Clearly, we’re still getting used to the notion of being a single city
I grew up in Scarborough during the eighties and nineties. In my twenties, after graduating, I moved downtown. My wife and I went on to live in the west end for a number of years, and earlier this year we bought a house just east of the Danforth.
With that kind of background in mind, it’s probably no wonder that lately I’ve had to acknowledge a bit of an irony in my feelings about the 1998 Toronto amalgamation.
For those of you who don’t know the history, the city we now call Toronto used to be a whole slew of neighbouring cities. Metropolitan Toronto, which was founded in the fifties, was a federation of thirteen cities, towns and villages. By 1998, the region contained six municipalities, one of which was the now-former city in which I grew up. That year, the year I finished high school, these municipalities were merged into a single city by an act of the Ontario government under Mike Harris.
At the time, this was a really controversial measure; a referendum held the previous year revealed that more than three quarters of the population in question was against amalgamation. Even Mel Lastman, the North York mayor who would go on to become the first mayor of the “megacity,” initially campaigned against the merger.
People in the suburbs were worried that they wouldn’t get due representation under an amalgamated government. In Scarborough, as I recall, people were worried that Lastman himself wouldn’t know how to represent us, North York being a rather different community than Scarborough.
You can imagine, based on all this, how ironic it is that a guy like me – who grew up in the suburbs and now lives in a left-leaning neighbourhood much closer to the heart of downtown – should worry about not getting the government he deserves under Ford because of the will of the suburbs. I guess I just can’t catch a break, not counting the one we’ve all been catching for the past seven years!
All jokes aside, I’ve always thought it was inaccurate to paint our politics as “urban versus suburban.” These dichotomies are often superficial to the point of blatantly false. You don’t have to look any further than the Conservative “urban versus rural” take on the recent gun registry issue to know that the whole idea of that sort of breakdown is generally a bunch of simplistic, patronizing bullshit.
That said, if you’ve already seen the voter map that Torontoist posted this afternoon, then I’m sure you know what I’m getting at – and essentially, what I’m getting at seems to be “Well, I’ll be damned.”
“Despite Rob Ford’s election night assertion that Toronto is united, not divided,” Torontoist writes, “the voting statistics suggest a different, and stark, picture: downtown wards overwhelmingly backed George Smitherman, and suburban wards overwhelmingly backed Rob Ford.”
There’s probably a real lesson to be learned from these statistics. But as a guy who’s essentially torn between a great many regions of the city, I’m probably not the best person to tell you what it is.
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