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SPACING: 35 Years Without the Spadina Expressway

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As part of the City of Toronto’s inaugural Humanitas Festival, a celebration of Toronto’s rich history, Spacing magazine proudly presents 35 Years Without the Spadina Expressway. This event will remember and honour the important work of community members in saving the city and our neighbourhoods from the perils of superhighways. 35 Years Without the Spadina Expressway will bring together politicians and community activists that played crucial roles in one of the most seminal events to have shaped Toronto. With the recent passing of Jane Jacobs, this event will allow the public and community members to come out and celebrate her greatest and most lasting contribution to Toronto.

On June 3rd, 1971, Premier Bill Davis cancelled the Spadina Expressway and said: “If we are building a transportation system to serve the automobile, the Spadina Expressway would be a good place to start. But if we are building a transportation system to serve people, the Spadina Expressway is a good place to stop.”

Join us for some stories and a few speeches on Friday June 2nd, 2006 from 5:00-7:30pm on the south lawn of the Spadina Museum, an architectural gem that would have been destroyed by the expressway’s construction.

FRIDAY JUNE 2nd, 2006
Spadina Museum, 285 Spadina Road (click here for map)
5:00-7:30pm, speeches at 6pm, Free

• David & Nadine Nowlan, former city councillor (Nadine) and authors of The Bad Trip
• Bobbi Speck, Stop Spadina original
• Adam Vaughan, son of Stop Spadina organziers Colin and Annette Vaughan, and former City TV journalist
• hosted by Matt Blackett, Spacing publisher



  1. One of the most depressing experiences I’ve had in a long time was at a family seder a couple of years ago when a cousin who is a very prominent Toronto anesthesiologist was talking about what a stupid decision the province had made to cancel the Spadina Expressway. (Ironically, the house in which we were both guests was in one of the many neighbourhoods that would have been destroyed by the Expressway, a fact that seemed to escape him.) I was told later that he appeared very hurt by my disgusted reaction to his pronouncments about the Expressway, but I still feel I didn’t hurt him enough – he is, not surprisingly, an active member of the Conservative Party of Canada, and before that the Alliance, and a friend since childhood of Stephen Harper.

  2. Well, I voted for Harper and still think the Spadina was a terrible idea!

  3. Bill Davis, a conservative, stopped the Spadina. I don’t get where the connection is with the family member being a member of the conservative party and support for the expressway. They seem unrelated here.

    As well, “disgusted reactions” and hurting people will never, ever convince somebody to come around to an arguement, and probably galvanize them more. I’m against this sort of conversation more than i’m against Spadina Expressways.

  4. Jonathan, does your cousin live (like my TO cousins do) somewhere up in North York? If so, his attachment to the expressway is easier to figure. I grew up in the burbs of Montreal and we were PROUD of our expressways, in fact, I think we told ourselves it was the touch of modernity and Big City-ishness our Toronto cousins lacked.

  5. There is something quite fantastic about all those concrete freeways, and trenches, in Montreal — all tied into the 1960s Expo ’67 Canada-coming-of-age. So MTL’s freeways are like Canada’s, and everybody was proud of them.

    On trips to Nova Scotia, I would be fascinated by all the flyover’s at 401 and 427…and then the Montreal ones.

  6. Bill Davis was with the Progressive Conservative Party. My cousin is with the Conservatives now only because he can no longer be a member of the Reform or Alliances parties, in both of which he used to be active. I made note of his political affiliation because I feel it is wholly relevent in that he very much represents the new Conservative Party’s attitude that highways are the most important element of transportation infrastructure. As far as my disgusted reaction goes, it was a family gathering and not a public forum. But you’re right, that sort of reaction is at best counterproductive. Perhaps I should instead have elevated the discourse to telling him that he be forced to “pee in public and have people point and laugh;” he is, after all, a “selfish mongrel dog.” So if that type of conversation is more offensive to you, Shawn, than Spadina Expressways, how do you rank tagging in that hierarchy? Of tagging, this sort of conversation, and Spadina Expressways, which are you against the most? The least?

  7. And to the other Shawn (from Montreal), my cousin lives in Oakville. But I suppose the same principle may apply.

  8. Jonathan> If you’d have teased him about being a Tory, that would have been fine, and you’d have made your point fine. But it sounds like you weren’t being funny. Also, the tagger connection doesn’t work because he’s a Tory, not a criminal. Taggers are criminals, and it’s humourous to think of them being humiliated for their crimes. And they are mongrel dogs, too.

  9. I’m against this sort of conversation more than i’m against Spadina Expressways.

    Isn’t hyperbole fun?

  10. Actually, Shawn, I’d argue that neoconservative ideologies, when implemented in public policy, are far more harmful to a given society than most criminal acts, and certainly tagging. I’ll even go so far as to say that Mike Harris, during his time as premier, destroyed far more lives in this province than Paul Bernardo ever could have.

  11. We should all follow Shawn Micallef and not give disgusted reactions to people we disagree with.

    For example, here is the gracious way he disagreed with someone in a recent post:

    “Whoa class war! … the “rich white people” talk is sloppy ideological thinking (which should be an oxymoron, but isn’t)”

    On second thought, that’s maybe not the best example.

  12. Here’s the kind of site that’d be up said cousin/anesthesiologist’s alley
    It seems the case with a lot of “roads scholarship” on the Web: nice historiography, cuckoo ideology (despite having the CAA within its spider web). And however much we admire 60s-style road-related faits accompli, there’s certain the-company-one-keeps reasons why it’d be pretty hard to pass such things off today…

    Still, the “worse than Bernardo” neocon-bashing in this thread is a little out of line, I agree. Look at it this way, the fact that the cousin is enough of a wimp to “feel hurt” in the first place is sufficient, right? Why stub your butt in what’s already a pretty much self-inflicted stinking corpse?

  13. Bill Davis represented a style of politics that was well to the left of the current Liberal Party, and was very much in keeping with the progressivism of Canada’s Red Tory tradition. I saw him talk a few years ago about the Harris-imposed cuts to the public education system he helped build. He had tears in his eyes and he didn’t pull his punches. Beyond the common fact of the word “conservative” in the party labels, there’s almost no overlap between Harper’s conservatism and Davis’, which came with plenty of social conscience and an understanding of cities.

  14. I’m wondering whether it might be apt to starting a disarming “disinterested third party” discussion on conservatism with said cousin–you know, wheedling out an opinion on Bill Davis, or John Tory for that matter. Just allowing a broader picture of the narrow place he’s coming from. (After all, even if somebody like him supported John Tory for the mayoralty, it doesn’t mean John Tory would have supported him on the Spadina.)

  15. hey I found it interesting that no one was talking about politics in these comments (huh?) and so I think it’s curious that Adam Vaughan is speaking at it. I’m sure the line-up was created before he ever declared his candidatcy, but is Spacing in a round-about way endorsing him?

  16. This event does not happen in the Trinity-Spadina ward so there is nothing really political to talk about. Adam is one of two excellent progressive-minded candidates running in ward 20. At this point, Spacing has no plans of endorsing any candidates in the upcoming city election.

    Adam was approached about this event a few months ago, way before he declared his candiacy or made any decision about running. Just some good old fashion coincidences. Though I will disclaim that Adam is a personal friend.

  17. Adam,

    I don’t know, that gettorontomoving website makes some pretty cogent arguments. More than half the website is devoted to pushing for more rapid transit improvements and they even identify major bottlenecks in the TTC system. The cable-stayed Gardiner idea is also somewhat appealing, kind of like Bruce Mau’s proposal to encase it in glass tubing and jack it 30 storeys into the air. The Queen subway is a no-brainer. The current streetcars move as fast as they did in 1890 and are totally unsuitable for the loads that they carry.

  18. Subway on Queen a no-brainer? Subways move people underground, away from street-front businesses and they cause people to be alienated from the communities that they travel through. Before the yonge subway, the Yonge retail strip was the most vibrant strip in the city, a decade later is was over-run by rub and tugs because the strip’s customers no longer saw the community that they traveled through.

    While commuting in a subway from Kennedy to Kipling you will not see one element of the communities you travel through. You will see nothing but Viacom’s ads. Do the same trip in a car, streetcar or bike and you will learn about thousands of shops that are in the communities you pass under.

    Subways destroy communities and are an anti-human way to travel. Streetcars keep commuters in touch with the communities they travel through.

  19. “Subways destroy communities and are an anti-human way to travel. ”

    What? Yeah, Bloor Street is such a wasteland ever since the subway was rammed through the Annex in ’64.

  20. Jonathan was this seder held in the Forest Hill/Cedarvale area? Notice how this area, despite its affluence, absolutely despises neocons. “Star candidate” Peter Kent for the Conservatives was clobbered in the St. Paul riding, NDPer Paul Summerville did almost as well.

  21. Most of Bloor, the west Danforth, and North Toronto are served by subway and are perfectly healthy neighbourhoods. Cabbagetown, parts of St. Clair, and almost all of Dundas is less than healthy, often below par with the surrounding residential and are served by streetcars.

    There’s much more at play than mode of transport.

  22. While claiming that subways destroy neighbourhoods is a bit rich, it does raise a valid point. Even though I’ve ridden the Yonge subway north of Bloor many times, I almost never spend any time on the street itself and would never consider going there to shop. Out of sight, out of mind indeed!

  23. Some attribute the decline of Yonge St. downtown to the Eaton Center.

    Meanwhile the Yonge St. corridor from Bloor north to the 401 (running west past Bathurst and east past Bayview) takes you through some of the most affluent areas – the Annex, Rosedale, Deer Park, Forest Hill, North Toronto, York Mills. Of course north of St. Clair is rather suburban in character and most probably rely primarily on their cars.