Oh, Toronto…

I want to like you, Toronto, I really do. After all, I know your reputation amongst Canadians not lucky enough to call you home, or worldly enough to assess you correctly. Still, you make it so difficult. What gives?

On paper, you look quite promising: Canada’s largest city, at around 5 million people; a diverse population of people speaking a symphony of mother tongues and worshipping at least a dozen deities; museums, art galleries, festivals, and seven professional sports teams; an integrated public transit system with streetcars, a subway, and extensive bus routes; the CN Tower, which is still a marvel after all these years.

And yet.

And yet, in practice, you suck. Not badly, don’t get me wrong. Just badly enough to make me bristle when one of your patriotic denizens pronounces on your status as a “world city.”

Not quite.

Barcelona, for example, comprises around 5 million people, too. It’s also situated next to a large body of water. It has not one but two official languages. Its museums and galleries and, ahem, UNESCO World Heritage sites blow your AGO and your ROM out of the water. And its transit system? Where do I begin?! For one thing: IT WORKS. Well. Consistently. Seriously, the TMB rarely if ever trends on Twitter as a hashtag fail.

Dislike the comparison to a European city, Toronto? Think it’s akin to comparing Valencia oranges to McIntosh apples? Fine. Let me draw your attention to another city on this side of the pond: Chicago.

Also on a large body of water—a Great Lake no less! Comprising around 8 million people—granted a little larger than either you or Barcelona, but fundamentally in the same class. And what of their high culture and professional athletics? IN SPADES. Not to mention a zoo and an effing aquarium.

Chicago also has a habit of electing civic leaders with, say, vision and, ah, competence. (See Daly, Richard M. v. Lastman, Mel; Emmanuel, Rahm v. Ford, Rob.) And don’t you go holding up your David Miller, Toronto, as proof you’re not completely hopeless when given the chance to install someone in the mayor’s chair with something approaching a brain. Having experienced both Lastman and Miller, you then opted for Ford—IN DROVES.

Yep, you seem to struggle—and struggle mightily—with the evidently impossible task of sound civic planning. When faced with what to do with your spectacular coastline, for example, you opted for the Gardiner Expressway. Chicago? Grant, Millennium and Lincoln Parks, Shedd Aquarium, Adler Planetarium, The Art Institute of Chicago, Soldier Field, Jay Pritzker Pavilion, Navy Pier

Enough said.

Granted, you’ve still got the CN Tower. Be proud of that. Honest. A shame, however, it’s situated next to that billion-dollar white elephant, the SkyDome—sold to Rogers Communications for the tidy sum of $25 million. I mean, Jesus Christ. Even Montreal, with its decrepit Olympic Stadium, can take pride in the fact its billion-dollar engineering ignominy oozes (or at least crumbles) retro-futuristic cool.

Speaking of the Olympics, nothing tops the hubris of frequently floating yourself as a candidate for them. It’s laughable. You haven’t even properly connected your airport with your public transit system; in contrast, London has dozens to its THREE major international airports and it’s still working on contingency plans to move people about.

And when last invited to host something of any international import—the G8-G20 Summit—your police force—like a newbie tagging along with Charlie Sheen on a 48-hour hooker-and-blow bender—lost its shit in orgiastic displays of Orwellian oversight and Draconian enforcement. Imagine, as London (no stranger to serious and devastating acts of terror) must do now, having to actually implement the far more robust, lengthy and sophisticated security measures necessary to safeguard an event even remotely close to the Olympics, let alone the Olympics themselves.

Get real.

No, seriously. Drop the bullshit. Either you accept things as they actually are and resign yourself to simply being the biggest Canadian fish in the world’s municipal ocean, or you buck up and set about bridging the gap between how you see yourself and how the rest of the world actually sees you.

The choice is yours. Choose wisely.

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4 comments
  1. Azsatan said:

    Hmmmm, you’ve covered a lot of things that would attract the standard tourist. And I am, by no means, saying that you are a standard tourist. All I can say is Toronto is what you make of it, any and every city, for that matter, is what you make of it.

    You’re right, the AGO and the ROM aren’t that great. Art in galleries and museums does not generally appeal to me any way. I find going to Historical sights throughout the city much more interesting. To me, it’s a little bit more authentic and it kind of gives you an edge, in making of it what you will. I haven’t been to the ROM since grade school and it was completely boring. I remember practically falling asleep. The AGO, hahaha, I went there a few years ago with a friend, after getting wine from the LCBO, which made the experience more enjoyable.

    The TTC is an unreliable MotherF***er, that’s why, it’s not the way to go. The bike is a far better source of transportation. Granted, sometimes the TTC runs smoothly, but it seems those chances are few and far in between. The problem isn’t the TTC though (except in the way of efficiency), it’s the fact of Toronto, being a city, having people living in it that have places to be and people to see (this isn’t so much a problem in and of itself as it is a fundamental component of city life) However, the majority of these people are on a very tight schedule, meaning they don’t have room to deal with problems arising with/from the TTC. God forbid, they have to wait an extra ten minutes for the next train, ten minutes that turn into a half hour. Translation: the TTC is an encumbrance to anyone who has to be somewhere at a certain time. Being a born and bred Torontonian, I’ve learned to live with it, then again I don’t have to deal with it very often since I take my bike everywhere, which is a vastly superior way of traveling in the City. You can, essentially get anywhere you need to by bike and the only person you have to rely on is yourself.

    Yes, Toronto has been proclaimed a world city, but where it ranks matters, London, NY, Tokyo, and Paris have all been ranked within the top ten and all have well established and much more efficient transit systems than Toronto ever could.

    And Chicago, well, that’s your favourite city (based on another posting), comparing it to Toronto….. Is that even fair?

    You’ve been to Barcelona, Spain (?) to make that kind of comparison to Toronto, I have not. But Toronto is not really well known for aquariums or zoos. It’s known for it’s CN Tower, it’s Skydome, it’s multiculturalism, it’s smog, it’s coldness. Not a great reputation, I’ll give you that. If you’d like an aquarium go to Vancouver, they have it in a park no less.

    Toronto is not cut out to host the Olympics or anything of the sort.

    Politics here in Toronto are….. f***eD uP. Period. It’s actually all about access. The gap between the rich and the poor is only getting wider, or has already reached its apex. I am not that politically inclined but it’s not rocket science to know that those who voted for Rob Ford and had him elected into office, are those that are on the higher end of the income scale. (Money…. it’s amazing how poisonous it can be.) And for that reason, Toronto is politically polluted.

    That’s my commentary.

    P.S.

    The island is a nice place to visit; maybe it’ll help you gain a different perspective on Toronto.

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