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.
Between Lake Simcoe and the northern border of Toronto lies York Region. It has just a shade over one million people and has been the venue of some very high intensity real estate development since the 1980s. It would appear to represent the pinnacle of fast growth and high-profit, up-to-the-minute suburban mega-success. Guess what? They have poverty and homeless people. The proof is available from the York Region Alliance to End Homelessness. Still photos and voiceovers tell the story overlooked amidst all the commercial activity, monster homes, and cars, cars, cars. You know, they probably should have just kept growing corn up there… Hidden In Plain Site
This weekend in the mass media in Canada there will be tons of worthless human interest bullshit about those whacky, maxxed out Americans going nuts, getting pepper sprayed and trampled to death storming strip malls for Black Friday bargoons. Getting less attention will be fresh Statistics Canada data showing the failure of wages in Canada to keep up with inflation. Considering wages have been sliding in real terms in this country since the 1970s we have to ask who the idiots really are. Happy Thanksgiving America! Wages not keeping up with cost of livingHalifax Chronicle Herald
When Arianna Huffington sold her news aggregation site to Yahoo! we were concerned about what looked like another sell out of a smaller, interesting, independent entity to a mass media conglomerate. The jury is still out on that one but we think we all agree that socially conscious reportage certainly doesn’t hurt anybody’s image. Mind the Gap is a new ongoing feature on HuffPost’s Canada page. Among other poverty-enhancing things, it turns out that the increase in income inequality has jacked up the cost of housing for all income groups.
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.
A major guarantor of future suburban poverty (and of every other kind of poverty) is contemporary student debt. It must be getting pretty bad because during the last provincial election the Ontario Public Service Employees Union put up a bright red website all about it with the catchy name How Screwed Are You? This was downright feisty and the media are still taking notice of some of the harrowing stories of serfdom-at-twenty-five. With the Tories ascendant federally it only makes sense that Canadian politics and labour relations get amped up a bit. In the past Canadians were known as nice people who were ‘happy for no apparent reason.’ Think that’ll last another generation? Think there’s enough money in the tar sands to fix this one? Students! Find out how screwed you really are
Doesn’t take much for the dissonance to emerge from discussions of poverty and social conditions. Why in Canada, or elsewhere, is a big banker like Ed Clark so hard to find? Why is he the lone rebel, the challenger, the man sought out by high end business schools looking for nervy opinions and outside-the-box ideas about social issues? Goar: Business elite gets a reality checkToronto Star
While consuming an overpriced coffee product this morning we accidentally read part of today’s Globe & Mail. It was left behind on a table in a Barstuck’s coffee shop in Toronto’s financial district. The usual doom-and-gloom and consumerism filled the paper but we were heartened to see one article: a double pager with no ads about food bank use in every province. Maps and graphics made for factually solid reading. At suburban-poverty.com we are torn by media coverage of poverty. We are glad to see it and we hate to see it.
Ironically, we were on our way to Metropolitan United Church Community Services where participation in the Out-of-the-Cold program is under way. Thusly aligning the reality of the Globe piece with our own, however fleetingly. Curiously, we were chatting with several of suburban-poverty.com’s board of governors the other day and we remarked that when we were in Grade 8 there were no food banks, but there was this Prime Minister named Mulroney…
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]