Tag Archives: Ontario

(346) Whitby

661px-Ashburn-Whitby_Township-Ontario-The_Illustrated_Historical_Atlas_of_the_County_of_Ontario_Toronto_Beers_1877_Just after coverage of the Homelessness Report Card for 2013 The Star published a profile of a single mother involved with social services, experiencing concurrent difficulties and said to be sleeping at night in play structures in parks while pregnant and in the company of her fifteen-month-old son.  Now, these profiles of life at the bottom in the major cities of North America are never particularly hard to find.  The hope is that such stories contribute to change.  Unfortunately, this one could have been in the paper in June of 1983 just as easily as last week.  The only real difference might be found in the setting.  Lisa Roberts has been living outdoors since May in Whitby, a satellite community lying east of Toronto.  Life in Whitby has been characterized by fast population growth, by sprawl, for years now.  We even find Canada’s Tory federal Minister of Finance to be the Member of Parliament for Whitby suggesting extra-strength neoconservative values there, values not readily attached to social spending or even sympathy for those in difficulty. And the reader comments!  …when did Canadians become such snarky, reductive, reactive, socially conservative people?  Even allowing for a certain pathology to the act of online reader commentary there is some hate going on down there, people.

Homeless in the GTA: finding affordable housing especially tough for women

See also: (317) Durham Region

image: 1877 map of Whitby by JH Beers via Wikimedia Commons

(344) ONPHA report

Bird_HousesTo see affordable housing given mainstream media attention in Ontario this week was heartening.  The occasion was the release of a major survey of the past, present and future of the issue from the Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association.  The noise generated by sprawl, rising home prices, and large-scale condominium construction has drowned out the fact that the marketplace for housing as we know it at the tail end of a long boom simply cannot come up with good quality, reasonably priced rental accommodation.  The further down the income ladder you are the more likely you are to face some sort of difficulty regarding the cost and quality of your housing.  Such difficulty damages the individual and retards the performance of Ontario as an economic machine.

Ontario experienced population growth and economic expansion in recent years but has actually seen the total number of rental units decline.  By how much between 1996 and 2006 according to census data? 86,000 units is the answer.  Factor in weak wages, food and transportation costs and small wonder working and low income people are struggling.  Middle income people are on the same slippery slope.
Rental development has gone weak in Ontario and home ownership has flourished in a way that is distorting the most basic of experiences, that of housing oneself.

Do we need somebody need to invent us an iPhone application before we connect these things and see that affordable housing options could use some enthusiasm, some meaningful support from all quarters including government and business?  If the people in this society who do the work live poorly and feel poorly that brings down everyone.

Where’s Home? 2013 onpha.on.ca

Ontario’s affordable housing crisis deepens thestar.com

image: birdhouses from The New Student’s Reference Work via Wikimedia Commons

(340) Richmond Hill

Richmond HIll GO StnIn this item from the Toronto Star we come across a fairly typical NIMBY flare up.  The subject is a mixed income housing facility with services for youth on Yonge Street in the community of Richmond Hill.  There’s a need for the housing, the project is at an advanced stage of planning and resources have been allocated.  It’s pretty much “shovel ready” as they say.  “Wait a minute!” cry the residents of nearby subdivisions, some of whom enjoy very nice incomes, among the best in Canada in fact, and who prefer a certain kind of suburban atmosphere.

This is a situation of suburban change and suburban poverty, though you won’t see that last term in the article.  Those fighting for a “traditional” suburbia of big houses and winding roads and not much else near them are uptight about costs and the behaviour of the youth who might access services at the new building.  They don’t like the kind of change, essentially the arrival of urban life, represented by the facility.  The future tenants of the building fear social and physical isolation and that they are misunderstood and somewhat vulnerable.

Controversy in Richmond Hill over social housing

image: from posting by Secondarywaltz to Wikimedia Commons

(327) Cyclonomics

bikonomicsBoing Boing posted a link recently that led us to a New York Department of Transportation study that found that bicycles are good for business.  Specifically, dedicated main street bikeways attract a steady stream of local spending in the form of shoppers.  So that means bicycle infrastructure can be added not just to the fun-and-fitness file but to the economic development file.  A two-wheeled tool for ameliorating poverty, keeping money in people’s pockets which they can spend locally, reducing environmental harm, …what kind of crack head mayor goes against that idea?

Bike lanes led to 49% increase in retail sales  Cory Doctorow on BoingBoing

Do Cyclists Make Better Customers?
A Portland, OR blogger looks at cycling and local retail where the issue is atmosphere and social opportunity as much as spending, with links through to a number of documents from Portland Bureau of Transportation.

What are the financial benefits of cycling?
See the large variety of links to reports on the economic considerations of cycling from the site of a Canadian cycling advocacy group’s site.


(324) National Household Survey

Ontario_Immigration_PosterCanada’s most recent social survey data became available this week.  There is some concern that government meddling over the last few years will have reduced the general value of the National Household Survey which replaces the long-established long-form census, but the results are, as always, a source of interest to Canadians as a reflection of where the country is at.  In terms of suburban social conditions the major finding of the newest census is the surge of visible minorities and immigrants.  As indicated from anecdotal evidence newcomers to Canada are going directly to suburbs and, often times, suburban poverty.  The roll call of communities hosting ever-growing communities of non-European origins is the roll call of suburban Canada: Burnaby, Surrey, Richmond, Markham, Newmarket, Scarborough, Richmond Hill, Brampton, Mississauga.  Canada has taken on an aggressive policy of recruiting immigrants from all over the world in an effort to boost growth.  How this jibes with wages, job creation and social programs to produce a particular standard of living for newcomers depends very much on one’s personal standpoint.  Virtually all of Canada’s mass media outlets have carried coverage of the growth in numbers of newcomers alongside concerns about the fuzzy science imposed on Statistics Canada’s efforts and methods regarding the data.

National Household Survey In Brief Statistics Canada

Immigrant underclass in GTA fuels simmering frustrations Toronto Star

The Toronto Star also recently mapped the places in Greater Toronto that newcomers go to.  Suburban areas are heavily featured.

Struggling Malton immigrants tell the story of changing Peel Mississauga.com

(318) Ontario school streaming [Study]

Dunce_cap_from_LOC_3c04163uStreaming high school students, the process of deciding the level of study they pursue with their perceived abilities and life after high school in mind is firmly back in Ontario.  More precisely, it never really left.  Children from lower income families are still pushed toward applied programs and their better off classmates towards university preparation according to a new report.  The idea that schools in higher income areas simply get more extras and see their students go further isn’t new at all.  In the 1980s streaming students became quite controversial and the link between income and educational achievement has been the subject of study for decades all over the developed world.  Ontario is supposed to be the kind of jurisdiction that takes steps to ameliorate the worst effects of streaming.  It does, just not enough it would seem.  You can see how streaming probably sows the seeds of deeper inequality.  The lawyer’s son becomes a lawyer kind of thing.  Add in the high costs of a post secondary education and streaming begins to seem even more problematic when you consider that ability, in say mathematics or language skills, is pretty evenly distributed.  Anything that closes down options based upon where a child or youth started out has to be viewed as socially harmful.  You can put streaming on that list.

The trouble with course choices in Ontario high schools
People for Education with link to full report

“Streaming” slips back into high schools: higher ratio of low income teens in applied courses called “problematic”
The Toronto Star was given an exclusive on the the People for Education Report and produced a good feature article accompanied by a P4E map for Toronto

image: child wearing dunce cap in 1906, Library of Congress via Wikimedia Commons

(317) Durham Region

OshawaThe Regional Municipality of Durham lies directly east of Toronto.  It’s almost a microcosm of Canada in that its 2500 square kilometers encompass serious suburbanization, some heavy industry, much commerical activity, farm land, rolling hills and areas where outdoor recreation including hunting and fishing is commonplace.  By and large the people of Durham Region are among some of the healthiest, best fed and most secure human beings in this unbalanced world.  Starting in the late 2000s, as the real estate/automobile industrial complex, so long the paymaster in Ontario, began to show signs of weirdness in terms of its future performance, a certain amount of poverty has come to be red flagged in Durham Region.

To take the understanding of suburban poverty beyond one-off profiles of people living in it requires detailed investigation and meaningful data attached to real experience.  That makes a recent document from the authorities in Durham of genuine interest.

The Price of Eating Well in Durham Region looks at one of the major impacts on family and personal well-being and concerns elucidated here can be found elsewhere.  The report looks at the cost of a simple, metaphoric basket of nutritious foods for a week for a family of four.  The cost of that metaphoric basket since 2009 has gone up by about $45.  Luckily, Durham appears to be a cheaper place to live than the rest of the province, for which there is also some comparative data.  Either way, about 8% of households in Durham experience food insecurity which generally means lowered quality and amount of food in those households.

Recipients of government support and low wages are under extra pressure in this respect.  More widely, the entire region is vulnerable to increases in energy prices, especially gasoline for personal motor vehicles (oversized, truck-style models are seen in abundance in Durham), and uncertainty exists over the future direction of real estate prices and the encroachment onto farm land of residential development.

The latter might seem a little ironic, the ongoing conversion of agricultural land into subdivisions and commercial property, in a place where food insecurity is now, pardon the pun, on the table.  Certainly, the laws for doing so are quite strict compared to past decades but perhaps real estate development has captured a little too much of the imagination in Durham, as in other places touching the Greater Toronto-Hamilton Area.  As with the country at large, Durham has too much child poverty and food bank use is a permanent feature of life for many, including people with jobs.

This particular report, and ones like it, merits attention and represents the detail needed to understand poverty.

The Price of Eating Well in Durham Region
7-page .pdf file

Poverty report raises red flags for Durham groups

Social Planning Network of Ontario: CDC Durham
Links to a variety of reports 2007-2011

image: Two vistas from near Oshawa, one of Canada’s rock capitals and commercial centre of Durham Region via SeRVe61 & Rick Harris – Wikimedia Commons

(314) Youth & work in Ontario

Newsboy_in_1905Tip stealing, outsourcing, illegal unpaid internships, low wages, unsafe conditions, harassment.  Young workers face these and other challenges here in Ontario too often.  Luckily, those same workers have a friend in Andrew Langille, a Toronto-based labour lawyer.  His website Youth and Work spells out his commitment to them.  The blog in particular is a worthy effort, full of deft and detailed discussion of the pressures facing young workers.  Youth and Work names and shames government officials, media outlets and all kinds of businesses that impose upon students, recent graduates and other young workers – often in clear contravention of employment law.  Mr. Langille has also posted a number of interviews on the site and they are educational, powerful reading.  This is no rusty sword in the fight against precarious employment, questionable business practices, low standards of living and exploitive tendencies.

Youth and work: a website about youths, workplace law, economics, labour markets, education, & public policy

image: Toronto newsboy selling Toronto Evening Telegram in 1905 via McCord Museum/Wikimedia Commons

(307) Changing numbers in Peel

Cryptanalytic_BombeThe trend for Peel Region is towards suburban poverty.  Recent numbers collected by an ongoing effort to assess social conditions in Canada at University of Toronto provide the story.  Decline in real incomes, growth in accommodation costs, rising car-related expenses like gas and insurance and a weakened picture for employment have moved many into poverty despite continued population growth and the vast sums invested in the artefacts of sprawl (roads, houses, commercial strips).

Peel seems to be developing a pinched class where once there was a middle class.  Growth in population appears to be stressing social services and draining prosperity.  “In 1980, Peel had just two low-income neighbourhoods. Three decades later, 45 per cent of neighbourhoods were considered low-income or very low-income, nearly the same proportion as in the city of Toronto,” says a recent item on the large, suburban area immediately west of Toronto, linked below.

This must be tough to swallow in a place that prided itself on growth, was a vast construction site for decades, where it seems like the 80s never ended if you were a property speculator, a builder or a municipal bureaucrat.  The elected representatives in the communities making up Peel region tend toward conservatism and have not begun to strategize for the future.  The two large city governments within Peel, Mississauga and Brampton, are at odds with each other regarding the formulas used to determine their share of regional spending.  Mississauga’s mayor, facing a renewed legal approach in regard to conflict of interest with the development industry, is in her nineties now and will leave behind a dysfunctional and underachieving city council when she leaves office shortly.  Brampton presents a very mixed picture as well.

Low crime rates in Peel are appreciated by its residents.  The place is neither Bangladesh nor Detroit.  A big, expensive, impressive plan for light rail transit for Highway 10 is on the books, too.  But…

…a lack of political imagination has helped build the present in Peel Region, as surely as any demographic development.  The faster a relationship is discovered with the former the sooner those demographic developments can be responded to in a meaningful way and bigger problems ameliorated.  The political culture of easy income through rubber stamping development permits won’t be put to rest without pain we suspect.  So, expect more findings like the ones in this article.

Peel changes as poverty moves into middle-class suburbia

photo: Cryptanalysis computer in the 1940s taken by J Brew via Wikimedia Commons

(304) Guns are classy in Toronto

BulletAcademic and social observer Richard Florida writes in the Star that gun crime in Toronto seems to map to class and cultural environments in a disturbingly close fashion.  If you are in North America’s fourth largest city (the GTA edged out Chicago for that spot in terms of population just recently) try to hang around the green zone, where Florida’s so-called creative class live.  Florida says,  ” …the recent uptick in gun violence in Toronto mirrors the same fault-lines of economic and social disadvantage that exist in U.S. cities.”  In terms of actual numbers of people killed by guns Toronto still remains remarkably safe, having only about a tenth of the firearm homicides of Chicago, according to statistics in the article.  Those in the green part of the map are protected from gun violence because they are educated, economically connected, properly employed people.  Florida points out that because gun violence is something happening to other people somewhere else, many a privileged Torontonian seems quite complacent about it.  Removal of barriers to  “living green,” as it were, is essential to eliminating gun violence and protecting the total quality of life in the city.

…look at all the dots on the map accompanying the piece indicating a gun murder in a suburban location.

Guns and class in Toronto: the vast majority of Toronto’s gun murders since 2000 took place where members of the service and working class live  

image: 1888 photo of a bullet in flight taken by Ernst Mach via Wikimedia Commons