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February 27, 2008

« The Sex Pistols and Economic Development | Main | Global Pop »

That's the headline that screamed across the front page of today's National Post.  I wanted to write a scathing criticism. But then I read the column by Max Fawcett and I found I mainly agree with the gist of what he has to say:

[T]he reception that Florida has received since he arrived in Toronto says more about why it isn't a worldclass city than why it is  ... The essence of the world's greatest cities is their innate self-confidence, a kind of shared understanding of the city's virtues that needs no corroboration or confirmation from experts ... .

Toronto, in contrast, has no such confidence, which explains its exuberant embrace of Florida and his complimentary research.  ... Their response, in turn, exposes the remaining vestiges of Canada's colonial mentality, which seeks affirmation from afar, not within, and sees greatness only in reflection, through the eyes of others.


Just a couple of things which readers of the blog already know. I did not come to the Rotman School and the University of Toronto to solve Toronto's problems. I came for a basic reason - the opportunity  to set up a world-class institute and a world-class business school studying ... well ... the world.. 

The media hub-bub is more a distraction at this point than anything else. Sure, I've said a few nice things about Toronto. But most of those things I said well before we moved here. Since we were happy in DC and I had no idea we would end up here, there was absolutely no reason to suck up.

Toronto has plenty of problems and challenges - PLENTY! One of my Globe columns zeroed in on the growing economic inequality and social isolation described the important University of Toronto "Three Toronto's" report. I made much the same points in my direct commentary to the mayor and city council last month.

I'm not in Toronto to curry favor or help save the city. I'm here to be a public intellectual directing a world-class think tank - to create a hub of a broad global conversation on creativity, economic growth, place and community.  That  - in my humble opinion - is by far best way my team and I can help Toronto  - and the world.


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Absolutely agreed ... hopefully the "hubbub" will die down shortly. We do indeed have a tendency in Canada to seek "validation" from outside. It's perhaps less evident than it used to be, but is still very much there. I think most people here are intelligent enough to understand that your work goes well beyond our boundaries.


Why did RF leave Pittsburgh? He was almost convincing about his passion for the burgh in his ROTCC book.

There are certainly enough institutes at CMU - was is MW?


Chris - The answer to that one is simple. It's a long story but there simply wasn't money to fund this work at CMU. I got the opportunity to go to DC with a nice chair and connect to Brookings and other think tanks. I love Pittsburgh but I had been there for 17 years and it was time for a change of venue. But in the end the real opportunity and funding to build a solid think tank in this field came from the Rotman School at U of T. We now have stable funding to build the world's best team in this area. It's a research environment comparable to CMU but with more people working on urban issues, and a university, city and province that have made this work a priority. I'm very, very lucky.

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