and, to be fair, their candidate of choice did have some support downtown. But there was a punitive impulse at work, underlying the whole election, like the rumbling bass line to an angry power ballad. The suburbs supported an outcome they knew we’d find worrying and severe, and the deciding factor in their doing so was that they felt we were too powerful—in other words, overprivileged.
To listen to the rhetoric, you’d think our councillors had been rolling up suburban tax dollars and using them to snort ketamine off sole-sourced City-owned bar rails during all-night fuck-the-taxpayer raves.
But contrary to popular belief, David Miller was not Caligula.
Downtown did well under his rule for the most part, and many of his key policies were designed to address problems throughout the city. Now, the next four years are a giant question mark, at best. And the consequences of that, whatever they may be, will reach far beyond the centre of Toronto, all the way out to its edges.