Toronto and Winnipeg: The Frontier Centre for Public Policy today released Toronto: 3 Cities in More Than One Way. This study examines the December 2010 Hulchansky Report that revealed the existence of three distinct cities within Toronto.
It is no wonder that there are three cities in one, Steve Lafleur, the author of the study argues. Since the 1998 municipal amalgamation, the Toronto municipal government has been unable to create policy that is responsive to the diverse needs of six formerly autonomous cities contained within. The result has been a relative increase in low income neighbourhoods, almost tripling in numbers, while the number of middle income neighbourhoods was reduced in numbers by more than half. These have become three cities. The first city consists primarily of Old Toronto, and adjacent suburbs. These neighbourhoods saw an average income growth of 20% between 1970-2005. The second city is slightly further out, but fairly proximate to the core, and the subway. These neighbourhoods experienced an increase or decrease in average income of less than 20%. The third city is primarily located in the outer suburbs. These neighbourhoods have seen their average incomes decrease by over 20%. The gap between the first city and the third city will only increase, unless the underlying causes of the decline of the third city are eliminated.
The author points out that single solution approach to problems that clearly have different originating conditions will not solve much for those who need it most. Policy-makers, the author says: “will likely join with Professor Hulchanski in calling for massive expansions of transit to the outer suburbs, and for increased social welfare spending. While these recommendations may well hold some merit, they will do little on their own to stem the decline of the third city.
Lafleur explains the predicament of the three cities with a medical metaphor. “The trouble is that since the 1998 municipal amalgamation, the municipal government has lost its ability to treat these six patients separately. The cure prescribed has worked for some areas, and failed miserably in others. The centralized approach is little different from picking six patients out of a hospital emergency room, and prescribing them all the same cure based on a single diagnosis. The consequences to the hospital patients—minus the one who was actually diagnosed—could be devastating. The result has been roughly the same for the Toronto Megacity.”
One of the results of the one-size fits all approach has been an encouragement of migration outside the Greater Toronto Area, fomenting the “sprawl” that the city and province are trying so hard to halt. The greatest challenge to policy makers will continue to be how to craft and deliver policies in the GTA that fit the needs of the different constituents, and “how to create opportunities for blue collar jobs in suburban Toronto.”
“The first step to solving a problem is to recognize it exists. Unfortunately, the next steps are more difficult. The only way to stem the decline of the outer suburbs is to restore a large degree of control over zoning, regulations, and taxation powers. This would require a great deal of political courage from Toronto’s municipal government, and compliance—or even leadership—from the Ontario government. Many politicians of all stripes will quietly acknowledge the failure of amalgamation. But until those whispers turn into an open discussion of how to accommodate the diverse needs of the three—or six—cities, the culture war between the core and the suburbs will continue to take precedence over sound policy decisions,” Lafleur said.
Lafleur’s report was previously published by New Geography.
For more information and to arrange an interview with the study’s author, media (only) should contact:
Marco Navarro-Genie, Ph.D.
Director of Research