Real City Matters: Civil Discourse for a Crazy Town
Toronto is not a broken city. All too often, political rhetoric makes it seem as if we’re on the brink of collapse: fiscal, social, political—even existential, for those who still bring up de-amalgamation. We are one of the luckiest cities in the world in many ways, and we often forget that.
But we are also a city facing many challenges. We’re a teenager of a city, unsure of our identity. We want to be “world class” but often shy away from ambitious projects. We want to grow—we will grow, whether we like it or not—but want to keep our neighbourhoods feeling like small communities. We are also, still, a patchwork city, amalgamated but not fully integrated.
Perhaps most importantly, we are not very good at talking about any of these issues. We trumpet our diversity but struggle—perhaps because we’re too “polite,” too Canadian—to have frank discussions about the racism that exists here. We decry downtown vs. suburbs divisiveness without being honest about the fact that there is real disenfranchisement in Toronto, and some of it falls along geographic lines.
We need to start having better conversations.
In the lead-up to the 2014 municipal election, Torontoist has partnered with former urban affairs reporter Siri Agrell to create a series of discussions about all of this. Our goal: figure out how to speak better—more optimistically and also more honestly—about Toronto, and how to make more inclusive decisions about the city’s future.
Also, we plan to have some fun along the way.
For four Tuesdays, starting on September 30 and running through October 21, we’ll be convening a series of panel discussions devoted to various aspects of this particular dilemma: many of us are doing well, and we don’t do a very good job discussing the reasons why some of us are not. We’re bringing grassroots activists together with organizational leaders, and, for some outside perspective, members of the former Bloomberg administration in New York.
There will be some surprises each night—comedy and music and creative elements that celebrate the things we love about Toronto—and we would love for you to join us.
Tickets are free, and you can get them right here:
September 30 (Doors 7 p.m.; Panel 7:30 p.m.): What’s Going Right?
What do we genuinely do well in Toronto—in all parts of the city—and what are the real challenges we face? Why, when there is a great deal that is going well, does it so often feel that we speak about Toronto as if it were a failing city?
- Sabina Ali, Jane Jacobs Prize winner, Thorncliffe Park Women’s Committee
- Rita Davies, founder, Toronto International Book Fair; former Executive Director of Culture for the City of Toronto
- Roscoe Handford, Manager, Wychwood Barns Farmers’ Market; Hospital for Sick Children Farmers’ Market; Regent Park Farmers’ Market
- Alvis Julian, Black Creek Community Farm
- Bilal Khan, Managing Director, OneEleven
And if you missed it, here’s a bit of what we discussed:
October 7 (Doors 7 p.m.; Panel 7:30 p.m.): Growing Pains
In the coming decades, Toronto will become home to hundreds of thousands of new residents. How can we build a city that works for everyone?
- Kisa Ehigiator, community animator, Lawrence Heights
- Jennifer Keesmaat, Chief Planner, City of Toronto
- Emily Munroe, Program Director, 8-80 Cities
- Andrew Wiley-Schwartz, Bloomberg Associates; former Assistant Commissioner of Public Space, New York City Department of Transportation
October 14 (Doors 7 p.m.; Panel 7:30 p.m.): Can’t We All Just Get Along?
How do we talk about—or fail to talk about—race, class, and geography in a sprawling and diverse megacity? And how can we learn to talk about those things better?
- Linda Gibbs, Bloomberg Associates; former Commissioner of the Department of Homeless Services; former Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services
- Anne Gloger, Founding Director, East Scarborough Storefront
- Lisa Gore Duplessis, Manager of Direct Services, The 519 Church Street Community Centre
- Rinaldo Walcott, Chair, Department of Sociology and Equity Studies, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education
October 21 (Doors 7 p.m.; Panel 7:30 p.m.): Keeping Toronto Honest
In the wake of Toronto’s MFP scandal, the City began to look more closely at how it conducted its business, but there are still many questions about how a growing city with growing powers can best manage integrity issues. Former Toronto Mayor David Miller will lead the final installment of Real City Matters, conducting an on-stage interview with Rose Gill Hearn, former Commissioner of the New York City Department of Investigations.