Toronto

November 14, 2011 at 1:15 am (Uncategorized)

Hmm, somewhat off-topic from the stuff I usually post/re-post here. I’ve lived in Toronto, on and off since 1987. I met my wife here; my children were born here. I like its relative bustle. I love its multiculturalism. Sure there are things which bother me, but isn’t that true of everywhere? So, it puzzles me that so many people in other parts of this country, hate this city so much. I friend of mine with whom I shared many opinions could hardly say Toronto without spitting. Other friends had similar antipathies.

Certainly the Federal and Provincial Conservatives can barely contain their dislike of the city. It was rumoured that former Premier Mike Harris was in favour of a certain proposal, but changed his mind when he realized it would benefit Toronto. now that story is almost certainly apocryphal, but the fact it still circulates is telling.

Is Toronto cold or stuck up? It’s all very odd. This piece by Marcus Gee appeared in Saturday’s Globe and Mail

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As a Toronto boy going to university in Vancouver, I learned early how much my hometown is loathed by some Canadians. Saying you were from Toronto was liking sounding a leper’s bell. I came to mention it almost apologetically.

More than three decades later, a new opinion poll finds that Toronto is still the country’s least liked city. The poll was conducted by Léger Marketing for the National Capital Commission and the Association of Canadian Studies. It surveyed 2,345 Canadians on their perceptions of different Canadian cities.

Nineteen per cent of respondents had a negative perception of Toronto, a higher number than for any other city. Toronto-phobia is highest in the West. Twenty-three per cent of respondents in British Columbia, 27 per cent in Manitoba and Saskatchewan and 30 per cent in Alberta were negative on the city.

Isn’t it time for Canadians to get over this sour prejudice? The smug, high-handed, WASPy Toronto that people learned to hate has vanished into history. Toronto may be Canada’s biggest city, but it no longer lords it over anyone. Calgary has more economic vigour. House prices in Vancouver are higher. Montreal is cooler. Even St. John’s has oil.

Western resentment of the East and its arrogant urban bastion seems a little absurd now that the economic centre of gravity has shifted westwards. While Albertans merrily pump money from the ground, Ontario frets about its eroding manufacturing base. The West is not only in, it’s running the show. The prime minister is from Calgary (even if, like many Westerners, he is a transplanted Torontonian.)

So why the resentment? If it isn’t Toronto’s overweening power that makes people hate the city, what does? Is it because Torontonians pretend their city is the centre of the universe?

That doesn’t wash. Most Torontonians think New York is the centre of the universe. They may be proud of their city, but they are hardly boastful. Come to Toronto, in fact, and you will find people complaining about the place – the impossible traffic, the frustrating transit service, the loony antics at city hall, the lack of civic ambition. They are well aware that Toronto is not paradise on earth, thanks. If you want smug and self-satisfied, go to Vancouver.

Is it because Toronto is so unfriendly? Certainly, you get more smiles and hellos in Ottawa or Halifax. But that may be more a matter of size than of civic personality. In smaller cities, people are more open with strangers than they are in the metropolis. One on one, people from Toronto can be as decent as anyone else. When a local magazine published a story saying that Torontonians are fleeing the grim-faced city for friendlier small towns, online forums exploded with Toronto stories about acts of kindness and neighbours helping neighbours.

Is Toronto resented simply because it is big? Maybe, but New York is big, too. Americans consider their biggest city a national treasure and flock there to enjoy its glories, coming home with I ♥ NY T-shirts. Canadians prefer to sneer.

Is it because Toronto is so dangerous? That myth is widespread. A young university student from British Columbia told me that when she moved to Toronto, her family and friends warned her never to look anyone in the eye; she might get stabbed or raped. In fact, according to Statistics Canada’s crime-severity index for 2010, Toronto was safer than Regina, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Victoria, Vancouver, Thunder Bay, Montreal, Calgary, Ottawa, Hamilton, Sudbury – in fact, safer than any city, except Quebec City and Guelph.

What many Canadians feel for Toronto is like what some adolescent boys feel for a big brother. “He thinks he’s so big.” Most boys grow out of it. Canadians should, too.

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