Thanks for nothing, Toronto

My Toronto Does Nothing for Me - sticker

I came across this sticker the other day while walking along Queen Street in the Beach(es). Mostly, it made me sad. I mean, sure, I gripe about City services. But I certainly don’t agree that “My Toronto Does Nothing for Me.”

Are there people who live here who really feel this way? I guess so; someone took the time to make this sticker, and that person or someone else made a point of displaying it prominently on a garbage can. That’s a lot of energy to expend.

So who’s behind the sticker? I tried every Google search combination I could think of to track down its source, but I came up empty. Does anyone know anything about it? Have any other stickers like this been spotted around town?


  1. I know how the sticker-poster feels. We have guests visiting for the first time, in April. They will be coming from a clean, well-managed European capital to our littered, pot-holed, grafitti-scarred town. They will see people sleeping and begging on the streets. The will use our transit system. In April, there won’t even be any leaves on the trees, to mitigate the ugliness. It is kind of sad.

  2. That’s disgusting. Sure, there’s problems with the city, but this is a completely non-constructive put down. I’m ashamed that this came out of my neighbourhood. However, I am not completely surprised because of the attitude of some of my neighbours.

  3. Perhaps the location of the sticker might be a clue to its intent? It’s on an OMG/Eucan/EcoMedia garbage bin, one of thousands of pieces of private property littering out streets. The City of Toronto refuses to provide garbage bins (as well as transit shelters, benches, etc.) for its residents. I’d say that’s a City negligent in its responsibility to use tax dollars to pay for infrastructure.

  4. Sad to imagine the effort required for this non-constructive put down. We all have our complaints; however, it is not refreshing at all to see people quick with words but completely lacking in action. I hear complaints about the city, complaints about the TTC, complaints about the province, complaints and more complaints. When will more people wake up and do something about it? We are doomed by our inactions.

  5. I think Jonathan is reading too much into it, unless its a TPSC action, in which they should fess up to it since they are always proud to attack those bins.

    While the bins are poorly made, they do serve their purpose and actually “do something” for the residents of the city. I don’t like the economic model the City is trying out with the street furniture contract, but I think this sticker has much more to do with its location — the sight line — that the person/people put it there.

    While the City pisses me off on many occasions, I have seen other cities in Canada and the US at work and can easily see our city does do a lot for us. I’m not saying we’re spoiled, but most other cities do a really bad job — Toronto just does an okay job. Which sadly puts us near the top of the dung heap.

  6. Esther- You will find graffiti and litter in any European city if you walk away from the expensive tourist areas.

  7. Ye, but this graffiti is in a tourist area as with so many other problems in this city.

  8. “I think Jonathan is reading too much into it, unless its a TPSC action, in which they should fess up to it since they are always proud to attack those bins.”

    Nope, it wasn’t us. Our message, if we were targeting privatized street furniture with stickers, would have been more to the point. And, yes, I’m quite aware that my own biases informed the interpretation I offered.

  9. Esther> Which European capital? Tell us, if only so we can do a flickr search and in a few seconds find pictures of exactly the kind of thing you say it doesn’t have that Toronto has in bulk.

    The more i travel around to these “European capitals” I find they might have a museum-quality core that everybody talks about, then a lot that isn’t as pretty.

  10. I, like Jonathan, wondered at first if the sticker’s placement on an OMG/Eucan bin was significant. I’ll be interested to see where, and to what, other copies of it are affixed.

  11. I don’t know, Shawn. The longer I live in a European capital, the more I think that the Europeans are onto something. Instead of scoffing, we could be learning.

  12. We are learning, but it’s not all that bad and a lot of the negativity is blown out of proportion.

  13. “Are there people who live here who really feel this way?”

    ^^^That’s the crucial question, which creates many more (which I’d love to pose to this stickerer).

  14. MK> I didn’t say we can’t learn a lot. But this idea that cities over there are perfect municipal entities is a myth. There is junk and ugly just outside of every beautiful European core I’ve been to, without exception.

    This isn’t saying Toronto is perfect, it isn’t, but make with a good and useful comparison-critique rather than just a stupid generalization about how great “Europe” is.

  15. Sure, “perfect” anything is a myth, and of course, you’re right – stupid generalisations are not useful. Until we know precisely what our stickerer’s gripe was, it’s also impossible to speculate if whatever Toronto is not doing for him/her is being done any better anywhere else. Stickerer, reveal yourself and tell us what compelled you to make this statement!

  16. I agree with the points about ‘perfect’ European capitals. I lived in Copenhagen. A city that is very clean and has a fantastic bike lane system. However, it had no where near the type of multi-cultural integration that we regularly see in Toronto.

    I think the person who made this sticker should spend some time at a few Toronto Public Libraries. This is my favourite public city service.

    Great discussion.

  17. Please stop trying to compare Toronto to Euro cities. Compare us to North American cities. In many Euro cities they have 1000-plus years of history to build on. Toronto has just over 200. We’re built differently, we are culturally different. Our tolerances and expectations are different. And for God’s sake, London is one filthy city. So it Amsterdam and Paris. very nice to look at but lots of litter and dog shit everywhere.

    So, compare our cleanliness to Montreal or Vancouver or Miami or Chicago — you know, cities just like us in size and goverance.

    This is not to say that we shouldn’t try to be cleaner, etc., but the Euro comparisons are silly. We don’t have ancient buildings to preserve, we don’t have revolutionary monuments or castles from dynasties and wars. While Euro cities are nicely designed — easy to plan when you don’t have to deal with the car — and something we should strive towards, let’s look at comparable sized cities with similar history and similar types of governing.

  18. Despite burgeoning growth, the city somehow remains stagnant. In the downtown core, services are not growing to accommodate influx of people.
    When the city is able to free up the political process and just ‘get it done,’ then maybe we’ll be more satisfied.

  19. I kind of agree with the sticker. Our library system is sort of pathetic. TTC is half of what it should be. Don’t get me started about our ridiculous garbage pickup or the overpaid cops.

    Or maybe it is because I just got back from Austin TX where the parks are nice, streets are completely garbage free, the buses are $1 to ride all day, and even the beggars are more polite that here.

  20. James, Toronto has one of if not the best library system in the world by just about any statistical measurement. So please do explain how our libraries are “sort of pathetic.”

  21. Yes, I’d like to know how the busiest library system (in the world?) that consistently gets rave reviews for it’s building/renovation program, it’s actual programming, and the services it provides to so many communities….is “pathetic.”

    Like Bob Dylan shouted at the crowd at the Manchester Trade Hall in 1966 “You’re a liar” James, I don’t trust your observations, here or in Austin.

    Is this the great austin, below?

  22. One of the most entertaining comment threads in a while! Nothing like flickr to settle an argument.

    I’ve been to Austin, various European cities and most of the big ones in North America. I think what many people are feeling is that while all cities have their ugly spots (or vast ugly swaths), Toronto has a strange preference for exposing it in the tourist/business core downtown.

    Downtown Austin is incredibly clean and charming. The parts of Chicago that a tourist or visiting businessperson would see are brawny, sparkling and gorgeous. London’s central train stations are amazing bits of infrastructure. Toronto lacks such a central zone of perfection, however much a fantasy that might be. There is no showpiece bridge, or shiny new train line. You trip over homeless on Bay St, there is litter up and down Yonge St, and the streetscape/parkscape is simply not up to par at Nathan Philips or the other urban squares. Even crime – low overall in Toronto relative to other cities – is on display in the core. Gunshots ring out in central Toronto more than they do in Manhattan south of 96th Street (go ahead, check the stats), despite New York still having double or triple the homicide rate.

    Maybe in a way this can be argued as a good thing — we hide nothing and still come out ok, the city that still works, more or less. This is contrary to cities that are absolutely unsafe to see outside of their fantasy zones… But I do tend to agree with the frustration that Toronto lacks a shiny, clean section of town that residents can be proud to show to tourists. It’s not nice to the homeless to kick them out of one part of town, or spend unequally for litter and graffiti removal, etc. but for the greater good of tourism/business/image there might be some merit in it.

  23. Very well put uSkyscraper!

    I have recently moved to Toronto and some the daily aspects of my life here seem to fall under the caliber that I am used to (transit being the most important to me right now). In my first months here, I spent a good deal of effort in complaining about this city before coming to the realization that, although there are many areas that are in need of improvement, the city is not a terrible home. There is no need to focus solely on the negative, when there are also many positive things I am taking for granted.

    But, as a citizen, it is important that I participate in the city by voicing my concerns about those things that need to improve. As of now, I am still unsure as the best method to make my own voice be heard, but it seems that someone has thought a sticker campaign is their way to express themselves.

  24. This really is an interesting discussion. I wonder if that was the stickerer’s point, or if they weren’t thinking that subtly. I suspect the worst intentions on the stickerer’s part, however, because the statement is so inflammatory and anonymous. “My Toronto Does Nothing For Me” isn’t a suggestion or critique, it’s a put-down. The phrasing also suggests to me that this person really wasn’t thinking about civic rights, but rather about imagined personal entitlements. It’s hard enough for any one person to say that Toronto does nothing for them; imagine the absurdity of a sticker that said “Our Toronto Does Nothing For Us”. Better yet, what about the reversal of the message: “I Do Nothing For My Toronto”. Because really, nothing is what this sticker and its message does for the civic dialogue. It does not engage, it does not encourage, it does not illuminate. I recognize that there is frustration among Torontonians with the state of the city, much of it legitimate. But this sticker is on the level of crude tags and slurs. I nominate it for Worst Graffiti of 2008.

    The feeling of Toronto having no “showpiece” part of town rings true for me as well. It’s hard to say why this is. Perhaps no one part of Toronto has a monopoly on its attractions. Perhaps it’s because the neighbourhoods have much of what their residents need, reducing the drive to centralize. Perhaps our multi-nodal structure has something to do with it. Whatever it is, I kind of like it. True, it can cause Toronto to fail the “tourist test” of having attractions competitive with those of similar cities. But who wants to live in a city built for tourists? I find that Toronto reveals its charms slowly and honestly. While at first it may seem plain and unremarkable, that’s just the view from far away. Look closer, and there’s amazing detail. Consider one of our most celebrated neighbourhoods: Kensington Market. It’s a dirty, unmanaged warren of narrow streets, sporting bulk food stores, clothing discounters and a marijuana cafe. The Magnificent Mile it ain’t. When I brought relatives here, they were singularly unimpressed with Kensington. But of people who have lived here for a while, I’ve never found anyone who disliked it, and many who adore it. Now, it’s not like I don’t want tourists here; quite the opposite. But I don’t see the creation of a tourism-friendly urban bauble as a major priority for Toronto, particularly because I am leery of the “Toronto needs to be just like other world-class cities” mindset. It’s like some kind of weird urban peer pressure and low self esteem. In my opinion, the best way to improve Toronto’s image is to make it a great city for Torontonians. Quality of life is the most important showpiece.

  25. Well put, Ben S. I may indeed be guilty of using “it has to look nice for tourists” as a crutch to sweep away the homeless and graffiti because some residents don’t seem to think that those are problems for their quality-of-life. I like the idea of improving the city for Torontonians; I just don’t think they are up to the job. Resignation is just so much easier: “Who cares about gunshots on Yonge St? My area is safe and overall crime is still low…”

    Therefore I use the example of tourists and visiting businesspeople as a measuring stick and shame tool. What I really want is for Toronto to be great, period.

  26. Dear Reader,

    I too, gripe about various services provided by the community; take for instance my interest in broadening peoples understanding regarding the ‘open-space’ energy disturbances, created by ‘space demons’ from oscillating broken communication outreach and recieving? I sit in front of a Public Library Computer seeking to be knowledge wise, only to find myself tripped-up by interior interferences via dislodged electric gear, by post-exterior people? If I seek to enlighten readers of these disappointments, I lose my channel connection? Who is responsible? I ask your intervention?

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