2012 Villain: Doug Holyday
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2012 Villain: Doug Holyday

Nominated for: trying to turn an already divided house even more against itself.

Torontoist is ending the year by naming our Heroes and Villains: the very best and very worst people, places, things, and ideas that have had an influence on the city over the past 12 months. From December 10 to 19, we’ll unveil the nominees, grouped by category. Vote for your favourites from each batch, every single day! On December 19 and 20 the winners from each category go head-to-head in the final round of voting, and on December 21, we will reveal your choices for Toronto’s Superhero and Supervillain of the year.

It’s not like Toronto suffers from any delusions of complete harmony. Our mayor, after all, owes his tenure (or what’s left of it, at any rate) to a game of divide and conquer, pitting downtown against suburb in 2010 and emerging from the fray victorious. Even going back to the days of Mel Lastman, the 416 received its first megacity mayor from North York with varying sentiment, despite that North York mayor’s Kensington Market upbringing.

We are, ultimately, still a new municipality, born of cities with different geographies and identities, amalgamated but not yet fully integrated. It’s not surprising that we still experience some divisions.

What we don’t expect—what is taking us back rather than forwards—is for that kind of division to carry a tacit City of Toronto seal of approval. But, of course, one of Ford’s allies opened his mouth last summer, lowered the bar in public debate, and did just that. That person was Doug Holyday (Ward 3, Etobicoke Centre), our esteemed deputy mayor.

On July 12, Holyday and Councillor Adam Vaughan (Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina) were debating a zoning amendment affecting a condo development proposed for the corner of King and John. Vaughan was insisting that developers planning to build in his ward set aside 10 per cent of their buildings for families, with a set number of three-bedroom units in each. Holyday scoffed. “Where will these children play?” he asked, incredulous. “On King Street?” Officials countered that having families downtown makes for a “healthier city.” “It makes for a healthier city to have children out on a street like King Street where it’s bumper-to-bumper traffic and people galore at all times of night and day? I just think of raising my own family there. That’s not the place I choose.”

“Maybe some people wish to do that,” Holyday continued, meeting with jeers from members of the observing public. “I think most people wouldn’t.” Later that afternoon, Holyday stood before reporters at City Hall, totally unbowed once again in his suggestion that downtown Toronto isn’t fit for families. “There are healthier places to raise children,” he maintained.

And if that’s what he thinks of his city, what about its residents? It’s not just entire neighbourhoods that he summarily dismissed with a rhetorical flourish—it’s the hundreds of thousands of people, and tens of thousands of families, who live in them.

As far as biased old-guard stereotypes go, there is almost nothing unique or even remarkable about this scenario. It’s the sort of reactionary alarmism one expects to hear as a big-city deterrent or cautionary tale: one horror story after another about “little Ginny” downstairs one night on King Street, “playing in the traffic on her way to the park.” How do you know she won’t get creamed by a bus? Or, similarly, how do you know a squeegee kid won’t firebomb your condo in the middle of the night? Or what if those Queen Street hipsters try to get your kids hooked on the pot? In saying that “there are healthier places to raise children,” one gets the sneaking, dark suspicion that Holyday has a very, very long list in mind, and that scenarios like this—laughable and ridiculous though they most assuredly are—drive his worst-case theorizing.

Coming from Grandpa So-and-So who once lived in Toronto and hated it, that’s fine, even adorable. From Doug Holyday, deputy mayor of the city, it’s absolutely, unquestionably not.

See the other nominees in the Dividers category:

Sue-Ann Levy

Using her position to deride instead of reason.
  Michael Bryant

An astonishingly tone-deaf response to a tragic death.
  Frances Nunziata

Treating her colleagues like wayward schoolchildren.

Unsubstantiated “Safety Concerns”

Using race as an indicator of crime.
  Yunel Escobar

Homophobic slurs and frustrating non-apologies.
  James Pasternak and QuAIA Alarmism

Undermining Pride Toronto, and Toronto’s commitment to diversity.

Cast Your Ballot