Skip to content

Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Hume on our streets, why Canada is failing

Read more articles by

Christopher Hume’s last two columns have been drop-dead accurate in my assumption. His piece on Toronto’s floundering streetscape in Wednesday’s Toronto Star is something that Spacing and our readers have been talking about since we launched the magazine, while others, like the fabulous local architect Joe Lobko, have been talking about for a lot longer than us.

What makes the situation so frustrating is that the failure goes beyond lack of political or social will — there’s no shortage of either. Instead the problem lies within the very organization of the city, its bureaucracy and administration. It can be found in rules and regulations as well as attitudes and assumptions that lie so deep they can be hard to recognize and harder still to change.

“It’s all the little things we do on a daily basis,” says Toronto architect Joe Lobko, who served as chair of the city standards, processes and procedures subcommittee of the Mayor’s City Beautiful Roundtable. “We rarely think about them but they are incredibly important. The city functions very efficiently in its own way. It’s not that people there are stupid. But it’s set up to achieve specific goals; the mantra at city hall is `state of good repair.’ That’s not enough. What kind of a place would we have if the city could get beyond that?”

Hume’s other piece is in today’s Star and focuses on the self-serving and divisive games the federal and provincial governments have been playing with Canadian cities, especially Toronto.

Cutting off your city to spite your country is not just childish but ruinous. The Prime Minister’s task, and the premier’s, is to serve cities, to help them build adequate public transit, re-invest in their infrastructure, construct housing, and give them the tools they need to prosper. In short, their main task is to ensure Canadian cities achieve the greatness of which they are capable. As the cities go, so goes Canada. Left-wing, right-wing, Liberal, Conservative, New Democrat, it doesn’t matter; there is no other way.

The pettiness of our leaders, the smallness of their vision, their lack of intelligence and understanding, the utter self-serving nature of their behaviour; these are the threats to Canada, not the loss of a World’s Fair.

photo by Sam Javanrouh