My wife and I moved to Scarborough over the weekend. I’ve lived in Scarborough before, and while growing up in Markham spent a great deal of my time there as a teenager. I have a special place in my heart for it, and not just because it is home to the best burger in the city.
It’s a little strange being back though. All of a sudden I find myself thinking maybe Rob Ford does have some solid ideas, and the media have been too hard on him. I mean , I’m not perfect, maybe you are?
I kid, of course. I may have moved to Scarborough, but I will never reside in Ford Nation. Which is the point I want to make here. The downtown vs. suburb divide Rob tries to exploit is a false one, it always has been. Neither exist in the sort of solitude wedge driving populists like Ford say they do.
I may live in Scarborough now, but I work downtown, so does my wife, a great many of the events, and activities we enjoy are downtown as well. Judging by rush hour traffic on any day, we are hardly the only ones. So yes, what happens downtown in terms of transit and planning should matter to people living in the inner suburbs. It directly affects the jobs we go to, the taxes we pay, and the overall quality of life the city offers whether in your backyard in the burbs, or everyone’s backyard on the waterfront.
What about the reverse you ask? Can’t I live my life south of Bloor, ignoring the denizens of the car centric cultural wastelands outside my pinko commie utopia? You can, however it’s probably a bad idea.
Take a look at a ward map for the City of Toronto. Notice how many of those wards are outside downtown? Those councillors will decide how often your street car comes, which cultural festivals get funding and how much, if your brand new bike lanes get ripped out, if you’ll be ducking jet planes on your balcony, etc.
Don’t believe me? Ask any of the downtown councillors on the executive committee, oh right.
When their residents feel they aren’t a part of the city like downtown is they call, and email, and wanting to stay employed their councillors listen. That’s how useless 3 stop subways for an extra billion in transit funding happen. Funding that could have made your commute better, instead of making everyone’s worse. Ignoring the suburban vote is how we got Rob Ford. How’s that working for you?
Neighborhoods downtown, and neighborhoods in the suburbs are going to have some different priorities. There’s nothing wrong with that. What’s wrong is pitting those priorities against each other in a winner take all municipal battle royale where the only winner is a politician like Ford.
A city only works well when it works for everyone, not just everyone you know.