So the other night I was watching the by-election coverage. Over and over I heard so-called pundits referring to “what Torontonians want”. What is a Torontonian anyway? Can you define that elusive citizen whom every pundit seems to know so well? When I was a kid wandering the streets of TO I could have answered that fairly easily. I lived in North York and that was a place. You got on the bus and you paid a second fare when the bus got to The Inn on the Park. Then you were in Toronto and on your way to Eglington Station. That was the north end of the subway and to us the gateway to heaven. Torontonians were people who, no matter the ethnic source, welcomed you.TTC staff would usher a 12-year-old who’d run out of money onto the train or bus anyway, cause that was the right thing to do.The jolly ladies behind the counter at Perlmutter’s Bakery in Kensington Market would give my little sister’s a free Ruggy while I bought the best Challah ever to take home. You could take the College street car out to get Sicilian Ice Cream from women behind the counter who did not speak English but that didn’t seem to matter. My Jamaican friend Cecile invited me out to her home in Lansdowne and fed me my first fried Plantain. The Queen car took you east to the old pre renovation Beaches neighbourhood where you could run on the sand and watch the lawn bowlers. We loved to poke around in Eaton’s College Street
where the old wooden floors creaked as we tramped about until the purse lipped sales lady’s sent us packing. On Sundays if you ventured downtown it was a ghost town. That was pre Eaton Centre and they really did roll up the sidewalks. The tallest building on the horizon was the first Toronto Dominion Centre tower.
The people of that Toronto had an identity. They lived in Toronto the good. The old city of Toronto was staid and conservative and warm and safe and friendly as hell. When you met someone’s eye on the subway or streetcar they would immediately smile at you. If you were lost you could stop anyone and they would help. It never occurred to us to feel fear on the streets of Toronto. From the age of 15 I wandered the city, often with my two little sisters and various other neighbourhood kids in tow. We once lost my youngest sister and her best friend in Yonge Street and never felt the slightest panic. We knew someone would grab them and we would find them eventually. And we did.
Yesterday I was crammed into a train on my way home from Eaton centre. I was fascinated by how studiously people avoided my gaze so they wouldn’t have to give up a seat to the lady with the cane. A young black boy in the ever-present hoodie and headphones wordlessly stood and waved me over while men in suits avoided my gaze. I thanked him and then I asked him where he was from. “Scarborough, miss.” So much for stereo types. No white middle class suburban kid would ever call me or any other older woman miss. I said “so were you born in Toronto?” He said “no, miss, Scarborough.”
There it is!
Whatever your opinion of amalgamation was. Get over it. IT”S DONE!
Toronto is a the largest city in Canada. It encompasses all the neighbourhoods you read about from Malvern to Port Union to Long Branch and everything in between.
You may LIVE in the suburb of Scarborough but you are FROM Toronto. What stood out to me as a teenager was the pride a Torontonian had in their city. If you lived in the burbs you would always say “I live just outside Toronto” or “on the edge of Toronto”. I don’t think I ever said I was from North York. At best I might say Don Mills. Toronto was a place to have pride in.
It still is.
Our mayor is of questionable morals and seems to care nothing for us. Whatever else you say about him. He is a prime example of our problem. He is NOT a Torontonian. He is from Etobicoke. He does not get it. There is so very much he does not know, or care to know, about this grand city he represents. He represents whomever is of use to him and not much else. BUT. And this is a big but. He is not alone.
I don’t discuss my sister the Councillor. We have agreed that her opinionated and mouthy sister should keep a distance. I must violate this rule just this once. Something she said to a group of her constituents not long ago bares repeating. Over and over. Until it sinks in. She was asked why she was talking about a neighbourhood that was not in her Ward. She said that although they had elected her and yes she was responsible to them. Once they elected her to Toronto City Council she also became responsible to ALL the citizens of Toronto.
There are more than a few city councillors who could learn from this statement. This fractious bunch of people, each pursuing different agendas, have left us divided and confused and angry and apathetic. All at once. We have been lied to, deliberately mislead, twisted in knots, and danced upon. In the face of non stop haranguing from candidates, TV commentators, newspapers, radio stations, door knockers, and signs. We have retreated. Who can blame us? It has become so bloody confusing we have stuck our heads in the sand and begun to pray for the end. We grasp at whatever the simplest message is and hang on for dear life, no matter that we know it’s probably one more lie. Or we just ignore it all and try to live our lives as best we can while these idiots play their sad little games with these lives.
What happened to political candidates who tell us what they will do for us? All most of them seem to do anymore is tell us what their competition is doing wrong. That’s the real secret to Rob Ford‘s success. It matters not one little bit that he never follows through. He tells us what he will do. Most of the time he won’t be able to deliver on his promises. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that when he is running for office, his message is clear, concise, and simple. Laugh at “subways, subways, subways” or better yet “the gravy train”. Go ahead and laugh. He got elected.
Toronto City Council has been frozen in time for years. We’ve had government after government who are so afraid to upset anyone that they make no decision based on the good it might do for the city. Never say no seems to be their motto.
When I was a little girl I had 2 sisters. One was an artist, dreamy and creative and stubborn as hell. When she was little she would not eat anything but dessert and peanut butter. Eventually we would lose her to the heart disease she lived with. My mother was afraid to say no to her. Eventually one of our aunts said if all she wants is dessert, then all she should get is dessert. Three meals a day. So she got dessert 3 meals a day. She was not allowed anything else. By the fifth day she was on her knees begging for what we were eating.
Toronto is like my little sister. Council has forgotten a basic tenet of governance. You can’t make an omelette if you are afraid to crack some eggs. Dessert all the time leads to tooth decay, anemia, and bloating. We need a group of Councillors with the balls to say no. To work together for our own good regardless of the pain it might cause initially. I’d like to take some of our hard-earned money and send the whole bunch of them out on an Outward Bound excursion. They have not one clue how to work together FOR US. How to put their own personal agendas aside and do what is best FOR THE CITY. Without regard to immediate gratification. While they are playing their ridiculous games. All around them our city is being drowned in decay, anemia. and bloat.
We have spent 30 some years arguing about what to do about transit. We have made decisions only to see successive governments undo them in an eternal pissing contest of which we, the citizens, are the victims.
I don’t claim to have the answers. I blog as I think. I don’t claim to be a pundit or wise on any level. I am a citizen of Toronto. I love this city. I don’t want us to become Detroit. In the face of a city council that does not seem able to drop its many personal biases I simply want to know how we wake people up. If Rob Ford had won his seat by a true majority of eligible voters I would say, okay, that’s what Toronto wants. That’s not what happened. The truth is he got 23% of the eligible voters. The truth is we have been lied and lied and lied to. The truth is this will go on and on and on until we say STOP!