Friday, July 22, 2011

Dufferin Grove post removed

I decided to remove my last post about Dufferin Grove Park, because I didn't want to risk my job any further. As a city employee, I am not allowed to speak publicly about management decisions affecting the park.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The three cities of Toronto

Bloor and Lansdowne is changing as middle-class people buy houses formerly owned by working-class immigrants. In many ways this neighbourhood is becoming more pleasant for those who can afford to live here. New businesses are opening on Bloor Street. There are new cultural activities like the annual Big on Bloor festival or the music nights at the Holy Oak and 3-Speed. The Bloor and Gladstone library which has always had a fine old building was recently expanded. It's possible to pleasure skate at Campbell rink without being chased away by hockey players.

Of course, things aren't perfect. Change takes time and some of the old problems persist. While Bloor St. between Lansdowne and Dufferin has improved, drug dealers and prostitutes haven't completely disappeared. Every once in a while 14 Division sends out bulletins about swarmings and other robberies. Still, the neighbourhood overall is getting better if - and it's starting to be a big if - you have enough money to live here.

This isn't the only neighbourhood that's changing. If anything, gentrification is coming here later than it has in other parts of the old city. I can see how if you live and spend most of your time in the central part of Toronto, you might be mystified by the assertion that the city is in serious trouble. That's because Toronto's social problems (unemployment, poverty, poor housing and crime) are moving to the suburbs. The most serious problems aren't at Bloor and Lansdowne. They can be found in places like Malvern, Rexdale and Flemingdon Park.

In my recent posting about the lack of debate on immigration during the election, I mentioned research done by David Hulchanski of the University of Toronto. I would like to quote a few paragraphs from his 2008 study The Three Cities of Toronto. (You can download a free copy of the study here.) The study shows how poverty has moved from the central city to the inner suburbs and is becoming concentrated in specific neighbourhoods. In other words, there is growing income polarization in Toronto and if you don't live in one of the poor neighbourhoods it's easy to think the city is doing well when it isn't.

Here's the excerpt:

Toronto's neighbourhoods fall into three clear groups based on income change, 1970 to 2005. The first, which we call City #1, is a predominantly high-income area of the City of Toronto in which neighbourhood incomes have risen a great deal relative to the Toronto Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) average since 1970: these neighbourhoods are generally found in the central city and close to the city's subway lines. By contrast, City #3 is a generally low-income area of Toronto, in which neighbourhood incomes have fallen substantially over the past few decades compared to the CMA average; these neighbourhoods are found mostly in the northeastern and northwestern parts of Toronto. In between these two is City #2, a mainly middle-income area, where neighbourhood incomes have remained fairly close to the CMA average since 1970. While all cities can be divided into various groupings, the important finding in this research is the consistent trend over time: the three groups of neighbourhoods are changing at different rates and moving further apart.

The middle-income area of the city shrank dramatically between 1970 and 2005, while the high-income area increased slightly and the low-income area increased substantially. Based on comparisons of neighbourhood income with the CMA average, the proportion of middle-income neighbourhoods (incomes less than 20% above or below the CMA average in each year) was 66% in 1970, but only 29% in 2005. Meanwhile over the same period, high-income neighbourhoods (neighbourhood incomes 20% or more above the CMA average) grew from 19% of the city's neighbourhoods to 53% (extremely low-income neighbourhoods grew from 1% to 9%). Middle-income households have not simply moved to the suburban municipalities beyond Toronto, beccause a similar trend can be seen in the rest of the Toronto CMA.

Poverty has moved from the centre to the edges of the city. In the 1970s, most of the city's low-income neighbourhoods were in the inner city. This meant that low-income households had good access to transit and services. Some of these neighbourhoods have gentrified and are now home to affluent households, while low-income households are concentrated in the northeastern and northwestern parts of city (the inner suburbs), with relatively poor access to transit and services.

These are long-term trends. The study looked at trends for a 35-year period, and found most of the changes to be persistent. The polarization of the city into wealthy neighbourhoods and greater numbers of disadvantaged neighbourhoods is continuing and middle-income neighbourhoods are disappearing.

As far as I know, Hulchanski doesn't share my opinion that immigration should be reduced. Nonetheless, the information in his study points in that direction. Overall, recent immigrants to Toronto aren't doing as well as earlier cohorts. That's a sign something is wrong with our immigration policy.

Diversity for the sake of diversity

Yesterday I posted some comments on the federal election in which I emphasized the commitment of all the parties to a policy of admitting 250,000 immigrants a year. I tried to show why this is bad for Toronto, but I don't think I did a good job. Attempting to say a lot quickly, I probably wrote a few things people found hard to understand. For example, I used the expression diversity for the sake of diversity. I'm guessing some readers scratched their heads over that, so today I'll try to explain what I meant.

When I wrote diversity for the sake of diversity, I had in mind the idea that immigration should be used as a tool to deliberately make Canada more culturally and racially diverse. In other words, instead of seeing immigration as a way to meet Canada's labour needs with some diversity as an incidental by-product, people now look at it as a way to promote diversity regardless of the economic impact. To put it another way, immigration is seen as a tool for social engineering.

Yesterday, I gave an example of this kind of thinking. Shortly before Pierre Trudeau left office he lowered the annual intake of immigrants in response to high unemployment during a recession. This wasn't controversial, because in the early 1980s, lowering and raising immigration numbers according to the needs of the labour market was routine. However, by the 1990s that had changed. When Preston Manning's old Reform Party put in its platform a proposal to lower immigration numbers during economic downturns, the media and other political parties condemned them for it. In other words, the party was denounced for proposing to handle immigration not much differently from how Trudeau had a decade earlier. Reformers were attacked because by the 1990s diversity had come to be seen as a defining feature of Canadian identity. A proposal to reduce immigration for economic reasons was now viewed as an attack against a fundamental national value. Treating immigration as an economic tool had become an act of sacrilege against the country's new secular religion. (Maybe tomorrow I'll have to explain what I mean by secular religion.)

Younger Canadians may find this hard to believe, but official multiculturalism is a relatively new policy. It was only introduced in the early 1970s while Trudeau was prime minister. For most of our history, immigration was restricted to European countries whose cultures were considered compatible with Canada's dominant Anglo-Saxon culture. Even in the 1960s after Diefenbaker opened up immigration to more countries, newcomers were still expected to assimilate. Most Canadians didn't see cultural diversity as something to celebrate. Instead there was a firm belief among English Canadians that their British-derived culture was superior. Canada's French-speaking minority was tolerated and some accommodations were made for the French language and Roman Catholic religion, but only grudgingly. Official multiculturalism, as much as official bilingualism, was a radical innovation, and I would argue, a pernicious one that threatens Canada's social stability.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Dark times ahead - my quick and dirty interpretation of yesterday's election results

I'm one of the 167 people in Davenport who voted Communist. As hard as it might be to believe, I'm actually not a Marxist. Voting for the local Stalinist was my futile way of protesting a field of bad candidates. I see little good coming out of this election, because all the parties including the Conservatives support an immigration system that is causing tremendous harm to Toronto. The policy of allowing in 250,000 immigrants a year is not sustainable and will have to change if Canadians hope to keep their standard of living and quality of life. This figure of 250,000 a year (it rises and falls somewhat year to year) doesn't include temporary workers, foreign students (many of whom end up staying) or the illegal immigrants who work under the table and take jobs away from Canadians. (Yes, they are illegal and they should be deported!)

Toronto's growing social problems are well-documented. David Hulchanski, David Pecaut (when he was alive), the United Way and other agencies have all written reports that describe the growing gap between rich and poor, the concentration of poverty in specific neighbourhoods and the problem of the working poor struggling to survive on the minimum wage in an ever more expensive city. The problem of gangs and youth violence are also well known. The high drop out rate of black, Portuguese, Somali, Latin American and other youth has also been widely discussed. Toronto is a city in serious trouble and electing people like Andrew Cash will do nothing to change that.

People say Canada has always had immigration and that opposition to the current policy is based at best on ignorance and at worst on bigotry. I beg to differ. While it's true immigration has played a big role in Canadian history, the policy we have now is unprecedented because it is being justified by a multicultural ideology that didn't exist before Pierre Trudeau came to power in 1968. In the past, governments, including Trudeau's, made at least some effort to adjust immigration levels to fit Canada's economic needs, but this is no longer the case.

Trudeau, usually considered a pro-immigration Prime Minister, lowered immigration numbers before he left office in response to a recession, but when the Reform Party put in its platform a proposal to reduce immigration during economic downturns, the party was denounced. This is an example of how a blind faith in diversity for the sake of diversity has made it difficult to think rationally about immigration. I find it disturbing that there are groups like No one is illegal who actually believe there should be no restrictions on immigration at all or newspaper columnists like Doug Saunders who think Canada would benefit from an influx of a million poor Africans.

Today immigration is driven by a combination of social sector actors who have a career interest in maintaining their client base, business interests who want cheap labour, left-wing ideologues who hate whites as a matter of principle and ethnic (mostly non-white) voters who want to bring more of their own group into the country.

While Trudeau is responsible for introducing multiculturalism, the real perversion of immigration policy came in the 1980s under Brian Mulroney. Tired of losing the ethnic vote to Liberals, especially in vote-rich Toronto, the then Progressive Conservatves under Mulroney decided to play the ethnic pandering game. The Conservatives doubled the annual level of immigration from 88,000 to 190,000 a year (the annual intake later rose to 250,000). Just as importantly, Mulroney decided this number would remain the same regardless of economic conditions. This is why immigration levels remain high even though we have 7.7% official unemployment in Canada (a figure that doesn't include the many Canadians who have given up hope of ever finding a job).

NDP supporters want the federal government to pay more attention to Toronto. They want more federal money for public transit, public housing and improvements to urban infrastructure. I don't necessarily disagree but where is the money supposed to come from when the tax base is being eroded by the transfer of manufacturing plants to low-wage countries like China and Mexico? How can all levels of government possibly find the money to meet Toronto's social needs when those needs keep growing due to an immigration policy that doesn't take into account the poor job market for both immigrants and native-born Canadians? If the NDP wants to help Toronto, it should call for a moratorium on immigration, but that's not going to happen because people like Jack Layton, Olivia Chow, Peggy Nash and Andrew Cash are too influenced by multicultural ideology to face up to reality. I am very discouraged by yesterday's election results. Toronto faces a bleak future. There are dark times ahead.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

In the GTA, the car is still king

On Saturday night I went with a friend to see The Social Network at the Queensway Cineplex in Etobicoke. We went by car and so did most of other people there. The huge parking lot was packed. I can't imagine too many people would go there by TTC let alone on foot. This part of the Queensway isn't a walking street. It's designed for cars.

I don't go to the movies much so I was surprised by how busy the place was. The theatre we were in was full and the corridor was packed with people going to other movies. While we were walking out of the building, I asked myself how many of the people around me voted for Rob Ford. I would guess a lot, mainly because we were in an area where Ford beat Smitherman.

I was also thinking how hard it would be for me to live in Etobicoke, because I don't have a car. I've always lived near Bloor and Lansdowne and I'm used to walking places. I do use a bike and the TTC but I've never liked driving.

Recently there has been a lot of talk about a so-called war against cars. The Sun, for example, has written on this theme. There was a lot of anger over adding a bike lane to Jarvis. In this neighbourhood there was strong opposition to the narrowing of Lansdowne and to the new bike lanes on Dupont.

I suppose you could say in the part of town that was the old pre-amalgamation City of Toronto the streets are slightly less accommodating of cars than they used to be. Considering how bad traffic in this city is, I can understand why drivers feel frustrated. Still, it's hard to see a war against cars once you leave the old city. The car is still king in Toronto and I would say in most of the GTA it would be hard to live without one. People do, but it often means isolation or very long bus rides.

I said to my friend. I find car culture deplorable, because walking around and running into people I know helps give me a sense of community. I'm not saying community doesn't exist in the suburbs. It does, but it's not the same. At least that's what friends that live there tell me.

This brings me back to Rob Ford. A lot of people who live in the old part of Toronto, including me, were surprised Ford won. In my case, I was surprised because I thought Ford's record as a loose cannon would have sunk his candidacy before it began, but other people were surprised because they couldn't believe people would support his agenda. There's more than one reason people voted for Ford, but the belief that Miller was waging a war against cars was a factor in this election. People in the GTA hate gridlock but still love their cars.

And by the way, I liked the movie even though it play fast and loose with the facts surrounding the creation of Facebook.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Cooking Fire Theatre Festival at Dufferin Grove Wed. June 23 - Sunday June 27


Dinner is served from 6:00 PM, performances begin at 7:00 PM

Each evening, host company The Spee Society will lead the audience from site to site throughout the park to see performances ranging from the tale of a giant carrot to an opera about the nature of place. Delicious organic meals will be served to the audience over cooking fires and from Dufferin Grove Park’s two wood-fired outdoor bake ovens.

Clyde Umnie Co (Toronto) and NACL (Highland Lake, NY) The Little Farm Show
The Little Farm Show tells the story of an eccentric farmer named Millicent, and a giant, over-grown carrot hepped up on hormones, who has escaped the industrial carrot farm because she is too big to sell. Realizing her destiny is to be broken up and sold as a bag of ‘mini-carrots’, the Carrot makes a break for it, but soon discovers her freakishness out in society.

Théâtre Populaire d’Acadie (Caraquet, NB) & Satellite Theatre (Montreal) GRUB
In a glorious feast touching sometimes upon the clown, sometimes upon the burlesque, yet always the urge of an empty stomach, Grub speaks of food and all its substitutes, linking it all by a simple but true fact: eating is killing. Like the digestive system and all its mechanics, every species serves the planetary lunch. In the great jungle, eat... or be eaten!

Theatre Smith-Gilmour (Toronto) GRIMM too
This poignant and stunning piece of absurd theatre finds its inspiration from the tall tales unearthed by the Brothers Grimm. Faithful to the original Grimm stories, GRIMM too is a whimsical and moving piece filled with romance, tragedy, and comedy. These strange, mythical stories speak to us about our own experiences of fear, courage, love, hope, joy and wonder in our daily lives

The Hinterlands (Milwaukee, WI) The Dead Road
Inspired by the language of Cormac McCarthy and William S. Burroughs as well as the Spaghetti Westerns of the 1950’s and 60’s, The Dead Road is equal parts Wild West Show and cultural scavenger hunt, balancing the stillness of the open range with the rowdiness of a barroom brawl, and weaving vaudevillian comedy, live music, campfire songs, puppetry, and the smell of frying bacon into a passion play for the North American frontier.

The Alchemical Opera Project (Easthampton, MA) Come and Sleep
Using music from Schubert's 1827 song cycle Winter's Journey and poetry by Mary Oliver, Come and Sleep is an operatic fantasy between voice, cello, and silence, using sources as wide-ranging as Japanese fox folklore and the writings of polar explorers to explore the relationship between identity and place, and the consequences of transformation.

Performances begin at 7:00 PM, admission is pay-what-you-can ($10 suggested donation).

Friday, April 23, 2010

The A. M. Orpen Memorial wading pool in Dufferin Grove Park

April 26, 1954. Sod-turning ceremony for the A. M. Orpen Memorial wading pool in Dufferin Grove Park. The man in the white coat is Abe Orpen's son Fred. (Toronto Archives photo. Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 7736)

Yesterday I posted a one-page history of the Dufferin Park race-track that I wrote for a historical display I am making for Dufferin Grove park's May 1 Jane's Walk. The track which was torn down in 1955 sat across the street from Dufferin Grove on the land now occupied by the Dufferin Mall. Because I wanted to keep the text short, I didn't mention one interesting fact.

The children's wading pool in Dufferin Grove park is named after the race-track's founder, Abe Orpen. The pool has this name because it was built in 1954 with a $10,000 donation from the A. M. Orpen Charitable Foundation. On April 22, 1954 this small item appeared on the front page of the Toronto Daily Star:


"Full speed ahead" on the new A. M. Orpen wading pool in Dufferin Grove park was ordered by the board of control yesterday after the city was presented with a $10,000 cheque by Fred Orpen for the pool's construction. The pool will be similar to that built in Kew Gardens last year by the Lions club and will be a family memorial to a man widely known in Toronto sporting circles.

If you are in Dufferin Grove, take a look at the concrete ledge by the side of the pool next to the water fountain. You will find a plaque that reads: