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December 02, 2007

Richard Florida

Toronto's Self-Image

« New World Order | Main | All the Way to Memphis »

The Toronto Sun's Rob Granastein thinks Torontonians need to think more positvely about their city, and the rest of Canada does too.

Across this country and even just outside the limits of this city, people seem to want to see Toronto fail. ... Toronto's "Centre of the Universe" reputation is well-earned. It's Canada's biggest city, by far. It's in a super geographic location. It has the arts, major league teams in three major North American sports leagues and with the Buffalo Bills set to play here, it will be a clean sweep.In short, it's all happening here. ... Maybe jealousy is the issue. Toronto needs the rest of the country on its side. And if the rest of Canada really wants to attack this city, at least slam our hockey team. It's a true Toronto embarrassment.

Reminds me of a time I was asked by leading Korean officials what they could do to ensure that growth was spread to cities and regions outside Seoul. I told them regardless their first priority was to make sure Seoul is a hub for the global economy. If Seoul were to falter, so would Korea's entire economy.  And therein lies the big contradiction - and policy challenge - of our time: How to strengthen spiky cities - London, New York, Toronto, Seoul and so on - while also enabling other places - smaller peaks and valleys - to share in economic gains. Any thoughts out there?

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Comments

Matt

It's deeply ingrained here. In a conversation about a new, dense neighbourhood planned for the waterfront, a guy I was talking to claimed that 99% of Canadians don't live the way Torontonians do. It was absurd (since the city proper is 8% of the country's population, and 80% of Canadians live in cities of some size) and especially sad because the guy was a veteran Toronto police officer.

In the short term, I think Toronto's best bet is to reach out to other Canadian cities to create a less Toronto-centered image of the problems we face. Backlog of aging infrastructure to replace? Talk to Montreal. Too many costs on the property tax base? It's the same in Ottawa. Population growing faster than transit capacity? Ditto for Calgary. If we can emphasize that many of our problems are shared with other places, we can save the "unique needs" card for when it's really needed.

Richard Florida

Matt - Nicely said.

John Trenouth

Toronto has historically expressed a downright colonial attitude toward the rest of the country. And nobody appreciates feeling colonized. 30 years later Albertans will still rage with talk of secession at the mention of Trudeau's national energy program.

Furthermore the city has always had and obsessive and obsequious hunger for approval from south of the border--from a country that pays as much attention to Toronto as Toronto pays to the rest of Canada.

Part of this I suppose is natural in a country so sparse, and so spread out. Vancouver is closer to Chihuahua by car than it is to Toronto. And Toronto is closer to Havana that it is to Calgary.

Still Toronto itself has authored much of the country's resentment--a resentment that can often overwhelm self-interest.

Gary Dee

With Canada's relatively small and mostly low density population, Toronto would be dominant by default since in the area of the old Metro Toronto, 10% of Canadians live there!

I have lived in five Canadian and three US cities, and Torontonians are the most grumpy about their city. Surprisingly, Portlanders are too, but a far, distant second (maybe from a traditional feeling of being the region's second city to Seattle, ignoring Vancouver, BC for the most part due to the border or it'd be worse!).

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