A lot of the change in the suburbs is driven by change in the city. Toronto is among the five largest cities in North America and has a tower building boom going on that appears to outdo the others on the list combined. The idea of finding a family home in the central city or the inner, older suburbs of Toronto seems to be rapidly becoming obsolete for all but the wealthiest people. This brings Toronto into line with many other global cities where international financial muscle, physical geography, and high population growth rates shape life. This type of change pushes working people outward. The distance pushed goes up even more for those in social difficulty.
Destitution Day arrived June 7th. The new D-Day is a tool of Social Planning Toronto designed to help Canada’s largest, richest, busiest city understand where it is at regarding poverty. Put simply, this is the day a single person collecting social assistance runs out of money. So, no, in case you were wondering Destitution Day is not generating a lot of happy talk or positive feeling. The statistics about poverty contained in the report are pretty distressing. It is said that nearly all the wards of the city contain the equivalent of a small town living in poverty, even the one’s with the highest incomes. And yes, the suburbs are well represented.
LAMP has been a social services presence in Etobicoke for some time now and so it makes sense that they would help bring an Economic Inequality forum to Toronto’s west end. The forum, one of three so far, is designed to get dialogue and action going in regard to the way societies like this one have just become giant machines for making the rich richer. This is the considered, brainy, indoors, post-Occupy response I think a lot of us have been looking forward to seeing for a while now. The suburban character of poverty, everything from aging highrises to the need for public transit spending, was fully acknowledged. Kay Blair, John Sewell and David Hulchanski spoke on behalf of the need to develop a broad popular agenda in favour of changing inequality. The event was quite audience friendly and the reasonable array of ideas, the well-considered social awareness in evidence was a lovely contrast to the kind of reactive nonsense we hear from right wing critters in public office and in the media too often.
We told them so on their Facebook page! They gave out some literature about inequality, gathered suggestions and the Etobicoke Guardian covered the event. Hopefully this is going somewhere.
The next related event is at Metropolitan United Church on March 26.
We don’t know if there are a million towers out there but certainly the reinforced concrete high rise apartment or condominium building is one of the most readily encountered artefacts of humanity and home to many, many people. An example of one was used as the banner image for this blog. The Toronto area alone is said to have about 2,000 large residential towers. Although it is remarkably easy to come up with critiques of such buildings and their effect on human communities it is kinda tough to find anyone doing anything really meaningful to imagine better for them and their residents. The documentary linked below, from Canada’s National Film Board, steps into the gap and asks a small group of high rise residents to imagine better. You’d have to be one hard hearted human being not to feel something while watching this six minute documentary.
Also see (61) Flemo!
Here’s a recent feature from the Toronto Star about inequality. Written by J David Hulchanski, a university of Toronto social work academic, it notably takes up the language of the occupy movement. That movement may fade a little as winter weather sets in but suburban-poverty.com feels it is now a full contributor to the general discourse in the United States and the United Kingdom. In Canada it is not as developed. Mixed feelings about the banks do exist here but there is a genuine sense that the regulatory environment and the corporate culture in banks here deserve some moral credit for keeping us a little more secure than elsewhere.
Don’t get us wrong, the fact Canadian banks didn’t deliver us unto a foreclosure crisis or help themselves to even more of our money in the form of direct bailouts should probably not be viewed as a major favour. That goes double when you consider two more things. Firstly, “our” banks have been drawing on a major piece of real estate, the second largest country in the world for two hundred years so they can afford to be well regulated and like it along the way. Second, we bail them out indirectly every day in the form of transaction fees. Suburban-poverty.com’s treasurer was aghast the other day to have an ATM screen inform him of a new $1 charge for printing a statement the size of a modest convenience store receipt. All those “tips” add up, people.
Hulchanski’s article elaborates on an established concept, the emergence of three cities in the Greater Toronto Area. Basically it’s about the death of the middle class. Statistics, a graph and a map indicate the reality of suburban poverty in the fifth largest city in North America, Canada’s business capital and a vast area increasingly defined by, and living off of the avails of, suburban sprawl.
The 99% know all about inequality
[statistics for 1970 & 2005 – projections for 2025]
If gargoyles could vomit with disgust somebody would be hanging up buckets at Humber College’s Lakeshore campus next week. The college, located in a converted Edwardian psychiatric hospital on the shore of Lake Ontario in Toronto, is hosting two eating contests. This is a place of education that trains social service workers and community service workers. Suburban-poverty.com thinks this is wrong in so many ways. There are food banks in every corner of the GTA now and there are people experiencing starvation in the world beyond. What kind of signal does this send to low income students or young women experiencing eating disorders and to the world at large about Humber? Why does the Humber Student Federation think it’s okay to put on this kind of event, supported by student fees? This is just more evidence, written in all caps in a font called Frat Boy Idiot, of just how low the level of mindfulness, social consciousness, and general discussion of poverty and other issues can be. Shame on you Humber if you go ahead with this. A growing number of students object to the eating contests and hopefully they will be heard by management in time to kill them stone dead. Even a gargoyle can figure this one out.
The National Film Board of Canada came up with a documentary recently about an aging suburb in the northeast corner of Toronto called Flemingdon Park. It’s an honest piece of work directly engaging the people and place. Now, Flemingdon Park is not exactly south central Los Angeles but it sure ain’t film festival Toronto either. Rarely does this flopped Utopia ever make it into the mass media in the GTA unless some young man has just gotten murdered in a housing project. Lack of transit and poor socioeconomic conditions are combined with a lacklustre aesthetic environment that you would imagine from the outside all but destroys meaningful human experience or connection to place. The people of Flemingdon Park may be an archetype of life in many North American suburbs because of the former but they might surprise viewers a little on the latter.
Eat nothing but food from a dollar store for an entire week? A Toronto Star reporter tried that recently and found a man cannot live on salty garbage alone. The results were probably predictable enough but we salute those who put it on the line like this and keep their sense of humour!
A week of groceries from the dollar store?
Next bus in forty-four minutes, or fifty-five minutes, except on Sundays or before seven a.m. or after rush hour, …or maybe never! Typical scheduling for hard pressed working people dependant on Suburbland’s diesel bus dominated public transit. It’s a wonder anyone can hold down a job in Sprawlville. Long, multiple-transfer bus rides across Edge Cities in order to hold down some crap job suck the life out of you. We’ve wondered about the justice of this for some time here at suburban-poverty.com. Once again the Brookings Institution rides up with the evidence. God bless Brookings!
Job sprawl and the suburbanization of poverty
Newspaper columnist Heather Mallick recently wrote with some passion about a proposed fare hike for Toronto Transit Commission users. The TTC was once the envy of many a city but now is badly stressed, barely able to reconcile the urban and suburban needs of riders. God bless you too, Heather!
Mallick: TTC fare hike like poison for the poor
editor’s note: it once took us two hours and five minutes to get home from a gig cleaning cars in North York to our place in Parkdale. We had early signs of hypothermia when we got in the door. We have not harboured resentment ever since, fuckers.