21st Century Status for a 21st Century City
The Toronto region is home to nearly half of the people in the province and almost one-fifth of the country. More people than all but two Canadian provinces.
The Toronto Community Housing Corporation has more tenants than Prince Edward Island has people, yet our smallest province has more power and authority over its affairs and its finances than does our city, at nearly twenty times the size.
The Toronto region is the economic engine of Ontario. In 2013, it pumped out a $330 billion contribution to the country's GDP--an economy larger than the six smallest provinces of Canada combined. The city of Toronto proper generated $157 billion of that alone, 10% of Canada's GDP. Yet only a fraction of that wealth comes back to Toronto in terms of government services and investment, and the city has to beg for every penny.
On any given day, Toronto manages complex realities that other Ontario cities don’t even have to imagine.
We are the primary magnet for immigration in Canada, welcoming and settling a staggering array of people from every country and culture on the planet.
We run a transit system that carries nearly 3 million passengers a day. We spend more than a billion dollars a year on police, fire, emergency and health services that provide safety, security and protection for millions of citizens in hundreds of neighbourhoods, under challenging, densely urban circumstances.
Our city councillors mediate more development proposals in a year than most of the province sees in a lifetime, while still finding time to help local residents calm traffic on their neighbourhood streets and field complaints about garbage pickup.
We provide public housing for a population so big that if it was a city, it would be the ninth biggest in the province. We build massive, beautiful parks and top-notch recreation facilities. We provide public health and welfare services for a large population of the marginal and homeless residents of Toronto, many of whom migrate to the city from the rest of the province and beyond. These are just some of the activities and challenges that set Toronto apart from the province in which it lies.
Yet all of these things are constantly under threat by a chronic shortfall in the resources needed to guarantee their continued success. Toronto generates great wealth, but never seems to possess the wherewithal necessary to properly look after its own needs or meet its own objectives.
Why is such a rich city so eternally poor?
Toronto is in every way a 21st century city. Every way but one. It lacks the powers and resources and status to carry out the great responsibilities with which it has been tasked. It exists as an infantalized "creature of the province", without the autonomy to act on its own, without access to revenue sources that would nourish the city's ability to function, without the power to make adult decisions. Forced to seek permission from 'senior' politicians for even the most mundane of city tasks -- setting speed limits on neighbourhood streets, designing our own governing structures, collecting the taxes we need to pay for the services we are required to provide.
And now. Toronto must on a daily basis endure insults and hostility from the provincial government--paid for by the wealth we generate--and whose job it is to ensure Toronto thrives. The unilateral slashing of Toronto City Council. The fire sale of iconic city assets like the Hearn Generating Station to political insiders. The slashing of vital services that protect our children and our most vulnerable. The looming theft of the city's subway system. And more to come; keep your eyes on the waterfront.
These short-sighted, mean-spirited policies threaten Toronto's integrity as a city; its future as an centre of innovation that attracts global business and the best and brightest citizens from across the planet; its reputation as a modern, forward-looking, cutting-edge city.
Toronto is home to some of the foremost urban thinkers in the western world, but who runs our affairs? Car salesmen from the hinterland who breeze into town to "fix Toronto's problems". Instead they amalgamate and slash us into political instability, piling on responsibilities with one hand while removing funding with the other. Then they lecture us on how we aren't competent to manage our own affairs.
They conspire to rip the spine out of the transportation system we built and have kept running on a shoestring for nearly a century, and tell us we don't know anything about transit. Then they slink back to North Bay and St. Thomas where they never have to live with the consequences of their drive-by meddling.
Why do we let Smallville run Metropolis?
Charter City Toronto proposes a different future. One in which the city of Toronto is accorded the respect, the resources and the authority to be the city it can be. One in which the city throws off the shackles of arbitrary and small-minded provincial control and asserts itself as the confident, competent city of the future its citizens already know it to be.
Watch this space in the coming weeks as we unfold game-changing proposals to transform the future of the city.
Join us in our vision for a 21st century Toronto.
Let's make history.