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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Dale Duncan at City Hall: Feb. 1, 2007

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Spacing‘s managing editor Dale Duncan writes a weekly column for Eye Weekly focused on City Hall. Each week we’ll post her columns on the Spacing Wire.

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Fewer homeless, more mobile homes?

Always on the lookout for ways to pump more cash into the city’s coffers, Councillor Case Ootes (Ward 29, Toronto-Danforth) has been busy drumming up ideas on how to attract more tourists to Toronto. His solution? First, get rid of panhandlers. (We wouldn’t want them to scare out-of-towners away!) Second, investigate the untapped potential of a growing crop of tourists that we’ve failed to make space for: recreational vehicle enthusiasts.

Nearly eight million people own RVs in the United States, while the number of people who own these homes on wheels in Canada is somewhere around 800,000. That’s a huge potential market, says Ootes. But aside from the 87 sites RV owners can hook their vehicles up to at Glen Rouge campground in Scarborough’s Rouge Park, Toronto offers nothing that would entice these tourists to spend a few nights — and a little of their average $68,000-plus disposable annual income — here.

He wants staff to report on setting up sites at Downsview Park and Exhibition Place, where the tourists could easily hop on public transit to get downtown. “I’m surprised this idea has not been more actively pursued,” says Ootes.

Why, at a time when Toronto is trying to go green, would we invite a bunch of gas guzzlers to chug into town? Instead of investing in infrastructure for RVs, which won’t benefit anyone who already lives in Toronto, perhaps we should think about investing in infrastructure that’ll benefit residents and impress and entice tourists to boot. We could get serious about completing the 1,000 km of bike lanes and trails promised in our Bike Plan, for example, and then promote Toronto as an urban cycling destination -— ride our waterfront from Etobicoke to the Scarborough bluffs! Stop for a swim at Cherry Beach! Lunch in Little India!

Back in April 2006, Toronto’s Cycling Committee recommended that Tourism Toronto and the city explore possibilities to attract cycling tourists, an idea that seems to have gotten considerably less play than Ootes’ RV proposal. With the concept of sustainable tourism on the rise, if we really want to get serious about untapped tourism potential, we should start thinking green.

“Alpha” is the new “world class”

The phrase “world-class city” was noticeably (and thankfully) absent from the economic development committee’s inaugural meeting Jan. 24, but the accompanying obsession with getting to the top of the global honour roll was not. Used in its place was the equally wince-inducing term “alpha city,” which conjures up images of muscle men oozing testosterone.

Guest speaker Greg Clark, “an international practitioner in making cities and regions work,” lectured city councillors on how Toronto could become a player. Getting other levels of government to buy into the importance of the nation’s urban centres, he insisted, is crucial. “I accept that it’s hard, but it’s happening around the world. It can be done and you have to do it.”



  1. When I read “alpha city” I think in software terms. As in “first draft.. don’t worry, we’ll work out the bugs next time”.

  2. While I agree that the idea of an RV campground at Exhibition Place is simply ludicrous, Downsview Park seems quite reasonable to me. It’s right beside the 401 (on which most RVers will be entering the city), it has convenient access to the subway, and it has more than enough space to set aside a few acres as campground. What damage would it do? Would it increase the cost of the (seemingly vapourous) Downsview Park redevelopment?

    Case Ootes’ obstructionism regarding bicycle infrastructure (among other issues) is shameful and short-sighted, but that doesn’t mean that absolutely every idea he has is bad.

  3. According to, the top 11 tourist destinations are (in order of number of visits)
    1. France
    2. Spain
    3. USA
    4. China
    5. Italy
    6. UK
    7. Hong Kong
    8. Mexico
    9. Germany
    10. Austria
    11. Canada

  4. SeanG> I think you mean Beta, right? Lots of software goes through beta testing. One could say something like “MS Windows never left beta.” If one wanted to.

  5. Shawn Micallef, before beta, there is alpha. Alpha versions are even less final than beta versions, and with any luck never reach the client.

  6. You’re right — I’ve never seen an Alpha test, but plenty of beta tests that went semi-public. Maybe Windows is still Alpha then?

  7. Another almost-synonym is “first-tier city”. That one definitely commands more respect than “alpha”.

  8. Whats so bad about the homeless in Toronto? I mean its true they smoke some crack and pester people for change, but in what city don’t they do that? Not to mention that if you stick to the downtown areas they are completely harmless (except for maybe that “i need a bus ticket con”).

  9. Along these lines, I was thinking they could set up a tent only campground on the Toronto Islands. It would allow everyone to get a taste of the island lifestyle.