Labour Day long weekend is upon us and most of the population of the province of Ontario will pile onto the 400-series highways. A crush of motor vehicles bookends the final days of summer for those with access to lakes, cottages, boating and so forth. Such privileges are meant to be enjoyed and Ontario, especially its densely populated southern parts, has been a busy province these past six or so decades. The economic statistics for Canada’s largest province are staggering, 12.8 million people crank it out to the tune of over 600 billion dollars a year. A shade more GDP than Sweden. That makes Ontario the 25th largest economic unit by GDP in the world and the source of 40% of the Canadian economy. All the more depressing then to come across another negative report about poverty and inequality and threats to the standard of living in Ontario. A place that built 2.1 million automobiles in 2011, many for export all over the world.
A couple of days ago Ontario Common Front (see their Facebook page) released a report placing Ontario at the bottom of the list for social program spending, access to programs and support for public services. Education, health care and the affordability of housing are also examined and found problematic. We can’t think of anything directly related to the standard of living and quality of life of the population here that has been left out. Something like 100 labour groups are part of this organization and the report is dense with worrisome statistics. In turn, we fear it will get too little media attention as Ontarians enjoy their last weekend of the summer, and begin to think about sending children back to school. Nonetheless, an election is coming. One in which a reasonable centrist government will come under attack by eager neo-conservative/neo-liberal forces. Perhaps this report will be a wake up call to all concerned? National news outlets and most provincial newspapers with an online presence have picked it up.
Falling Behind: Ontario’s Backslide Into Widening Inequality, Growing Poverty and Cuts to Social Programs weareontario.ca
image: Wikimedia Commons
One of the editorial interns at suburban-poverty.com came across a fantastic resource today: The Atlas of Suburbanisms from Waterloo University. Just getting to say a word like suburbanisms brings a joy to our hearts, …let alone the content!
The content is, of course, what’s important and as a tool for literacy in Canadian suburbia this site is powerful stuff. The focus is Canada’s three largest urban-suburban agglomerations: Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver. Other communities are also examined. The information is timely, well presented. The more we read, the more we look at the maps and tables and analysis the more impressed we are with this site. Part of the problem of understanding suburban life lies in the difficulty of agreeing to the language to apply to it. The Atlas of Suburbanisms takes us beyond this initial confusion, shows us what is there, …shows us ourselves!
Atlas of Suburbanisms
Making a choice between suburban living and some other kind, or even choosing to see much difference between the two at all, has been a proposition since the suburbs were born. Now, late in the day for cheap energy and E-Z money, the question is defined anew. Recently political actors in Toronto expressed both sides of the question in a place where the suburbs and the city are, if anything, becoming more alike. The amalgamation of the old downtown City of Toronto with its sprawlshed never really sat well with anybody and yet it seems the language for describing the differences between city and suburb is much weaker than it should be.
Raising children in the city vs the suburbs Huffington Post
Do the suburbs make you selfish? Time Business
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.
The ‘Manhattanization’ of Toronto will change family-housing dreams CBC
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.
Social Planning Toronto releases first-ever poverty profiles of the city’s 44 wards on Destitution Day Toronto Star
Twinned with Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for a shared heritage of steel making, the Canadian city of Hamilton, Ontario also grapples with the kinds of changes many cities in North America are facing. In the piece linked below, a Hamilton blogger and transit acitivist relates the issues of suburban change and decline to his city of just over 500,000 people at the western end of Lake Ontario. It’ll be interesting to compare how post-industrial Hamilton evolves in comparison to Toronto, the sprawling super-suburbanized mega city to the east. Whatever path Hamilton follows will be instructive to the whole region, both sides of the border.
We may be on the edge of an epochal migration Raise The Hammer
Descriptions of where suburbia is at call forth questions about its future. Some of the predictions of where it’s all going for suburbia are dire indeed. In a world of capital and energy problems the growth of suburbia is safely described as over. Does that mean we are looking at decay and contraction or adaptation? Is it possible that we’ll see an element of scrapping, reclaiming and recycling of the very fabric of suburbia? Maybe. There’s hundreds of thousands of tons, nay millions of tons, of everything from wood to asphalt to aluminium and copper out there. If it is deployed in a built environment that increasingly is either unsustainable or simply doesn’t meet human needs what will happen to it? Humans are inventive critters so we’ll probably see all three: adaptation, contraction and physical reclamation of useful materials.
With that in mind we’d like you to meet two guys already at it. Kenny Chumsky of New Jersey and a Canadian in southern Ontario named Jack-the-Scrapper. These dudes troll the suburbs garbage picking and scrapping. They live off the consumer insanity of suburbia but could easily have their way with the very bones and flesh of it without much difficulty we imagine. Kenny has a charming New Jersey accent and looks a little worse for wear, he doesn’t even don work gloves as he demolishes everything from TV sets to swing sets. Jack is younger and could easily be a comedian with his own reality show. He’s almost as funny as the Chief Publisher here at suburban-poverty.com. Jack doesn’t look half as rough as Kenny, …must be all that socialist public health care forced on him by his vile government. Either way, these two men are out there on the edge, testing the future one discarded cast aluminium barbecue at a time.
How to scrap metal from a TV: for copper, wire and aluminum Caution: awesome!
How to scrap a flat TV for cash $$$$ “I’m gonna hit that TV with this axe!”
If you live in a suburban area in North America you probably have noticed a serious rise in scrapping and garbage picking. Such things were staples of the economic life of developing countries and their visibility here probably speaks volumes. Copper wire is currently worth about $3.00 a pound and that is why the cords disappear from the toasters and video tape players that go out on garbage day. Pop cans and scrap aluminium is worth less than a dollar a pound. Other times scrappers repair or reuse objects and the internet abounds with tales of perfectly good stuff hauled out of the garbage. Outside the suburban-poverty.com office the first wave of scrappers in vans and pickups, often with trailers, rolls by mid-afternoon garbage day. There’s another wave around dinner time. Sometimes one around 20:00 and another at 23:00. Individual pickers and scrappers can cruise by at any time on garbage day. There’s a man nearby here who scraps on foot with a specially adapted baby buggy. Not something really anticipated when this grand, sprawling suburban creature was birthed officially in 1974.
Yesterday’s Toronto Star had an item about newcomers to Canada. A study indicates many new immigrants land directly in suburban poverty. They’ve been doing so for decades, truth be told.
New immigrants are the “hidden homeless”
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.
Economic Inequality home page
Economic Inequality Facebook
Canadians count themselves a fortunate people. Perhaps that’s why they are such squanderers as well?
Case in point, the vast suburban project directly west of Toronto. Mississauga enjoyed a true golden age of property development, a California-esque era of low taxes, easy services, smugness, and growth, growth, growth. The cornfields went down. The houses went up. The money changed hands. Now, it looks like the party is over in the city whose official tag line is the frighteningly vacuous “Leading today for tomorrow.” If the private and public economy alike can’t be kept up by a massive flow of development-based revenue then what will happen? Nobody seems to know but denial isn’t really an option any more. This year, the city that bragged about never laying off staff and not needing tax increases levied a whopping 7.4% increase on its property tax payers. Imagine the pain in a true blue Tory place that kind of thing brings on!
Architecture and urban affairs columnist Christopher Hume pulls punches in the item linked below. Even if you hate the kind of sprawling megasuburb Mississauga is you can’t read a demolition job like this without a fearful feeling of apocalypse to come.
Hume: Mississauga waking up to a new reality Toronto Star